God Forbid we see His Penis

Christ crucified by Benvenuto Cellini, 1562

Sometimes images betray unintended information about the human psyche. Benvenuto Cellini had his reasons for creating this image of Jesus Christ crucified almost five hundred years ago. He wasn’t the first of the last to show Christ nude. What is vital today, is that this image has so much to tell us about our human psyche and condition today. That is the power of what I can only say is a numinous image.

A numinous image is one that is more than a recording of a visual fact. If the image takes us deep within ourselves, or out beyond the realm of ordinary life where we can almost touch whatever it is that we call heaven or nirvana, then the image is numinous. Evoking a sense of mystery, holiness, awe, and even the presence of whatever it is that we struggle to name as the creative force of the universe, such images take us out of ourselves and into ourselves. And where it takes us, isn’t always about light. As often as an image takes us to the awe of creation and heaven, an image also makes evident the face of darkness, of fear, of anger, of hell.

As a naturist, a psychological naturist, this image speaks to me on a number of levels: the personal, the spiritual and even the collective level. Cellini has crafted in marble, man’s vulnerability. Even the Son of God is vulnerable. Seeing this vulnerability allows me to accept my own vulnerability with honour instead of shame. The path back home, back to from whence we came, like our entrance into this life, is a journey that can only be done naked and vulnerable. There is a need to give up – give up our beliefs, our religions, our anchors, all that ties us to where we are if we are to enter. No brand name article of clothing or footwear will serve as a passport to heaven. We must submit, naked and vulnerable.

I mentioned a collective level response to this image, to this historically accurate portrayal of crucifixion by Romans two thousand years ago. In our modern world, we have such a dread of being naked and vulnerable and we have adopted a sense of shame for being naked and vulnerable. For Jesus to be Son of God, then we need to cover up his nakedness. For Jesus to be the Son of Man, we need to deny his sexuality. A visible penis is too threatening.

In our modern world, an irrational fear grows more and more powerful. Mothers cover the eyes of their children at the first sign of nudity, especially male nudity. Any male caught exposed is branded a pervert and punished by the collective as a sexual offender.

In our modern world we learn to hide ourselves from others, even from ourselves. We learn that our bodies are not to be trusted. We learn that our bodies are imperfect and need serious modifications through diet, exercise, and surgery. We unconsciously come to believe that God messed up big time and had nothing to be pleased about at the end of the seventh day of creation. So, we cover up our bodies and cover up the body of a crucified Christ.

Free-Hiking as a Spiritual Communion with Self and the Word

July, 2017

I went through my private archives to find something to write about while I am visiting extended family in Alberta. I found this post written four years ago that I thought work revisiting and updating. The topic was hiking while naked. Since the first such attempts of hiking while nude in 2011, I have rarely gone a year without walking new trails and for longer distances. I imagine that I will continue to add to my free-hiking experiences with this coming season of warmth and sunshine. Below is the old post which features the trail pictured above which I have walked while skyclad many times now.

“To I was able to get out for a walk in the warm sunshine without having to wear clothing. I only had to drive about seven kilometres where I parked the car on a rarely used dirt road. From that point on, there were no farm houses or highways to intrude on my privacy. It was an incredible feeling having the sunshine warm me to the very core of my being while I walked another two kilometres on the faint trail. I have claimed this small part of the universe as my retreat centre.”

“Going without clothing is not about exhibitionism, at least when there is no one around and very little likelihood that anyone would appear on this long abandoned trail. Just in case, I did have a pair of pants as a cover-up if I was to see a farmer out seeding his new crop. Being alone on the back-country prairie hills, I have no intention of creating drama within my home area. Going without clothes is, for me, something very spiritual in nature. On the trail there is just mother nature, father sky and myself. This becomes my church, my place to be honest with myself and my creator. No cover-up, no lies.”

There Are Negative Consequences For Naturists

And even this is taking a risk.

