A Buddhist Meditating Naked

The view from my meditation cushion.

Every morning I meditate when I am at home in a special spot, special for me. On the wall I have photos of lotus flowers that I took in Vietnam as well as an image of Buddha that I found in Thailand. On the small altar are books, incense, a candle, a silk scarf and name card that were presented to me when I took refuge as a Buddhist. There are more things in my special space, a sacred space. When I meditate here, I do so completely nude. Even the glasses and the hearing aids are set aside. This is the authentic self, not my ego self, daring to cut through all the illusions we create with our minds.

Why am I a Buddhist? I don’t know the complete answer as I am still discovering what Buddhism is after my introduction to Buddhism forty-six years ago, about the same time as I discovered the healing power of naturism. I didn’t connect the two for a long, long time. It wasn’t until nine years ago that I was pulled into sitting in a pool of sunshine, sitting naked and totally vulnerable. During one of my retreats in 2009, while in Mexico, I found myself searching for a secluded area and stripped off my clothing and meditated. It was the beginning of my present practice. However, it wasn’t until I was teaching at a university in China after having retired from teaching and school administration in Canada, that I made nude meditation a common practice.

Meditation in China

This photo was taken by my wife one day while I was meditating by the window in our apartment in China. She saw the sunlight and suddenly understood why I meditated nude. We had both begun formal meditation practice in 1973, based on the Transcendental Meditation model though we had tried meditation informally a year earlier. We kept our clothes on for meditation not knowing there was another way. Over the years since then, I have consistently turned to meditation when life got too difficult to handle.

With the decision to enter into a formal relationship with Buddhism, I took refuge in 2012, a year after the above photo. It didn’t matter that I had read about Buddhism, or meditated, or had my own little wooden effigy of Buddha in my home – the act of taking refuge took me to a different place, a place that I realise isn’t about Tibet, or Thailand, or even any particular school of Buddhist belief. I was discovering more and more about the bare facts of who I was. And that, is a journey that is still in progress.

Naked and Being More Holistic and Complete

“to be nude in nature is to enter into dialogue with the elements in a way that is much more holistic and complete.”

I have asked for and received permission to use this photo of a man, a married man with children like me. Like me, he is on a spiritual journey and has embraced meditation, nudity and naturism as part of that spiritual journey. He is many years younger than I am and he lives in America.

The discovery that there are more and more people such as myself and my friend Will Forest shown here, who is also a writer of naturist fiction, was a gift. To know others who are looking beyond, beneath and within for meaning as humans has given me greater courage to be myself, to dare being fully myself.

A long time ago I wrote about how Sydney Jourard’s book, The Transparent Self, had been a part of the influence that helped explain my personal shift to consciously becoming naked and vulnerable in the external world. I have also frequently referred to Jungian psychology as “peeling away layers” to reveal an authentic self. And, I have frequently spoken about how meditation au naturel has served to connect me with a larger sense of the universe, a spiritual dimension that cannot tolerate disguises, masks or false images.

In our religions we are taught that humans were made in the image of their Creator, perfect creations, created naked and vulnerable and beautiful. Somewhere along the way we have lost that innocence and learned to believe that the Creator made a mistake in creating us naked. We have learned to that to be naked is to be sinful, even evil. Our holiest garb has us so covered in cloth that our bodies have disappeared within the coverings so that we become sexless beings.

Learning that I am constantly changing with each breath, each moment and interaction with the world, teaches me to be more gentle with myself and the world, as well as it teaches me to cling less to old habits, beliefs and false security. I was surprised earlier today to find these words that led me just a bit further along my journey to being an authentic and transparent being.

“We are given changes all the time. We can either cling to security, or we can let ourselves feel exposed, as if we had just been born, as if we had just popped out into the brightness of life and were completely naked.

Maybe that sounds too uncomfortable or frightening, but on the other hand, it’s our chance to realize that this mundane world is all there is, and we could see it with new eyes and at long last wake up from our ancient sleep of preconceptions.”

Waking up, stripped of protective clothing and facing the world totally vulnerable and honestly is frightening in many ways, particularly in this modern world which is hell-bent on punishing those who dare to be authentic in any form. But as Pema Chodron points out, it’s our chance. I grew tired of darkness, of fear and of hiding. Now I dare say, This is who I am!

Being Fully and Honestly Present When Naked

No Time To Lose – being fully present in self.

As I sit still with my thoughts today, a blustery day with the wind from the east, whipping trees that result in leaves falling onto the ground, I found a moment of well-being that is hard to explain. It isn’t explained away as happiness or sadness, a mood of some sort that could be understood through some sort of psychological or physiological analysis. It is almost as if I can stand outside of myself, and by that I mean step outside of my controlling ego. I took this photo, ostensibly for my journal where I chronicle some of my life, especially anything to do with naturism and being skyclad.

