Monthly Archives: June 2013
It is another one of those points in time where the thin membrane between the collective consciousness and collective unconsciousness becomes even thinner allowing for strange things to happen. For a short while, ego control is seriously challenged resulting in a breakdown of sorts leaving individuals either in panic facing an inner chaos, or leaving individuals intuitively affirming the rightness of who they are. Life on the fringe as outliers of the “normal” human community often leaves one doubting “self.” At those “liminal” moments one could talk about magic, but one would do better to talk about spirit. Our ancient ancestors (and some in the not so distant past) knew all about this universe that exists in between. To even dare approach this liminal world, one needed to take a guide who was as much a spiritual being as he or she was a human.
In Christianity, this is no different. All of our religions point to the need for the guide so as to avoid being so overwhelmed as to become insane. How can one even hope to look upon the face of our creator? How could we ever know that we are in her/his presence? The other worldliness of such an encounter is too magical for us to attribute that presence as being our creator. More often than not, even our guides are unable to truly understand this presence and so attribute the mystery as magic and evil.
The solstice that tells us that we have entered the summer season, has arrived and we have marked it and continued on with our lives, just a bit more aware of the awesome creation of seasons and of the whole of all seasons. Of course, the book of Genesis tells us that all of this was crafted by God and that God remarked that her/his creation was good not evil. As children of this God, we celebrate all of creation including the days, nights, earth, water, sky, animals, humans and season within which we follow the paths laid out by the creator. Yet somehow, many of our churches have seen fit to categorize the celebration of the solstice markers of our seasons as something demonic. God created these solstice events and called them good – but men in their wisdom say otherwise. God created men and women without clothing and called them good – but men, again tell us God was wrong and that people without clothing are agents of the devil.
If one is to believe the church leaders, God has bungled up quite badly. Not only did he make mistakes, he somehow is losing the battle between good and evil (Did God create EVERYTHING?) to this devil. The only way to escape the greedy claws of satan is to do exactly what our church leaders (ordinary humans) tell us to do and make sure we pay our church leaders well for our salvation and never, repeat, NEVER, ask questions.
At the risk of going straight to HELL without passing GO, I wish each of you a happy Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere and happy Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere. This is truly a time to give AWE to our creator.
Yes, ours is a sick society, a profoundly sick society as Krishnamurti tells us. I have a lot of respect for this original thinker and his lifelong quest for answers, for a way to help the world help itself. I turn now to Wikipedia for a few words about Jiddu Krishnamurti:
“According to Krishnamurti, many problems in the world such as poverty, war, the nuclear threat, and other unfortunate circumstances, have their roots in our thinking. In his view, as we live and behave according to our thinking so wars and governments are a result of that thinking. We each have our own beliefs, conclusions and experiences, to which we cling, thereby isolating ourselves from others. Self-centered activity is expressed outwardly as nationalism and religious intolerance, creating a divided world, in which we are willing to kill for the sake of belief. Understanding our relationship with the world crisis is necessary to understand ourselves”
Of course, many are not well adjusted to this world, many are suffering in a host of ways: physically, emotionally, psychologically and ethically. Why are they not well adjusted? To put it simply, ours is a very, very sick society. Our governments give approval to the work of pharmaceutical corporation, fossil fuel corporations, all manner of money-making and money-laundering schemes that try to pry as much money from individuals and their families, as possible, all done in the name of the people and for the people. The pornography industry is thriving with distribution shops found in mind-boggling numbers in every community in the world. Governments bend over backward to fund this massive rape of human society and the planet.
Yet, in almost all of these communities, even a hint of expressed discontent with being raped is met with all sorts of punishments. Complain of being raped, bullied, battered? Well then, we will de-fund women’s shelters. Complain about the pornography? Well then, we will find any excuse to put you in jail for non-sexual nudity whether it be in your own home or other private setting. There is no logic or rationale for what is happening to our planet and to the humans who make this planet their home. We rape the planet: the land, the water, the air and the very bowels of the earth. We rape our neighbours and call it good business practices. We fund wars – both sides – to make sure our factories producing weapons actually get sold and used. And we spy on ourselves and call it patriotism in the name of anti-terrorism.
What is most surprising is that anyone can turn off their heart, conscience and soul and go through each day believing that all is going well – with money in the bank, a car in the garage (or two), all the latest technological toys, and a government more concerned about the evil others and the misfits that are likely to steal all the hard-earned toys and prized possessions, life is good.