So why do I and many others, slip away from the centre, from the normal worldview, and risk family, friends, community, and even freedom? When one slips off the edges of what is commonly held as acceptable, one is at risk. There is little love for those who stray from the centre regardless of what moral truths are to be found outside of that centre. The further from the centre, the greater the risk.

Now before  I get too involved with talking about the outliers of society, the collective, I want to point out that if we look closely at the centre, there is no one standing there. So, why is there a centre if no one can be at the centre? Fear. The primal fear of being different from others has so many willing to adopt one fashion after another in spite of cost. If the shoe is uncomfortable, just wear it with pride knowing that you have the “right” shoes on unlike those who aren’t quite with the program of the centre. But don’t get comfortable for it’s going to change. The end result is a life lived in anxiety. “What if they find out that I’m different?” Media manipulates this anxiety to achieve control and power.

So, why do naturists and nudists shed their clothing when the normal human avoids nudity and actively attempts to prevent others from being clothing free? I wish that I could answer this in simple terms, but I can’t. The reasons are unique to each individual though there as some commonly held reasons. The truth is that we can’t actually explain the real reasons for we don’t consciously know what pushes us from within our personal centres, our unconscious self. Of course we can say things we believe from our consciousness – freedom, feeling, health, wellness, beauty, a sense of wholeness, etc. These are all truths, but it doesn’t really explain why we take risks.

Where there is a boundary, a restriction, there is not freedom. The boundaries are often for protection, but they are still boundaries. The boundaries may be of ideology, but no ideology – religious, political, or whatever – is anything but a response to other ideologies, to fear of other.

So why do I risk my relationship to others by standing out in the open without clothing? Compulsion? Yes. The sense of freedom? Yes. The feeling? Yes. But to be honest, I don’t really know why as it threatens so much. If I am too much out in the open, there will be negative consequences that I will suffer.

Naturists and Nudists as Deviants not Perverts

I have been reading a few sections out of a book called Tolerable Differences: Living With Deviance, by Robert Stebbins (1996). Of special interest in the book is the section on nudism and at the beginning when deviance is defined. Here is an important look at deviance:

Deviance from or non-conformity with the norms of the group with an interest in morality is one of humanity’s oldest concerns. Collective life is possible only when certain crucial rules of behaviour are observed by all or a large majority of the members of the community. These rules are an important part of the complicated, standardized solutions that evolve in response to the problems people encounter while living in proximity to one another.  They are nothing less than strategies for personal and social survival. Such solutions take years to develop and crystallize. They are seen by most community members, especially those who have the greatest power and interest in preserving the status quo, as indispensable to the quality of community life.” [p. 1]

This makes me step back and do some deep questioning about naturism, and about why I have embraced naturism as part of my healing process and perhaps even lifestyle. There is no question that naturism/nudism is about not conforming to the moral belief of the larger society.

Positive face of deviance.

Standing outside the crowd, doing something differently, being different – if I accept this definition of deviancy, then yes, I am a deviant. However, the word rankles. Somehow, the non-judgemental definition, one that is used in mathematics as a statement of separation from the median, the middle, the mean. As humans, we have found a new word to describe those who are furthest outside the mean – outliers. These people are heralded when they serve our needs, and

What does it say about those who engage in nudity, especially social nudity? Is there at its depths, something immoral about human nudity in terms of personal and social survival? Why has humanity moved away from its natural roots where nudity was normal? I don’t know the answers, nor if answers are to be found. And if there are good answers that would unquestionably support the inclusion of naturism within the collective norm, would society then accept those answers? In my opinion, there is too much power, authority and money invested in the status quo. If anything, power is invested in keeping the bulk of human society in a controllable state of unconsciousness. Real awareness, consciousness, would have too many people question the status quo and thus present a real threat to those invested in maintaining the status quo.

