Monthly Archives: February 2013

On Being a Naturist in a Textile Community

SONY DSC

The border of our Belizean garden, a safe place for sunbathing

Mmmmm – I feel good and rested and at peace. It’s amazing what four weeks without much of an agenda, lots of sunshine, a place to enjoy that sunshine without worrying about clothing or offending others can do for a person’s well-being. I know that at some point I will be returning to the real world, and by that I mean the world where I have my home, my neighbours and community; a place that is more of a fish bowl than being a stranger in a strange land.

Our Canadian prairie garden

Our Canadian prairie garden

At home I have a persona that has put me into a social class that is above many others, and that has its own drawbacks. Neighbours who have become friends are drawn to the house to see my wife and simply to be in proximity as though by being in proximity their own status will rise accordingly. Since we live in a small town of only 500 people, all eyes are watching. There is no chance to hide away in the back yard, garden area for sun bathing as our neighbours enjoy dropping by to have a beer, glass of wine or simply to natter away with their tales of gossip about other neighbours and events. The only time that being clothes free can happen is in the late evening when we lock our doors for the evening and the draperies are closed. The doors get locked to let neighbours know that we are done for the day.

I love my home and I truly appreciate my friends and neighbours in this town we adopted near the end of my career. I have no intention of leaving to find anonymity in a city, anonymity and privacy. So what is a person to do? Having had so much freedom from clothing here in Belize and Mexico, how will I deal with constantly being under the lens and needing to wear clothing? To risk more would be to risk being a member of the community. Since we came as strangers to this community, all that we have going for us is our participation in this very conservative, even red-necked community. Getting caught with my pants down would shut doors faster than could be imagined. Needless to say, I won’t risk this for either myself or my wife.

Now, this is a story that most naturists have to tell. The place names may change, but we all are part of communities that don’t understand or accept the philosophy of naturism and nudism. We deal with it and make the best possible of our situations as we carve small parts out for our own private needs.

Banks Stealing the Clothing Off One's Back

Scotia Bank in Belize

Scotia Bank in Belize

The morning is done and it is almost time for a late lunch. A good part of this morning was spent at the bank trying to convert Belizean money back into American dollars. I learned another lesson in the process, one of those hard lessons that banks around the world are so eager to teach.

First, I was required to have my air plane ticket as evidence that I was really going to leave Belize in the next few days. Of course since I came into Belize on the ground using buses and taxi, and was returning to Mexico the way, that caused a significant problem. Luckily the bank had a good solution, a surcharge of more than $30 US as well as a regular banking fee for doing money exchange as well as foreign exchange rate overcharges. In all, it would only cost me about $70 US to get a maximum of $350 US returned to me.

Belizean $50 = US $25

Belizean $50 = US $25

Needless to say I left the bank with all of my Belizean money unchanged and found a different route to solve the problem. The problem did get solved without costing me any extra charges as I gave the money to a trusted individual here who will give me the American dollars.

Back at the villa, I spend three-quarters of an hour during the hottest part of the day to “cook the devil out of me” in hopes of controlling my temper and getting back to a state of emotional balance. It worked. I am a bit darker on the outside and a lot lighter on the inside, Life is so much easier if one could ignore the presence of banks – and cheaper as well.

Sunbathing in Munich, Germany

Sunbathing in Munich, Germany

Enough of banking and money. The sun is out, a strong breeze is helping to keep it cool and there is little to do other than enjoy nature for the last few days in Belize. Belize is a beautiful place missing sand beaches. I will leave richer with photos and interesting experiences as well as an absence of tan lines. The side garden of our villa here provided me with a naturist space in spite of being surrounded by a very conservative, fundamentalist community, both expat and Belizean.

 

Banks Stealing the Clothing Off One’s Back

Scotia Bank in Belize

Scotia Bank in Belize

The morning is done and it is almost time for a late lunch. A good part of this morning was spent at the bank trying to convert Belizean money back into American dollars. I learned another lesson in the process, one of those hard lessons that banks around the world are so eager to teach.