If others are suffering, they likely deserve it. She got raped? What was she wearing? He got beat up for being gay? He may as well get used to it as he’s going to hell anyway. That mother fed her baby breast milk in a public setting? Would serve her good if the Children’s Aid Society took her baby away and gave it to a real woman. A naked man in an isolated region on a lonely hike far from children, schools, towns, parks – put him in jail for contempt and keep him there until he learns that the law doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is to grovel and beg forgiveness even if you haven’t done something wrong; especially if you haven’t done something wrong and you know it. Shit happens. Suck it up and move on – or not!
Sometimes it feels good not to belong. Time to do something right. Time to get real. Time to be real. Don’t hide behind masks, behind jobs, behind fear – strip away all the lies and stand proud as a whole human with a heart, body, mind and soul.
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. However, I did get something worthwhile down while my mind played ADHD – I got my daughter to buy some tickets for a musical performance at the end of the month. There is something positive about every moment, even if one seems to be out of control of one’s mind.
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.
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 traumatize anyone. My getting naked is about making peace with my body as part of my own journey of healing of soul.
Today, the weather is sunny and it promises to be the warmest day this late spring, a good day to deal with this image and message. 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.
As all who have some knowledge of the World Naked Bike Ride, WNBR for short, already know, the event is held worldwide as “an international clothing-optional bike ride in which participants plan, meet and ride together en masse on human-powered transport (the vast majority onbicycles, but some on skateboards and inline skates), to “deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world.” (Wikipedia, World Naked Bike Ride). Each year the event spreads to more and more places, with more than 80 cities around the world hosting events. Canada was represented by events in Vancouver and Toronto, this year. Montreal and Ottawa have taken part in the past. That all said, it is time for more than just statistics.
There is a serious side as there should be, for these events. In a world that is feeling the negative effects of a human species finding their need for comfort and convenience surpassing the need to leave our planet better than we have inherited it; it takes a lot of effort to wake up to the fact that we could do a lot better.
Like almost everyone else, I want to leave my children and grandchildren with the best possible lives as my legacy to them. However, that legacy isn’t likely to be measured in inheritance dollars, accumulated real estate, or valuable stuff. My children taught me that the stuff was the least important gift that I could give them. Our best shared memories are when we did things together, especially in natural settings. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, camping, sporting activities, swimming (the list is long), in a relatively clean and healthy environment. Today the number of places we can fish and swim in safety has diminished. Why? We make massive messes and somehow think nature will clean up after us. If not nature, then maybe the government will take care of the problem. We don’t take individual responsibility though we are quick to blame this group, or that group, or this country or that country; we condemn the corporations for the messes, but only if we aren’t employed by the corporations or if our community is dependent upon the corporations continued existence – then, we cite need and super-human efforts by the same corporation to save the environment.
Getting naked in public causes that public to react with a level of shock. In Canada we have a history with these naked protests that go back more than a hundred years, when a group known as the Sons of Freedom, a sect of the Doukhobors, marched though city streets protesting materialism and what they felt to be oppressive demands on their freedoms by various governments. Today, the WNBR is attempting to shift human consciousness, or should one say, make humans more conscious of the negative impact on our world by our dependence on fossil fuels. There message is to find alternate ways to get from point A to point B. We don’t always need to drive our cars to go to a store only a few blocks away (or even less). This message has been said over and over again but with no affect other than to have our fossil fuel companies begin to co-opt the terms ecology, environmental, ecological, green and so on. So, it is necessary to use different strategies. Remember, the objective – a cleaner, safer world for our children and grandchildren.
One of the side benefits, is how individuals who take part in such events seem to become more invested in their own fitness and begin to engage more in activities that promote their fitness. Being active and naked is to take part in an extraordinary event of body freedom. The ancient Greeks knew what being active and naked was all about; they gave us the Olympics which for them was a celebration of nude competition. Today we are invested in creating specialized clothing to approach as close as possible, the sensation of being clothing free, all in the name of going higher and faster.
Naked activism and naked activity – this is a good place to begin if you want to change the world in order to make it a better place, and to change yourself in order to be healthier with a stronger sense of well-being.
Well, the sun is peeking out every now and then reminding me to lighten up and not be so serious, after all, it could still be winter time. With that in mind, I packed the tent and a few necessities into my van with the full intention of spending at least two nights at the campgrounds, even if it is raining.