Being an authentic person means you stop being one of the crowd. It really doesn’t have anything to do with nudity. It has everything to do about being an individual who risks being herself or himself in the collective. Sadly, most naturists and nudists hide from the collective in secluded and often isolated locations. Only when safely behind their own doors with draperies closed and the doors locked, or in nudist camps do they dare allow themselves to set aside the protective camouflage.

Risking Authenticity as a Naturist

Stilling the monkey mind

It was hard trying to begin today’s post. I found it hard to sit still at the computer and get started. My mind kept racing all over the place. I was making plans for all sorts of activities over the next several months in my head without recording any of these ideas. The time out I gave to myself to sit quiet in meditation helped for a short while, but even that peace began to be drowned out by the constant chatter in my head. Finally, I was able to sit down and begin. My mind, my ego was rushing around doing its best to avoid this sitting down and return to the work of soul healing.

Now that I have my ego back under control, I can begin today’s post about respect and about values. Of course, as a naturist, I have learned that society, as a collective, has no respect for naturism, nudism, nude activism or just the simple enjoyment of occasional nude activity.  As a result, there is a growing underground collective of those who want to be naked, nude, au naturel, etc. It is understandable, but it doesn’t solve the problem of having the general population be respectful of a sizable group of citizens who pay their taxes, contribute to their society in various enterprises and work positions.

The cost of being different

Respect is a difficult term. For the general society, it really isn’t about respect at all, it is about obeying and conforming, or else. And to back up the “or else,” laws and religious edicts are continually put forth to enforce compliance. And where there are no laws, communities make up unwritten laws in order to ensure that differences are not tolerated. Why? Being different for many is viewed as a negative criticism of the group. In response to one’s being “not like the others,” a defensive response, the group reacts with demonizing, humiliating and shaming. As I say this, I want to make sure you understand that I am talking about groups, not individuals. In every group there are some that are more aware than others. And because they are more aware of themselves and others, there is more tolerance and respect. They have already learned that no human is either good or evil, but that every human is a complex blend of conscious and unconscious behaviours and attitudes.

Now, I realise that there are so many gray areas here. There are people who, on an individual level have reason to be “naked wary.” There are too many who have suffered sexual assaults, too many who have been humiliated about their bodies. I respect their position of being extremely discomforted by nudity. I have also seen how nudity has been abused by corporate industry through advertising all the way to hard-core pornography.  That has left even more people unable to separate personal nudity from the evils of a corporate world determined to make addicts of every one of us: addicts of sex, addicts of fear, addicts of whatever it is that they have to sell none of which is good for our heart and soul, and often our very bodies. So how do I show respect for these hurting individuals? Obviously, I don’t become a threat to their well-being by getting into their spaces and getting nude. Do I expect a response of respect back from them? Well, yes I do – but I don’t expect it or demand it.

Like almost all naturists, I just want to be left in peace, to not have to worry that if I get seen in some peaceful nature setting, or even in my own yard, naked, that I won’t have to deal with the threat of law, or be harassed and bullied. My getting naked is about my feeling good about who I am, it isn’t about trying my hardest to offend or traumatise anyone. My getting naked is about making peace with my body as part of my own journey of healing of soul.

Body Image and Fear of Being an Original

The old man in the mirror

I am getting older. The truth is, I am already old as far as my body tells me. The aches and pains of ageing are real. The physical appearances change as well with ageing. My black hair has long disappeared, my trim and fit body left on the same boat as my hair. It would be quite understandable to look in the mirror and then hate what was reflected there. But, I don’t hate the visible signs of my mortality.

Body acceptance

Perhaps the most courageous thing anyone can do is to confront the reality of themselves. In today’s world of mass media doing its best to sell us anything and everything, and in the process convincing us that we are not okay, we are not beautiful or handsome, we are not smart enough, we are not spiritual enough, we aren’t even lovable without the goods and services that they are more than willing to sell to us, it takes courage to look in the mirror at oneself without clothing.

