Monthly Archives: December 2013

Acknowledge the Darkness, Then Let It Go.

In the depths of darkness, in black holes of inner and outer space there are black holes and tiny threads and points of light.

In the depths of darkness, in black holes of inner and outer space there are black holes and tiny threads and points of light.

Again, I am writing after meditation, again writing about what comes up during this sacred time. Meditation has become a significant part of my work, my journey of healing my soul and heart. Before I go further into what came up during this morning’s meditation, I want Pema Chodron’s words to set the tone:

“The safest and most nurturing place to begin working this way is during formal meditation. On the cushion, we begin to get the hang of not indulging or repressing and what it feels like to let the energy just be there. That is why it’s so good to meditate every single day and continue to make friends with our hopes and fears again and again. This sows the seeds that enable us to be more awake in the midst of everyday chaos. It’s a gradual awakening, and it’s cumulative, but that’s what actually happens. We don’t sit in meditation to become good meditators. We sit in meditation so that we’ll be more awake in our lives.”

Trying to stay afloat amid the hell of chaos with the fingers of the dark past trying to drag one's soul into dark chaos.

Trying to stay afloat amid the hell of chaos with the fingers of the dark past trying to drag one’s soul into dark chaos.

Everyday chaos – when chaos entered in the past, especially anything that had anything to do with re-emerging memories of my past involving physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse which was part of my being a child and youth; I typically responded with a sharp descent into darkness, depression and irrational behaviours. Meditation has allowed me to find some balance allowing me to become more and more present in everyday life. It doesn’t get rid of the past. But, it has allowed me to co-exist better with the facts of that past.

Inside our heads we tread on so many memories, thoughts that pull us to indulge or to escape - and we risk being right here, right now in the real world.

Inside our heads we tread on so many memories, thoughts that pull us to indulge or to escape – and we risk being right here, right now in the real world.

Yesterday evening, I received a message that gave me more information, more mental images of my own life in childhood chaos. I found out more about my mother and her father and how all of that would in turn swirl around me as first grandchild and first child. I was initially shocked, shaken and tears again fell – tears of relief actually as finally there was another voice confirming what I had remembered, confirming that they were not false memories. And, it gave me some needed understanding, especially with regard to my mother.

This morning in meditation, without intention on my conscious part, new images of mother and child began to emerge. Rather than flee in disgust and crumble into a depression of self-hate, I continued to look at the images as I have been learning through meditation. I was learning how to stay safely in my boat as I rode through the hell that sought to pull me into its embrace like the image above taken from the movie, “What Dreams May Come.”

“How we stay in the middle between indulging and repressing is by acknowledging whatever arises without judgment, letting the thoughts simply dissolve, and then going back to the openness of this very moment. That’s what we are actually doing in meditation. Up come these thoughts, but rather than squelch them or obsess with them, we acknowledge them and let them go.”

As I got up from the cushion this morning, I returned to a real morning, in a real house, in a real relationship. The images and thoughts were let go and I am again at peace and breathing with ease.

Baring the Natural Human Body

The feminine, Mother and Caretaker of the Earth - Gaia.

The feminine, Mother and Caretaker of the Earth – Gaia.

As a naturist, I get to meet others who are comfortable in their own skin. The people I meet are real. They have families, they have jobs, they have friends, and they do their best like everyone else to have meaningful lives. No matter how you look at them, they simply come out looking like normal people, because that is exactly what they are – normal. For those who are not naturists or nudists, this is hard to understand, how I can say they are normal when they are so obviously naked in a world that is obsessed with covering up their bodies which are natural. We’re all born naked. We aren’t our clothing and shouldn’t be defined by what we wear or don’t wear.

“I live my life free from the restraints of clothing and bare the human natural body for all to see the real me, what they do not see is the bondage of emotions and feelings. They all get conveniently covered and hidden by the very nature of my own skin. Who needs clothes when the body can cover the biggest part of who we truly are. Our minds and souls.”

These words belong to the woman in the photo above, a Canadian who has awakened to her own presence and psyche in the world. She serves as a good example of being at one with the world. She has much to teach us by simply being authentically herself; almost as much as we would learn from being authentic with ourselves.

Clothing is a cover-up – a hiding when conditions in our environment don’t demand clothing. Clothing is supposed to be functional. However, we use clothing to strut our stuff, or to give ourselves authority, or simply to hide in anonymity. Yet, as soon as one removes the clothing, the situation changes immediately – authority is gone with the exception of any real authority that comes simply from being older and perhaps wiser; lust is diminished as nude human bodies become the norm – we are all familiar with the use of provocative clothing, the skimpier the better, to entice and exploit.