I was reminded about how nice it is to run naked in the rain should it rain. With temperatures expected to reach 20+ C, this is a good possibility. The expression used was, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Yesterday, I complained about rain in the forecast and was looking for someone or something to blame for ruining my plans. But as I mentioned yesterday, I turned that around with some positive thoughts that grew out of reading from Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart. Today I want to share a bit more of what I read:
“We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who’s right and who’s wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us, and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don’t like about ourselves or our society.” [p. 81]
Being out in the rain, being on this retreat for this matter, isn’t all about running in the rain and playing. It is to be a retreat and I will find myself going within to touch what I would rather leave alone. I know that I can’t continue to deny the inner world regardless of whether or not it makes me sad or hurt. I have to touch those tender areas in order to be more authentic with myself. Being nude, vulnerable and open to what I will find there is vital if I am ever to exit out of the blame game.
The day after tomorrow I head out again for my next acutherapy appointment in an attempt to tame my seasonal allergies. When I headed out the previous time, I ended up driving in the rain and cancelling my plans for a naturist, three-day retreat to follow the appointment as the weather was poor. This time I have practiced putting up a tent that I have borrowed from my daughter for the second attempt at a three-day retreat to follow the acutherapy appointment – and the forecast is for four days of cold, wet weather with no likelihood of sunshine. It is discouraging to say the least, after all, I have been looking forward to a naturist retreat since my return to Canada in mid-April.
For a few moments I began to think that the weather was deliberately sabotaging my plans. But just for a few moments. For those few moments I fell into childish, magical thinking, giving nature a sense of consciousness that was able to consciously create all sorts of weather patterns simply to dash my expectations after first hinting at good weather. I was looking for someone or something to blame.
Pema Chödrön talks about blame in her book, When Things Fall Apart:
“It is very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others. Blaming is a way to protect our hearts, to try to protect what is soft and open and tender in ourselves. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.” [p. 81]
I read these words earlier today, before I knew about the weather forecast, while I was still having high hopes for the retreat. In truth, I was already planning how my days would be spent with books, the outdoors, and writing. With no Internet, I assumed that the retreat would be filled with sun and warmth and depth. Little did I realise that these words would so quickly be needed in order for me to leave the fantasy constructions of my mind and the descent into blaming in order to protect how vulnerable I had made myself with these fantasy constructions.
I re-read these words and found a way to come back to the moment, to now. Today. The present.
I just took time out in order to help prepare our evening meal, eat it and then sit together with my wife in the brief moments of sunshine when for a short time, it was warm. And then I returned here to finish what was started. I returned to the present and let it be without expectations.
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 sets one on the edges, outliers of the main social fabric. And, this is not a bad thing.
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. 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.
In 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 recognize 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.
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.
I am returning to Pastor Ed Raby’s post, Naked Before God – Part 1, and talk about the fourth positive spiritual aspect, that of genuineness. This one gives me a bit more trouble than some of the other aspects because, in my opinion, being naked has no guarantee that one is being genuine. A few days ago one of my acquaintances posted a brief note about his being with a few friends, naturist friends. The guys in the group did their best to suck in their increasing girth that comes with age as an attempt to . . . and this is where the issue of genuineness comes into the story. The wife of one of these men asked “When you get naked, who is it for?” This lady asked a powerful question that didn’t need any voiced answers. It was enough just to be said and to get all thinking about being honest with themselves.
Simply being naked has nothing to do with being spiritual, approaching the spiritual, or with honesty. It takes more than stripping off the clothes to be genuine. As soon as one becomes part of a group while nude, there are other factors that consciously and unconsciously come into play. There are issues that deal with relationship with others of the same gender and the opposite gender; there are issues with how various ways of holding one’s body, or the choice of words, or the tone of voice all interact to evoke an emotion within us, the increase of affective energy both positive and negative – the bringing into play projections. There is a reason why Jesus counselled people to pray alone and in a private place [Matthew 6:6]. For it is when one is alone that all the environment and psychological distraction will allow for an opportunity for each of us to finally be genuine. Alone, we can then ask ourselves, “Who is this for?”
Now, this is not a criticism of social nudity, for there is much that is positive that comes from being with others, being in community. The way we act with each other can be genuine as much as it is possible to be genuine; however, that is so much different than the approach to the spiritual centre within each of us. For so many of us, it is easier to be genuine with others than it is to be brutally honest with one’s self. The presence of our inner shadow gives us pause, a pause that is based on fear and when it is sensed, even a bit of shame. This shame has nothing to do with being nude, physically; rather it is about being naked psychologically where all that is within us is exposed. The fear of this exposure causes us to bury these dark shadows that are faces of ourselves, so deep that we forget that they are even there. This psychological nakedness is often too much for us to handle, so we rush back to our safe places, our carefully constructed versions of self that exclude the shadows. We then begin to believe that our physical nakedness presents the genuine self, and that should be enough.
Now really, for whom are you naked?