First, I was required to have my air plane ticket as evidence that I was really going to leave Belize in the next few days. Of course since I came into Belize on the ground using buses and taxi, and was returning to Mexico the way, that caused a significant problem. Luckily the bank had a good solution, a surcharge of more than $30 US as well as a regular banking fee for doing money exchange as well as foreign exchange rate overcharges. In all, it would only cost me about $70 US to get a maximum of $350 US returned to me.

Belizean $50 = US $25

Belizean $50 = US $25

Needless to say I left the bank with all of my Belizean money unchanged and found a different route to solve the problem. The problem did get solved without costing me any extra charges as I gave the money to a trusted individual here who will give me the American dollars.

Back at the villa, I spend three-quarters of an hour during the hottest part of the day to “cook the devil out of me” in hopes of controlling my temper and getting back to a state of emotional balance. It worked. I am a bit darker on the outside and a lot lighter on the inside, Life is so much easier if one could ignore the presence of banks – and cheaper as well.

Sunbathing in Munich, Germany

Sunbathing in Munich, Germany

Enough of banking and money. The sun is out, a strong breeze is helping to keep it cool and there is little to do other than enjoy nature for the last few days in Belize. Belize is a beautiful place missing sand beaches. I will leave richer with photos and interesting experiences as well as an absence of tan lines. The side garden of our villa here provided me with a naturist space in spite of being surrounded by a very conservative, fundamentalist community, both expat and Belizean.

 

Naked Psychology 101 – Pt 6

Naked Calendar scene at Saint Nicholas Church

Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness… Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful… Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person.” [Pope John-Paul II, Love and Responsibility]

I bring back the words of Pope John-Paul II that I had quoted in part five for a reason. Our response to nudity is bound within the collective unconscious response of our societies. For many in the western world, there is a certain deafness to the words of those who are charged with the authority that dictates what is moral and immoral behaviour. Clearly, the leader of the Catholic Christian church states that nudity and immodesty are not one and the same. Rather, immodesty is a “function of the interior of a person.” And it is this interiority which is the focus of psychology.

Psychiatric help

Psychiatric help

Depth psychology, whether it be Jungian or Freudian, focuses on what is to be found in the psyche of a human, beneath the layers of persona, beneath the layers of clothing that costumes and lends authority in the collective society. Each human wraps themselves consciously and unconsciously in layers of deceit, self-deceit and conscious deceits to mislead others about the vulnerability of self. Humans not only are beset with body-image issues, they are constantly wrestling with negative images of the self that lays underneath the skin.

In spite of all the books, prophets, church leaders and repressive leadership that is more concerned with power and control of others in an attempt to deflect the individual uncertainties of those with power, the fact that every human is born without clothes is vital to understanding what it is to be human. Catholics, Protestants, Jewish and Moslem people, take your pick of any guiding belief system – everyone is born naked. And in every belief system, the new born babe is viewed as perfect and uncorrupted. It takes time and the influence of the world to change the infant from beautiful perfection into a neurotic individual that is cloaked in shadows, masks and disguises.

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . .

For the next few parts, I want to focus on the developmental realities of humans as the move from infancy into adulthood. There is much we have learned along the way, and all of it is valuable in spite of the fact that developmental psychology does not give the complete story and evidence of what it is to be human. I wont be going into prenatal, post-conception issues at this point but will focus on the psyche from the moment of birth, when the nascent human slips out of the darkness of the womb into the light of creation as an individual.

As much as some psychologists would have us believe, a newborn child is not born as an empty-headed entity just waiting for life to write, to program that newborn, or as it is often called tabla rasa. In spite of any observable signals or evidence, each child appears to be unique and comes with a history, and not just a history of life within the mother’s womb. Rather, there is depth to the infant that has nothing to do with that infants awareness of self or other. This depth can’t be written off as simply instinctual programming. Parents know this, especially those parents who have had a number of children. Psychology, however, is hesitant to deal with this preferring instead to work with scientific models, statistics and case studies that are more sociological than psychological. Psychologists become enamoured of their models and leave aside all that refuses to fit into their models. And to make matters even more confusing for anyone truly interested in following the psyche of the infant, there are dozens of models of human development to choose from – take your pick. But, rather than get lost in the minefield of politics in developmental psychology circles, it is necessary to leave theories aside and watch the child and the child’s parents in order to get some sense of what is going on.