I don’t think very many of us realise just how influential we are in the lives of the people around us. Beginning with our children, what do we teach them about being brave? We have long known that our children learn from what we do, not what we say. We teach them about being individuals, about standing up for what they believe in, as well as many other important values. Yet, what do we do to make our words become more than simply meaningless babble for our children?  How do we teach our daughters about body acceptance?

I know that we typically tell our daughters they are beautiful just the way God made them, even when by societal standards there are a few (or more) things about their body that is called into question. And almost in the same moment in time we deny our own beauty as we head to gyms, buy the latest diet book, invest in aesthetic plastic surgery, etc. Our children aren’t stupid. They learn that parents are supposed to say they are beautiful in their natural state, but the also learn that their parents don’t believe that humans are naturally beautiful. They see their parents hide their natural beauty as humans, and they get the message that they too need to hide their natural beauty and replace it with brand names, the latest styles of clothing and so on. Our children see what we do and learn the real message, the truth that they must hide their natural bodies, and even their natural person. We teach them to trust in clothing, in masks and “polite” lies. We teach them that it is unnatural and even immoral to be “natural.”

Why? Fear.  Yes, it does come down to fear. This fear is at an existential level, a spiritual level, and a societal level. It is about risking and daring the unknown, risking censure, ridicule, safety and perhaps even love. We are born trusting but soon learn to be afraid – afraid that mother and her milk will not be there. We learn to be afraid when we begin to deal with our human spirit as we get taught and told how humans are sinners and that sinners go to hell where we will burn in eternal darkness unless . . . And for each of us, that “unless” is tied into everything we eat, everything we think, everything we do and pointedly, it is tied to our naked bodies.

“Embarking on a spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. . . .  but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world.” [Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, p. 1]

So with that fear, a fear that goes down into our very souls, we hide and lie about who we are. At least we hope we can hide enough so that our life within our families and our communities and our churches can be less fearful. As we hide from the world behind clothing and roles and disguises, we hide from ourselves. We learn almost too late, if we learn at all, that each and every person out there is just as afraid as we are, even our church leaders and law makers. I share that fear with each of you; after all, like you, I am human.

Yes I am afraid and I am human, but I am tired of lying to myself and believing in the lies of a world that is just as insecure or even more insecure, as myself. This is part of the reasons, the rationale, for the existence of this blog site. I am finally daring to be me, imperfect but human.

Being Naked in a Non-Nude-Friendly World

Gymnophobia

The Greeks had created a word, Gymnosophy to name a group of individuals, in their world at that time – men, they saw as naked philosophers or naked wise men. Now, it doesn’t escape me that among the number of people who have embraced naturism, there are more than a few who would modern-day versions of naked philosophers. Unlike the ancient Greek civilisation, today’s naked philosophers aren’t only men. However, before I get carried away with the topic of gymnosophy, I simply want to set the foundation for the use of the word, gymnophobia – “An abnormal and persistent fear of nudity. Sufferers of this phobia experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. They may worry about seeing others naked or being seen naked, or both.” Gymnophobia is alive and well, and apparently thriving in the modern world.

Life is confusing and complicated for anyone who begins to think too much and thus find themselves out of the mainstream of society, the collective. It would be much simpler to simply reflect the social world in which a person finds themselves, through action and uncritical acceptance. If everyone is eating at Macdonald’s on Saturday afternoon, then it is right to eat at Macdonald’s on Saturday afternoon. If everyone is wearing blue jeans, it is right and proper to wear blue jeans – wearing black jeans is letting the inner rebel show and thus makes a person just a bit less trusted. Conformity is in.

A walk along a beach will show you that most young men are wearing board shorts for swim wear. As a result, younger males entering into adolescence decide that they “have to” have this type of swim wear. There is no chance that they would risk being laughed at for wearing swim trunks, speedos, or heaven forbid, nothing at all. As a result, most people are making decisions based on what they perceive will be acceptable to the collective. The last thing they will do is to base decisions on what they personally would prefer.