Why this particular pose? It was meant to simply record a nude state of being with the temperature outdoors included. However, now that I see the result, I find something else being exposed. The almost smile is in sharp contrast to the original intent of the photo. Regardless, I had an image for my journal and then retreated into the warmth of the house. Rather than beginning to write in the journal, I opened up a book on my shelf written by Pema Chodron called No Time To Lose. It was a random choice, and just as randomly, I found these words which were originally written twelve hundred years ago, words that I somehow needed to hear.

“What I have to say has all been said before

And I am destitute of learning and of skill with words,

I therefore have no thought that this might be of benefit to others;

I wrote it only to sustain my understanding.”

[Shantideva, Bodhicharyavatarta 1.2]

For some time, my ego has inflated itself with the idea that I have something important to write for the world. Perhaps my wisdom would touch someone through the novels I write, or the poetry, or my autobiography, or even here in my blog posts? Of course I know that most people have never heard of me or will ever read my words. And the truth is, none of that is very important. I mean, I’m just another wounded person wandering around the planet who hopes that he doesn’t pollute the world too much.

I’m not the smartest person regardless of what my ego often tells me when it points out the high IQ scores, scores that don’t comfort me when I screw up doing basic, ordinary stuff. I’m not the most talented in any area of the arts or life. Yet, I am not the worst either. No matter how hard I study myself and the world, I continually come back to the truth that I am just a man, often naked – nothing more, nothing less. So why do I write? For whom am I writing?

As Shantideva said so long ago, “to sustain my understanding.” I get to understand physically, visually, and psychologically that I am me in a time called now, a being that is not to be weighed with judgements. This is something that I need to meditate upon.

Meditate on This While Skyclad

Skyclad meditation

Following my morning meditation which I did outdoors when the weather allows such meditation, I returned to the house in order to prepare what I needed for today’s blog post. I knew that I was going to write about meditation as I had just put an Bhudda water fountain into my yard, as is pictured beside me in the photo which I took yesterday evening. No, this wasn’t my meditation, but simply a record of the new garden Bhudda in place. I meditate in a different corner or the yard, someplace that is more private as is fitting.

Well, as I was saying, I went to my home library and found a book by Khenpo Karthar called Dharma Paths which was written in 1992. I opened the book at random and found these words:

“When the leader of a community or a country has a very open, stable, and tranquil mind, there is a greater chance for peace and harmony in the lives of the people of the whole community or country. The past few generations have had the awesome and dreadful experience of two world wars. These two wars did not happen because all the people in the world were angry and disturbed. The wars were provoked by a few disturbed, angry, confused people, perhaps fewer than one hundred. Unfortunately, a few very disturbed people with control over a country can produce tremendous destruction and disaster.” Khenpo Karthar, Dharma Paths, 1992.

I don’t want to expand upon Karthar’s words, but simply let them sit with you. Perhaps you would even meditate with the thought and/or echo of these words forming your meditation focus. After letting the words sit for a while, I would like to hear from you, your thoughts both from the point of dharma and today’s world situation. Now, it’s your turn.

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.

Mental Buddhism and Skyclad Depth Psychology

A time for peaceful contemplation when simply being me was enough.

Today is starting off as an introspective day. After my morning meditation along the sea where I could feel the breezes and see the sun rising to bless this body with its first rays. Back at the casa, I continued to sit relatively still on the balcony with only a few stirrings. My mind was still and that was a blessing. Stripped of all of the normal chatter in my brain, it was as though my mind decided to embrace naturism as well, to dare being bare of all of those illusory thoughts that preoccupy the mind. For the hours from rising until the start of writing this post, I would say that I was a Buddhist Mental Nudist, a term coined by Domo Geshe Rinpoche, an American woman who is not really what she claims to be, a Rinpoche in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Be that as it may, I saw the expression “mental nudist” and knew that the term fits the experience of this morning. It is also a term that accords with what I would call skyclad depth psychology.

With this discovery of Buddhism and Nudism, I continued my search on how the two do become one. I know that as an organisation, Buddhism is not supportive of naturism or nudism based on the early teachings of Siddharhta Gautama (Buddha). Today, Buddhists are wrapped in robes and those robes serve a purpose of defining roles so that all will know who is a lay person, who is a monastic, who is a dharma teacher, who is a Lama, who is a Rinpoche. Buddhism is invested in the world, a world that doesn’t have much value for naturism and nudism. Yet, when I say that, I am talking about the container of Buddhism, not the stripped bare heart of Buddhism. At the heart of Buddhist philosophy, not Buddhism as a religion, everything is stripped bare leaving one fully exposed, leaving one without illusions.