Newborn - like all, born naked and vulnerable

Newborn – like all, born naked and vulnerable

I want to start with this simple, perhaps too simple approach – the infant exists in an embryonic state of darkness feeling no separation from the mother, no awareness of mother or self as separate entities. Is there awareness at all? Physiologically, yes.  Psychologically? Here the answer begins to get complicated. I would say yes, there is a psychological awareness that is totally unconscious of itself at the personal level, but at one with the mother and the world within which the mother finds herself, a collective level of unconscious participation.

With the emergence from the womb, all that begins to change. With the lights coming on the senses begin to work with the heritage of the collective unconsciousness and the evidence that is presented by the senses to have an infant become self-aware. That emergence is done stark naked.

Life Simplified

Life simplified

Life simplified – an image found on Twitter – thanks to its owner.

That just about says it all. There is no straight line, just a tangled mess in which we find our selves neither coming nor going, but simply wandering erratically all over the map that is life. There is simply a beginning (at least of this particular version of our life) and an ending..

So what do we do with this? Perhaps we aren’t meant to do anything more than just live, simply be consciously present wherever we find ourselves at any given point in time. Finding myself in so many different cultures and countries, I am slowly learning that it is pointless to dwell on “What if?” or to dwell so much in the past or the future that one misses life that is staring one in the face. Life isn’t fair, isn’t supposed to be fair or unfair. Life simply is.

Today I walked passed a park in the late afternoon, a place where young Belizean children were playing. There was laughter, squealing and lots of running around but never getting too far from the others. Not too many steps further along the path and I saw a young man and woman sitting beside each other though not so close as to be touching each other. Her face was aglow with a smile while listening to what I can only presume is her beau. These same stories I have seen in Asia, Europe, North American and Latin America with faces that span the whole racial spectrum. Life happens and that life is shared in context with others. In spite of racial differences, cultural differences, and economic differences, the same motivations hold, the same stories continue to play out making all of us united in more ways than we are conscious of. But, if we really think about it, this shouldn’t surprise us, for we are all in the same boat – we are born, we suffer/enjoy life and we die. It’s that simple.

Defining Naked Reality

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

I found this photo on Twitter this morning posted by @Rowlivia. I have been on this wall twice in the past, but it never looked like this, bathed in sunlight peeking out from the clouds. Is it a trick of light, or is this as true an image of the reality of the Great Wall as those taken by weekend warriors who rush by the tens of thousands to walk the wall, shoulder to shoulder, taking photos with their cell phones?

What is “reality?” It can’t be what I see and how I see it as that would have me the authority on reality. My eyes, and the lenses for my camera never see the same world as my neighbour, my children, my grandchildren, or any other person at any place on the planet. What is reality includes all of these images, but also includes much, much more. Or, perhaps, much, much less. Perhaps it is all illusion. If we can’t really define anything as a truth about its nature, then we are freed from the prisons of our own making. We can be free simply to be in the world, both as a participant and as an observer. This is heady stuff. No authority to control you, to define you, to categorize you, to . . .  The only authority is the self, the ego.

A variety of shapes and sizes = humanity

A variety of shapes and sizes = humanity

I think many naturists have sort of figured this out in at least a small way, in a way that focuses on body image. When all the clothes come off, we are left with no more and no less than raw humanity. We see ourselves and others in this sea of naked flesh and soon figure out that the value of self and other is not defined by appearance at all. With that awareness dawning, all bodies are equal with no moral, ethical, analytical or sociological rationale to rank bodies on a “beauty” or “ugly” scale. We live in our bodies but are not defined by our bodies. Our bodies are just hosts that allow us to move to interact with others in order to discover the essence of these others as well as psychic reflections of our own self in return.

Naked Skin, Tanning and Tan Lines

There’s a strong wind blowing today, here in Corozal, and the clouds are rolling by at a fairly fast pace allowing the sun to shine for just minutes at a time – not the best kind of weather for basking in the sun to turn darker and darker shades of bronze. Still, in spite of the clouds, the UV index stands at 9. I took this chart from Wikipedia for your reference.