With the “World Naked Bike Ride” making its appearance in cities all over the world, the number of young people getting naked and riding tells us that if the culture permits and accepts nudity, there would be more nudity in daily life, by choice, by individual choice. As more enjoy body freedom, others watching from the sideline will be encouraged to experience being naked, even if only for a few moments in the privacy of their bedroom or bathroom.

The reality is that in spite of the WNBR, society is not nude friendly. Being nude, even at home, requires a leap of courage or a breakdown. Being nude in a non-nude-friendly world, a gymnophobic world, sets one on the edges, outliers of the main social fabric. And, this is not a bad thing. Being an outlier frees a person from being nothing more than a consumer and a mirror. One finally has a rare opportunity to discover the treasure of simply being themselves.

To do the work, the psychological and spiritual work, of becoming more conscious of self and others always takes one on a journey that is difficult, a heroic journey. One can think of any number of stories in which an individual must suffer in order to win the prize of going home, or a golden fleece, or winning a coveted championship. All of these journeys take a person out of the safety of the collective.

A Plug For the Naturist Fiction Co-op Writers’ Group

The touch of snowflakes in the morning.

I am deliberately taking time out from writing to reconnect here with you, my readers. It is too easy for me to get lost in the words and worlds of writing with the result that whatever friendships I have, even if they are only cyberspace friendships via Twitter, Facebook, or this blog site, are abandoned.

With the weather seeming to improve ever so slightly, I am enjoying my daily walks again though they are shorter, only just over five kilometres long. I am still waiting for my feet to get used to being enclosed in boots after so many months of walking barefoot on the sand beside the Pacific Ocean in Ecuador. When will I finally get to walk au naturel is up to the weather and life happenings around my house.

On another note, I am pretty well prepared for this Saturday’s book-signing event with the book, It’s Complicated being the featured book at the store. Of course I will be selling my other naturist novel, A Small Company of Pilgrims as well. Speaking of naturist fiction, I want to remind you of the site, Naturist Fiction which features blog posts and other interesting stuff by myself, Will Forest also known as Nudescribe, [author of Aglow, and Co-ed Naked Philosophy], and Paul Z. Walker [author of the Naked Crow series, and the Mirror Earth series]. If you haven’t checked out the site, please consider this your personal invitation to do so.

Now, it’s time for me to head back to my writing. Until the next time, be the best authentic you that lurks beneath clothing and the camouflage of persona.

Confronting the Naked Reality of Self

Sunny and cold – it’s still winter in April

Today, the weather is sunny and cold. It is still winter. One could think that going outside while nude would be either insane or courageous and brave. It was neither. It was simply a marker of the day for my journal which used photos as well as text. The journal uses images to force me to confront the truth of who I am, and the text puts the image into context, filling in the background of thought and mood. All of this is important if I’m going to be honest with myself, about myself.

Perhaps the most courageous thing anyone can do is to confront the reality of themselves. In today’s world of mass media doing its best to sell us anything and everything, and in the process convincing us that we are not okay, we are not beautiful or handsome, we are not smart enough, we are not spiritual enough, we aren’t even lovable without the goods and services that they are more than willing to sell to us, it takes courage to look in the mirror at oneself without clothing.

I don’t think very many of us realise just how influential we are in the lives of the people around us. Beginning with our children, what do we teach them about being brave? We have long known that our children learn from what we do, not what we say. We teach them about being individuals, about standing up for what they believe in, as well as many other important values. Yet, what do we do to make our words become more than simply meaningless babble for our children?  How do we teach our daughters about body acceptance? I know that we typically tell our daughters they are beautiful just the way God made them, even when by societal standards there are a few (or more) things about their body that is called into question. And almost in the same moment in time we deny our own beauty as we head to gyms, buy the latest diet book, invest in aesthetic plastic surgery, etc.

