As with most mornings, I sit with my wife on the love seat in our living room, slowly waking up with fresh-ground coffee in our mugs. This morning, my head was swirling with scenes that could become part of my latest naturist novel. But it wasn’t just the novel that vied for my attention.
Yesterday, I sent out a tweet that bemoaned the inundation of images that purported to be naturist images. Of course, I am used to this phenomenon of men posting images of beautiful, trim and slim young women in all sorts of poses. Maybe the women were naturists, but the intent of the men tweeting the images was not about naturism.
I received the latest copy of AANR’s magazine called, The Bulletin. I had left the magazine on the kitchen table and my wife reacted to the image on the back cover, another “beautiful young thing” in all her glory in an advertisement for a nude cruise. The magazine was advertising the nude cruise for whom? The advertisement was selling a product using sex appeal. Now, how many women would resist booking such a trip, especially women of a certain age.
Of course, single men would buy a ride on the boat hoping that the promise of catching the attention of the “beautiful young thing.” But the problem is, very few single men belong to AANR, which is predominantly a club focused entity; and you typically can’t belong to a club when you are a single man. So, why did AANR accept the ad the way it was designed. I mean, the advertisement could have featured a man and/or a woman that didn’t look as if they were models.
Nude images are fraught with problems for the person captured in the image, and for the photographer, the worst of which appears to be how the images are used by others for an intent that has nothing to do with the photographer’s intent. It irks me to no end when images are turned into objects of fantasising and then hashtagged as #naturism.
I am bringing here, a series of blog posts that I wrote in 2013 that look at alchemy from a naturist and psychological point of view. While doing so, I will be editing my original words, something I hadn’t done at that time. There are four stages of alchemical transformation: Negredo, Albedo, Calcinitras, and Rubedo. I’m not going to bore you with all sorts of psycho-babble as my wife calls it. I want to simply talk about how naturism works its magic of healing, beginning with the body and reaching into the depths of the soul.
I accept that naturism allows a person to achieve a physical state that is in holistic and in balance with the earth. As well, naturism allows on to develop a healthier relationship with others and with oneself. it is desirable that one looks for a psychological balance as well since we are as much spirit as we are body. I am not an alchemist. However, there is much in alchemy which allows me to better understand myself, allows me to remove all the layers that hide the essence of who I am. In a way, it is the mental version of stripping off my clothes to reveal the authentic core of who I am.
In following the model of alchemy from a Jungian psychology standpoint, the exposure to the naked self allows for a transformation at a conscious level. With that transformation, one is able to live more authentically, more aware in the world. Awareness, enlightenment – these are the goals, to become as fully aware as possible, aware of oneself, others, and the world. Now, to begin
The dark night of the soul, this is something that is intimately known by all who suffer depression, a place of darkness, a place of shadows from which we want to flee. This depression and darkness appears to be something “out there,” something to which we feel we are victims. Typically, we run like hell trying to escape, trying to hide from the darkness. Drugs, sex, money, work, new places, new hobbies, redecorating our homes, a new car, a new spouse: we try anything to banish that darkness. But, the darkness refuses to be banished. This is the dark night of the soul.
If we are like many others, we head to a doctor’s office for some pharmaceutical relief; or to a psychotherapist’s chair for some answers, some other strategies to banish the darkness. We do this only as a last resort knowing that if we don’t do something we will descend into insanity or commit suicide. It isn’t a pretty picture, but it is real.
“Alchemy announced a source of knowledge . . . It is harsh and bitter or like vinegar, for it is a bitter thing to accept the darkness and blackness . . . and to pass through this valley of the shadow. It is bitter indeed to discover behind one’s lofty ideals narrow, fanatical convictions, all the more cherished for that, and behind one’s heroic pretensions nothing but crude egotism, infantile greed, and complacency. This is an unavoidable stage in every psychotherapeutic process . . . it begins with the nigredo . . .“ (Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, paragraph346)
So, the pain of depression serves as an impetus to finally do something about the pain when all the other avenues prove fruitless. So, one enters into psychotherapy. However, before the work can even begin, there is a need to create a place for the work; a safe, even sacred place. Like a surgeon preparing for an operation, there is the need to build a sense of safety in the relationship as well as place. The therapist needs to become aware of the boundary limits (or lack thereof) of the person and to build a sense of trust in that person as well as to have the person enter into a trust relationship with the therapist.
As time goes by, the two begin to test each other, test the boundaries of safety. And when there is a sense of safety, the belief that the container of their relationship has become sacred in its own way, then the work may begin:
“In the early period of analysis, the primary work is the establishment of the boundary, the analytical temenos, in which the analysis is to take place.” (Hall, The Jungian Experience, p. 78)
There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos, a safe and sacred space where one is safe enough to strip of their psychic layers, as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.
“From a psychological standpoint, this stage is experienced as entering a dark and chaotic unconscious inner world. St John of the Cross has referred to this as the first of two dark nights, the dark night of the mind, which is an encounter with the darker aspects of our self (that which Jung called “the shadow”). At first nothing appears to make sense, indeed all the therapist can do at this stage of the process is to be fully present and empathise with the client, who in the process of articulating their experience, facilitates it further.