UV Index Description Color Recommended Protection
0–2 Low danger Green Wear sunglasses on bright days; use sunscreen if there is snow on the ground, which reflects UV radiation, or if you have particularly fair skin.
3–5 Moderate risk of harm Yellow Take precautions, such as covering up, if you will be outside.Stay in shade near midday when the sun is strongest.
6–7 High risk of harm Orange Wear sunglasses and use SPF 30+ sunscreen, cover the body with sun protective clothing and a wide-brim hat, and reduce time in the sun from three hours before to three hours after solar noon
8–10 Very high risk of harm Red Wear SPF 30+ sunscreen, a shirt, sunglasses, and a hat. Do not stay out in the sun for too long.
11+ Extreme risk of harm Violet Take all precautions, including: wear sunglasses and use SPF 30+ sunscreen, cover the body with a long-sleeve shirt and trousers, wear a very broad hat, and avoid the sun from three hours before until three hours after solar noon

I have to admit that I am not following these guidelines at this point in time. That said, I did use sunscreen conscientiously for the first week in Mexico in January. It wasn’t long however before sunscreen protection became a matter of covering my nose which has a tendency to get too much sun – perhaps it has to do with the size of my nose. As for covering up with clothing, well that would sort of defeat the purpose of sunbathing and being a naturist. I do wear my glasses which have polarising lenses so as to serve as sunglasses as well. I also use a ball cap when trying to read while laying in the sun, or even as a face screen when simply laying face up in the sunshine. More from Wikipedia on skin type and sun:

Type          Also called Sunburning Tanning behavior von Luschan scale
I Very light or pale, “Celtic” type[11] Often Occasionally 1–5
II Light or light-skinned European[11] Usually Sometimes 6–10
III Light intermediate or dark-skinned European[11] Rarely Usually 11–15
IV Dark intermediate, also “Mediterranean” or “olive skin[11] Rarely Often 16–21
V Dark or “brown” type No Sometimes darkens 22–28
VI Very dark or “black” type No Naturally black-brown skin 29–36

I am one of the lucky ones somewhere between type III and type IV. Because I am one of the lucky ones, and because I take advantage of going unclothed when the opportunity presents, I am able to avoid having a “farmer’s tan,” tan lines. During the spring and summer in Canada, where the opportunities almost fully disappear, I become one of those who have “farmer’s tans.” My lower legs, my arms, my neck and face and the spaces open to the sun on my sandals create interesting patters of lighter shades of brown. The past few years since retirement, I have been able to find a few hours of privacy that allows my farmer’s tan to be less distinct.

Now, for a final quote from Wikipedia on tanning:

“The wearing of clothing while tanning results in creation of tan lines, which many people regard as un-aesthetic and embarrassing. Many people desire to avoid creation of tan lines on those parts of the body which will be visible when they are fully clothed. Some people try to achieve an all-over tan or to maximize their tan coverage. To achieve an all-over tan, the tanner needs to dispense with clothing; and to maximize covering, they need to minimize the amount of clothing they wear while tanning. For those women who cannot dispense with a swimsuit, they at times tan with the back strap undone while lying on the front, or removing shoulder straps, besides wearing swimsuits which cover less area than their normal clothing. Any exposure is subject to local community standards and personal choice. Some people tan in the privacy of their backyard where they can at times tan without clothes, and some countries have set aside clothing-optional swimming areas (also known as nude beaches), where people can tan and swim clothes-free. Some people tan topless, and others wear very brief swimwear, such as a microkini. A recent innovation is tan-through swimwear, which uses fabric which is perforated with thousands of micro holes that are nearly invisible to the naked eye, but which let enough sunlight through to produce a line-free tan. Tan-through swimsuits offer SPF protection of about 6, and an application of full-strength sunscreen even to the covered area is recommended.”

Hmmm.  I think I will have to find out more about the tan-through swimwear for those times and places where swimming in the buff is verboten. Somehow, at my age and my gender, I don’t think a microkini is going to cut it. I will have to stick to the much maligned Speedos if I have to wear a swimsuit, or my rarely used swim trunks for swimming in more conservative places such as the beaches in Saskatchewan.

Darkness, Water and Naked Visions of Hell

The entrance into hell, Xibalba.