It comes down to some basic facts. One is a human. One has a body. One has a mind. One has a soul. And perhaps most importantly, one is connected at all levels with the universe which is One. There is no shame in the body each human is gifted with at birth regardless of what the collective decides is beautiful or ugly or sinful – the body is the purest physical expression of who we are, an honest physical portrait, a temple for the mind, spirit and soul.

“The gods made our bodies as well as our souls, is it not so? They give us voices, so we might worship them with song. They give us hands, so we might build them temples. And they give us desire, so that we might mate and worship them in that way.” [Martin, The Clash of Kings, p. 210]

Naked Beneath One’s Clothing

Nude meditation outdoors in May

I often meditate nude in the garden back home in Canada, so that I could experience the sense of spirit without any constrictions that pulled my attention back into my body. Sometimes, I use my dark blue housecoat which can be seen beside me here in the photo, especially on those breezy mornings when the temperature is still in the single digits in spite of the sun shining. It is important not to get stuck in routines for those routines can begin to own you and end up causing anxiety should one be forced outside to the time and space for the observance of routines. Here in Ecuador, my meditation is almost fully a walking meditation. Whether it is morning or afternoon, I wear as little as possible along the beach as I let the kilometres slip by. No camera of flapping clothing, or idle gossip to break the sound of nature’s presence.

Jesus meditating by Bruce Harman

Jesus meditating by Bruce Harman

In my opinion, it isn’t necessary to do always do one’s meditation nude as in my example above where I wear a robe or a mini-brief swimsuit. Nor is it necessary to depict meditation as nude meditation even if one is without clothing. The act of meditating has nothing to do with clothing. Clothing has to do with the psyche of the person and perhaps common sense. Given the scene painted by Bruce Harman here, it is possible that coolness was the reason for the robe that Jesus is wearing while meditating; or, perhaps it is more about Harman’s sense of modesty and not wanting to admit that Jesus as a man had a man’s body. Jesus as son of God is about spirit, not body. Once one looks carefully, one knows that under the robe, even Jesus is naked.

Clothing worn while meditating is a sensory reminder that one is in the body, constricted in that body and not free to be fully spirit. At least, for me, that is it feels like. Sitting in meditation is an opportunity to simply be, to have release from the body, the mind and suffering. Needing to wear clothing while meditation, with the exception of weather protection and perhaps protection from insects, is based of fear. Entering into meditation carrying one’s neurosis makes the journey to that freedom of spirit just that much more difficult. Yet even carrying one’s neurosis into meditative practice is a worthy act, one that allows growth of peace, one that allows the journey to freedom to move a few more steps forward. So, just a gentle reminder to you, my readers – just sit and be. Don’t debate the issue, just sit.

Negative Reactions to Nudity Are Based on Pain

When Things Fall Apart

So much anger, fear and pain is doing a number on all of us, regardless of which side of anger and fear we find ourselves at any given time. It doesn’t matter which side of an idea or conflict we find ourselves. All we know is what we feel, that we are under siege and that the world is falling apart, going to hell in a hand basket. There is no doubt that when it comes to the world of naturism and nudity, there almost feels to be an accentuated degree of believing that the world is falling apart.

Naturists have worked hard as a collective in North America, over the last seventy-some years to carve out a semblance of naturist community with naturist spaces. It was a long process that did result in having spaces and places to claim for the naturist world and cause. Those opposed to the idea of nudity because of religious beliefs, fear of paedophiles, personal experiences of sexual abuse, or simply out of personal shame for their own bodies are tortured by the same sense of loss of control and sanity in the world surrounding them. For both sides of the naturist equation, the world is falling apart, and the people and groups on the other side of the equation is the enemy.

“All over the world, everybody always strikes out a the enemy, and the pain escalates.” (Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, p. 11)

These words by Pema Chödrön aptly express what is happening all around us, and even within us. The world is in pain, our neighbours are in pain, our children are in pain; and when we dare to closely enough and are honest, we are in pain. In our pain, we look outside of ourselves for someone to blame. It’s a normal response.

Femen protests

We blame those who carried the guns that shot the children. We blame organisations that lobby for a gun in every home, as well as those who lobby to have all the guns removed. We blame broken families and far away enemies. We blame our caretakers for failing us. We blame those who are actively pursuing the removal of rights to be nude, to swim in the nude. We blame those who want to force nudity down our throats. We blame others, nameless others for the most part.

Nude is lewd – be modest because the Bible tells says so.

But we rarely look within ourselves to see that we, too, are part of the problem. That darkness that terrorises us from somewhere out there is the same darkness that we deny within ourselves. The darkness seen in our societies mirror our own darkness. We look for scapegoats, and we hide behind our own guns, our churches, our medications, our addictions. But at some point it all falls apart and we come face to face with ourselves.