Clothing is essentially a poor means of hiding from ourselves. Removing our clothing forces us to finally deal with the truth of who we are. Everyone has baggage, has skeletons in their closets. Everyone has been wounded in life and has scars – some visible but most invisible because they are scars to the heart and soul – the psyche. The challenge with being without clothing is to take the next step and expose the scars and do the work that would heal those scars.

How does one recognize these scars after so many years of cover-up  and denial? Look for heat. Track your emotions to find what was present or happening when fear made an appearance. What was happening or present in the environment when anger or joy entered? What sounds? What smells? – All of these are triggers that date back to the woundings of the psyche. Track these over time and patterns will emerge that paint a fairly clear picture.

So then what? Well, one begins by realising that the wounds are old, that they are not the present circumstances. Then, one has to accept that the wounding did happen and that it can’t be undone by drugs, exercise, therapy or salvation in some church. The wounding happened – end of story. Now, one has to begin the process of lessening the unconscious power of the wounding over our present life. This is where therapy of some sort comes in. We gave to take ownership of ourselves rather than leave ownership in the hands of someone who has wounded us, someone who may even be presently deceased. If the soul is to be truly healed, we can’t give our power away to someone else – a spouse, a therapist, a guru, or some authority out there – somewhere – who will save us from ourselves and take away our sins and pain.

No, the buck stops with us. We can’t hide from ourselves and our own authority and responsibility over ourselves. Strip off the clothes and expose the scars – be vulnerable. And then, risk it all to change, to heal.

The Paths Are The Same, The Hike Is Different

Man was made in the image of God - nude.

Man was made in the image of God – nude.

I have asked for and received permission to use this photo of a man, a married man with three 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 ten years younger than I am and lives in South America. I would like him to speak for himself:

“My nudity was an inward and spiritual necessity, it joined the naturism. My process was initially meditation techniques in nature. From then on, the search was and is continuous. [And] since I left my clothes [to] live nude [it] is not [to] live without clothes, but [to] live with different eyes, with [a] different mind, with continuous healing spirit, with the soul in continuous search – the paths are the same, the hike is different.”

The discovery that there are more and more people such as myself 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 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. Stripping off the clothes and facing the world totally vulnerable and with honesty is frightening in many ways, particularly in this modern world which is hell-bent on punishing those who dare to be authentic. But as Pema Chodron points out, it’s our chance. I grew tired of darkness, of fear and of hiding. Now, like my friend from South America, I dare say, This is who I am!

Opening Up More and More

A bright, sunny and relatively warm December morning on the Canadian prairies.

A bright, sunny and relatively warm December morning on the Canadian prairies.

Some days are better than others, days when there is sunshine and warmth. Of course it really isn’t just the outer world conditions that make for a good day or not. What goes on within one’s head and heart can bring a sense of warmth and sunshine even on a stormy, cold, and very gray day.

Today is a stormy day in comparison with yesterday’s weather which can be imagined seeing this photo taken mid-morning. I was up early to shovel snow that was doing its best to block the doorway. Very strong winds and plummeting temperatures have decided that I needed to be made aware that it is winter time on the prairies. As a result, I find myself encouraged to stay indoors and to look within myself for sunshine and warmth – first on my meditation cushion, and then with some reading from Pema Chodron’s book.

“We might think, as we become more open, that it’s going to take bigger catastrophes for us to reach our limit. The interesting thing is that, as we open more and more, it’s the big one that immediately wake us up and the little things that catch us off guard. However, no matter what the size, color, or shape it is, the point is still to lean toward the discomfort of life and see it clearly rather than protect ourselves from it.”

Becoming more open – this is something I have been risking a lot more lately. I have given all of my family and friends the link to my Naked Poetry book which included nude photography which opens up the can of worms that father/brother/grandfather/neighbour/friend is periodically to be found without his clothing on. So far, no negative responses. I have to admit that I never expected negative responses from my children as this is not news for them. However, I imagine that it will stir up some discomfort in the lives of others which in turn will stir up some discomfort in me.

I am changing as I open up more and more, as I tell the story of who I am through poetry and prose. I am changing as I open up in my relationship with others. I think I am becoming more authentic in the process. Becoming more authentic doesn’t mean that I become more handsome or more likable to others. What it does mean is that I can live easier with myself, more gently with myself. And this is new territory for me. And, I think it is unfamiliar territory for almost all of us.