The entrance into hell, Xibalba.

I spent a good time at Nohoch Che’en yesterday, an archeological reserve on the Caves Branch River which is home to the entrance into hell or Xibalba as it is called in the Mayan language. My wife and I found ourselves a guide into this underworld into which we entered on new water tubes (versus old truck tire tubes) and floated through a series of caves on the Caves Branch River.

I have been through other caves, with and without sinkholes (cenotes) in Mexico, Asia and the USA but this the only time I have been able to go tubing down a river through caves.

Charon crossing the river to ferry souls into hell.

Charon crossing the river to ferry souls into hell.

Needless to say, this experience has helped to make our Belize stay that much more interesting. Since it wasn’t a cruise ship day at Belize City, the site was relatively quiet and we were able to spend much more time in the caves and later swimming in the river before heading back to our villa apartment in Corozal.

Being in Mayan country, allows me an opportunity to see, first hand, the architectural and archaeological evidence of the ancient Mayan civilisation.  However when it comes to a description of the underworld, or hell, in my opinion, Dante’s Divine Comedy: Inferno  much more interesting and graphic. Like the Mayan hell, Dante’s hell has nine levels. In Dante’s hell, we are told that Charon carries the naked souls into hell where they are then sorted into their proper levels due to the nature of their sins while alive.

Naked Psychology 101 – Pt 5

Nudity and Christianity, Jim C. Cunningham

Nudity and Christianity, Jim C. Cunningham

As I continue this discussion, I want to re-state that the discussion is not about Christianity or religion; nor, is it a critique of religions. The discussion is about the human psyche and the human body. As I work through the material, I am hoping that I am able to find threads that will allow me, and you my readers, to become more conscious of just who we are as individuals and as humans beneath our ego, our collective cultures and our clothing. Since I live in the modern western world, the Christian myths have played an important role in my formation. These same Christian myths have served to keep us, as a collective and as individuals, in the dark about our own nature, having us focus on darkness and the pursuit of escaping the darkness through ritual and death that will reward us with heaven. Now, with that said, I continue on with the search.

Genesis 2:25 “ Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

And so began the story of man and woman, the story of the creation of humanity. The Christian God had created man and woman without clothing. As God saw it, this was all good. Yet, somehow, the modern western world which is founded upon the belief in the Christian religion, has adopted a different belief about being naked. If we bother to check back into the story of Genesis, one finds that it is Satan who introduces the idea of shame in being naked. How is it that all of our desert religions that have this founding story of creation (Christianity, Hebrew, Moslem), have embraced the shadow rather than the light? And in these desert religions, women are relegated to the powers of darkness and are thus feared, fettered and persecuted.

Jesus being baptised nude as was the practice for centuries.

Jesus being baptised nude as was the practice for centuries.

Luke 12:22 “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes”

Since these are the words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, the Christian addition to the Old testament shared with the other desert religions, one sees and understands that being without clothing is not something to worry about, not something that will harm the spirit and soul of a human. This idea of the natural state of the human body being something not to be ashamed of was echoed by Pope John Paul II in his book, Love and Responsibility.

Jesus crucified naked as was the practice at the time of his crucifixion.

Jesus crucified naked as was the practice at his crucifixion.

“The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendour and its beauty… Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness… Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful… Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person.”

And this, is at the core of trying to bring home the idea of the naked psyche, a transparency that allows one to become more conscious of the shadow which seeks to keep us in the dark, keep us in fear and submission.

If we are to understand our modern day response to the naked body, our fear of the naked body, we need to understand the truth of our history and the manner in which that truth was bend in order to achieve power and control of the collective, a collective that shies away from those individuals that would have them become conscious of themselves and their bodies. That same negative response is given to the work of peeling away the layers of personal unconsciousness to reveal the human psyche as it is beneath the disguised and camouflaged ego.

The Naked Human Body as a Temple

Today is starting off as an introspective day. After my morning meditation in the garden where I could feel the breezes and see the sun rising to bless this body with its first rays, I continued to sit relatively still on the small patio in front of the villa apartment with only a few stirrings to take an occasional photo of flowers that came to my attention with their new blooms. 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 two 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]