Our children aren’t stupid. They learn that parents are supposed to say they are beautiful in their natural state, but the also learn that their parents don’t believe that humans are naturally beautiful. They see their parents hide their natural beauty as humans, and they get the message that they too need to hide their natural beauty and replace it with brand names, the latest styles of clothing and so on. Our children see what we do and learn the real message, the truth that they must hide their natural bodies, and even their natural person. We teach them to trust in clothing, in masks and “polite” lies. We teach them that it is unnatural and even immoral to be “natural.”

Why? Fear.  Yes, it does come down to fear. This fear is at an existential level, a spiritual level, and a societal level. It is about risking and daring the unknown, risking censure, ridicule, safety and perhaps even love. We are born trusting but soon learn to be afraid – afraid that mother and her milk will not be there. We learn to be afraid when we begin to deal with our human spirit as we get taught and told how humans are sinners and that sinners go to hell where we will burn in eternal darkness unless . . . And for each of us, that “unless” is tied into everything we eat, everything we think, everything we do and pointedly, it is tied to our naked bodies.

“Embarking on a spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. . . .  but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world.” [Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, p. 1]

So with that fear, a fear that goes down into our very souls, we hide and lie about who we are. At least we hope we can hide enough so that our life within our families and our communities and our churches can be less fearful. As we hide from the world behind clothing and roles and disguises, we hide from ourselves. We learn almost too late, if we learn at all, that each and every person out there is just as afraid as we are, even our church leaders and law makers. I share that fear with each of you; after all, like you, I am human.

Yes I am afraid and I am human, but I am tired of lying to myself and believing in the lies of a world that is just as insecure or even more insecure, as myself. This is part of the reasons, the rationale, for the existence of this blog site. I am finally daring to be me, imperfect but human.

A Naturist Journey To Wholeness

Dark Night of the Soul

In the book, Dark Nights of the Soul, Thomas Moore talks about the need to come to terms with the fact that within each of us there is darkness and that we need to not only recognise this darkness, but to own it as part of the whole, the totality of who and what we are. Moore says;

“In your dark night you may learn how to become darker. It isn’t enough theoretically to believe in shadow. You have to live it in such a way that it is real but not literal.” [p. 115]

When we take off our clothes, we become more, not less, of ourselves. Clothing allows others only to see a small part of who we are, a controlled face of ourselves. We want to hide our self-perceived defects and flaws. When we are unsure of ourselves, we are desperate to have others see us as we imagine we could be “if only . . . “. The problem with this is the disturbing evidence that we are not really aware of others see of us. So, we hide more and more of ourselves which unfortunately makes us more and more of a stranger to ourselves.

Having hope in the darkest of hours

Rather than avoid disclosing ourselves on a physical level, we need to bare our bodies to our own eyes and discover every aspect of our bodies. Nothing should be left undiscovered. As we become familiar with all the defects and flaws that we hid from in the past, we begin to realise that there really aren’t any defects and flaws, Rather, we learn that we are more, much more than we have ever imagined. As we integrate all this, the fact that a human body can’t be anything but imperfect, there is hope that one will then have the courage to face the darkness within, the flaws and defects of our inner selves.

A person can’t just go half way on the journey to wholeness; both the inner and outer self has to be uncovered, exposed and then embraced. The dark self is real. In becoming familiar with that dark self, one doesn’t give the dark self permission to act out that darkness. What one needs to do is to recognise that within is a saint and a demon. Without awareness, the demon can erupt from within without our awareness and leave a trail of wreckage for us to deal with when consciousness returns.

With nudity, we steal the power of repression and replace it with a healthy sense of self and other. There is less pull to the darker side of the human body, to pornography, to rape, to sexual exploitation of others. With becoming familiar with our naked psyche, we earn the same power and become more respectful or ourselves and others. What is repressed is expressed unconsciously.

Perhaps this is the message of hope that comes with the Dark Night of the Soul represented by the Crucifixion of Christ, the promise of a return to light. Yes, this is a deliberate choice for today’s blog post, Good Friday.