During this part of the work, the “client” tells his or her story as it is known and sensed by the ego, the clothed self, This telling is vital and it is enough for the therapist to listen and support without trying to fix anything.
The therapist tracks the appearance of complexes, contradictions, images and fears through the process of working with dreams, journaling, sand play, and other active imagination strategies. For the client, it almost feels that everything is getting worse as old sores are laid open, exposed to the light. It must be stated that the process doesn’t wait for all the shadows to be exposed. The shifting to the second stage, albedo begins when the therapist and client begin to tackle what has been exposed. Only so much darkness can be held at one time.
Sometimes there is a real need for darkness. Darkness is a place where we are the least sure of ourselves, and perhaps that is a good thing. Why do I say this? Well, more often than not, our ego gets in the way of our becoming wiser, more complete beings. In the darkness, we fall asleep and enter into a level of connection to something bigger than the boxes we put around the world and ourselves using our minds. In darkness, we give up control and the doors open to a universe beyond all of our imagining, a world within which we find ourselves at home – curious, isn’t it?
When we wake up to the light of a new day, when night is pushed away, we dismiss the dreams, the forebodings, the flying, the embracing of everything that is too absurd for our conscious mind to accept. We know better, or so we try to convince ourselves. And so, we arm ourselves to do daily battle with the outer world, encase ourselves in protective armour whether that be a business suit or other uniform that validates ourselves as “one of them.”
When we are asleep in the night, we are naked whether our bodies are clothed or covered with blankets and sheets. We find ourselves in scenes and scenarios where we are participants but not the author. We are unable to hide, even from ourselves. And exposed, we come to see the shadows that make us feel uncomfortable and uneasy. We come to realise that these shadows are other faces of ourselves, denied faces that rebel against being banished. In the night, while asleep, we are stripped of our ego, our conscious control.
What emerges is a rare kind of honesty which we dismiss when the light comes on moments after waking. In the light, we quickly put on our clothes to banish the lingering sense of vulnerability. But, we can’t cover up the gnawing sensation that we are still exposed, still vulnerable, and that life will discover our unease and unmask us as frauds. expose all of our warts, wrinkles, all the stains on our soul that lurk in the shadows waiting to erupt and embarrass us in the eyes of others in the world. No matter how many layers of clothing or makeup we put on, no matter whether there are designer labels or no-name brands of camouflage, we continue to feel naked, exposed, and vulnerable.
It’s snowing again. It appears that winter is here to stay until spring. Today is the second day of NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month. So far I have written more than 7,000 words of the 50,000 word target for November 30th. With the weather being what it is, I don’t imagine I will be tempted all that much to spend much of my time outdoors rather than at the keyboard.
As for what I am writing, it’s a mystery, even to me. Other than having already planned for a cast of characters and location for the story which is set in today’s world, that is about all I know.
I finished the revisions of the third book of my autobiography and it is now out to several Advance Copy Readers before I take the next step of publishing. If any of you wish to become one of these readers, just drop me a note here in the comments section and I will get right back to you. Now, it’s time to add in another few hundred words while there is still time today.
Sometimes I find images without looking for them, images that are powerful statements. This image to the left is the latest image that found a path through my thinking mind to reach deep into the core of my psyche, that place that we call “Soul.” The artist who created this masterpiece has many images that evoke the voices and stories of North American First Nations.
The image is powerful. The raven embraces the feminine, Mother Earth, as though to protect her.in the darkness with the shadows pressing. And, I am left with the question: Will he swallow the sun?
There is no doubt in my mind that we are hurting as a human race. We know that there is something wrong, but we aren’t exactly sure what it is that needs fixing in us as a people, and in the world in general. When we look in the mirror, we flinch and protest that this can’t really be who we are, this stranger in the mirror, especially when we are faced with our naked selves. Somehow, the internal images we have of ourselves don’t match what our eyes see. How do we solve this problem? Most often, we cover up the outer self, as well as engage in all manner of efforts to physically change what is seen in the mirror. Make-up, diets, exercise programs in expensive gyms, sunlamps, designer label clothing, tattoos and piercings, plastic surgery: the efforts to reshape and hide behind disguises attempt to hide the ugly truth that stares at us in the mirror. Yet, in spite of all the money, time and effort we devote to erase that ugly truth, we can’t unsee the self hidden from the eyes of others.. Life just isn’t fair.
It isn’t just our bodies that are betraying us, we see that so many people around us are working overtime to convince us that we need to work harder and spend more money to become worthy humans, to be lovable. We try to convince each other that we are only worthy if we embrace the latest in everything.
Yet there are voices that would tell us that we are already beautiful and perfect. In spite of those closest to us who love us as we are and tell us that, we dismiss these affirmations of our outer and inner self. After all, regardless of the truth, we convince ourselves that they are obliged to affirm us in spite of our ugliness, our imperfections which we so desperately want to banish. We look out and see the images of perfection in all of our media. We see all those smart and fashionable people who seem to have what we are desperately seeking. And we become angry, especially with ourselves. We hate being defective, imperfect. And so we hide and deny as much about ourselves as we can.
What we need is what we can’t seem to give ourselves, a compassionate acceptance of our body, mind and soul.