Evil does happen out there; but we have the echoes and the roots of that same evil within each and every one of us. We are left hurt, fearful, sad, angry, and often paralysed. So what can we do? We can approach all of this following Chödrön’s suggestion:

“Each day, we’re given many opportunities to open up or shut down. The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to the place where we think we can’t handle whatever is happening. It’s too much. It’s gone too far. We feel too bad about ourselves. . . . Meditation is an invitation to notice when we reach our limit and to not get carried away by hope and fear.” (Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, pp. 12-13)

Yes, meditation is a valid response. But, it is not our only response. We do live in communities and we have a responsibility to act in the best interests of our communities. But how do we act? Do we act blindly with revenge and blaming and fear and anger? Or, do we first look for an inner balance and respond in ways that keep us somewhere in the middle, a way that respects the heart and the head for ourselves and the others whom we are so quick to blame for the problems that tell us our world is falling apart? I can’t tell you the answer, you have to sit still long enough to know your answer, to know the questions that need to be asked. Yes, sit still.

Nude Meditation and Bindu

I have brought this post forward from December 2012. Only four weeks later, I found myself on the shores of the Caribbean Sea meditating nude at sunrise. It seemed vital to me, today to do this for I have been struggling to fit meditation into my daily regime here in Ecuador in 2018. This has resulted in a loss of vital energy for me that I need to recover. Of course, I know what needs to happen. Now, it is up to me to take my own words to heart and find the will to match the need.

Naturist Meditation by the Sea at Sunrise

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability  and confidence you will need to live, and die, well.” (Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)

It has been an interesting day for me, one that resulted in delaying the writing of this post amongst other things. I took today’s image from the Smithsonian Magazine site as it resonated with what I was feeling, where I have been and to where I am once again heading. Though it is -20 C outside the walls of my home, I sense the upwelling of vital energy within me, an energy that is both body and spirit. There is a term for this – bindu.

Bindu is held to be the point at which begins creation and the point at which the many becomes the unity. It is also described as “the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state.”

This idea of becoming one is both a Buddhist and a Jungian concept. I now had a term for the energy field that was wakened, so I went in search of more, first turning to one of my books by Chogyam Trungpa:

“The physical act of sex has often been described . . . as an act of noncompletion. Sex is seen as a clumsy way of releasing your bindu. Bindu in this case is the essence of the body; often it is equated with semen, but that is not necessarily a good definition. Both men and women possess bindu. Bindu is the essence of the mind and essence of the body.” (Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money, p. 102)

As I meditate nude, there is a blossoming of energy that touches the roots of my body as well as my mind which embraces so much more that what I should know. And as I am awakened to this bindu, I experience a freedom that far surpasses that of simply being clothes free. I feel the fullness of being a man, the fullness of being a child of the god and goddess.of all creation.

Confronting the Truth of Our Naked Selves

The Yin and the Yang of relationship.

In real life relationships, the masculine and feminine are two separate things, polar opposites, just as black is opposite to white and day is opposite to night. Though they are separate and opposite, they are locked together to make a whole; a complete day, a cohabiting couple. The opposites circle each other and penetrate each other in an attempt to fuse into a singleness. In a complete day, this attempt of one trying to fuse into the other, is seen at both the dawn and sunset. In a human relationship, this is seen in the act of intercourse which leads to a momentary “petit mort” where the sense of separateness disappears. In meditation, where the dance becomes that of consciousness circling the unconscious, it is the tiny space, an empty space following an out-breath, just before a new in-breath has begun.

Day fusing into night, man fusing into woman.

When we live unconsciously, there are no deep, probing questions about who we are or who is this other person; there are no questions about the nature of the day or the seasons or the year. When, for some reason, a light goes on somewhere within us, we begin to notice our separateness from the world and from others. It is this dawning of awareness that causes us to experience both suffering and joy. This is the curse given to humanity in the Garden of Eden. Humans haven’t really been sent from the garden. Humanity has simply emerged from a participation mystique as an unconscious collective.

We now see that the Garden of Eden where we lived in natural harmony, lived without the need of clothing, artifice, or fear is separate from us. It seems that the more aware we become of who we are and who the other is, the more isolated and alone we feel, separated from each other and our Garden of Eden that is the Earth. And in response to our suffering of isolation and estrangement, we behave badly and at rare “sometimes”, surprisingly godly. But that can only happen when we finally accept the beauty and godliness of our own naked selves.

What is not noted for the most part is the joy that emerges. When man confronts his separateness from woman, and woman confronts her separateness from man, both become more self aware. Both see themselves through lenses that are constantly changing and enlarging. Rather than only seeing the self through the eyes of the other, and the collective, we begin to discover truths about ourselves that can only be dredged from our personal depths. In the end, we return to the truth that we are not really alone, but we are individuals in relationships with a significant other, a community, and the Earth.