Opening up for me includes naturism and Buddhism as well as Jungian psychology as helpful strategies. I don’t pretend for a moment that these are THE strategies for everyone. Each person will need to risk their own journey of opening up based on how they have disguised and hidden themselves. We all hide – hide from others and ourselves – from the uncomfortable and messy reality of who we are beneath our roles, masks, and actions. Sometimes we hide in places of relative isolation or in organisations or in the guise of victims. When we discover how we have hidden ourselves, we discover a pathway out of hiding and must risk following that path. Only then can we truly heal and learn the hardest of all tasks – learning to like and even love the truth of who we are.

Boxing Day Relaxation

Boxing Day in LondonIt’s Boxing Day in Canada. Unlike many others, I won’t be headed out to do some shopping today. I am allergic to unnecessary shopping at the best of times. Today’s image comes by the way of one of my readers who posted it on a naturist social network site that I sometimes visit as I have made a few friends there, naturist friends of course. I brought the image here because sometimes, if not most times, we need to lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously. The image shows a light-hearted protest outside of Harrod’s in London, England.

And example of lightening up came up this morning as my wife and I discussed what needed to be taken to Mexico for our three-month stay. She asked if my skimpy bathing suits needed replacing [unnecessary shopping alert] suggesting I could head out shopping if I thought they needed replacing. Then she laughed as I only wear them when strolling the public sections of the beaches we frequent. She then told me that I could try doing without them and see how that went over with the community and police.

Our suitcases are struggling for content as we can buy anything we want and need while in Mexico and the warm weather keeps clothing to its minimal requirements. A neighbour couple will join us for a month late in the winter. It will be a bit of a shock, well maybe not that much of a shock, to deal with the lack of clothing that is sure to catch their attention from time to time. I somehow think it will lead to a lot of good-natured laughter. Now, it’s back to considering what to pack and what to leave out.

Merry Christmas to all.

Presents are delivered and opened, so now it's time to relax - Merry Christmas.

Presents are delivered and opened, now it’s time to relax – Merry Christmas!

It’s Boxing Day in Canada. Unlike many others, I won’t be headed out to do some shopping today. I am allergic to unnecessary shopping at the best of times. Today’s image comes by the way of one of my readers who posted it on a naturist social network site that I sometimes visit as I have made a few friends there, naturist friends of course. I brought the image here because sometimes, if not most times, we need to lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously.

And example of lightening up came up this morning as my wife and I discussed what needed to be taken to Mexico for our three-month stay. She asked if my skimpy bathing suits needed replacing [unnecessary shopping alert] suggesting I could head out shopping if I thought they needed replacing. Then she laughed as I only wear them when strolling the public sections of the beaches we frequent. She then told me that I could try doing without them and see how that went over with the community and police.

Our suitcases are struggling for content as we can buy anything we want and need while in Mexico and the warm weather keeps clothing to its minimal requirements. A neighbour couple will join us for a month late in the winter. It will be a bit of a shock, well maybe not that much of a shock, to deal with the lack of clothing that is sure to catch their attention from time to time. I somehow think it will lead to a lot of good-natured laughter. Now, it’s back to considering what to pack and what to leave out.

Merry Christmas to all.

Merry Christmas With a Hug – It’s Free

Hugs for Christmas

Hugs for Christmas

I like things that are free, and I am good at giving hugs. For those who know me, my hugs are those kind that are filled with intention to both comfort and confirm. Hugs are given from the full depths of the heart with no hesitation.

I have to give credit to my French-Canadian grandparents and their children for teaching me by example what a hug should feel like. A hug with meaning is precious and life-affirming. If you have a chance to give a hug, put your whole being in the hug and let it tell that person that you truly do include them in your life in a significant, heart-felt way.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve an Fighting the Feeling of Being Invisible

My two latest books at home for Christmas

My two latest books at home for Christmas

It’s a dull day outside with a rather pleasant temperature for a change. Minus 5 is better than -30 C any day. There is a wind, so it isn’t weather suitable enough for a cup of coffee or tea outside while au naturel. Our early Christmas now done has left our house quiet again and I have re-claimed my nude meditation corner. Life is returning to its quiet normal, somewhat. With our children and grandchildren now off to other Christmas adventures and then back home to the regular work and school world, there is a sense of loss that naturally occurs – I guess you could call it post-Christmas blues.

We do have neighbours with whom we will share some of the Christmas season to fill in the empty spaces of family. Neighbours are an important part of my feeling connected to the world of others. As well, Facebook and e-mail have become an important means of connecting to distant family members and friends during this season when, for whatever reason, others take on a vital role. I have sent out messages to all and have begun receiving responses that bring a glow within me.

Feeling invisible is a life-destroying force that haunts many of us. My hope is that my post here will be one way for you to also fight the feeling of invisibility if it is needed.

Merry Christmas!

We Are All Family When Push Comes to Shove

Relating with others with joy during the winter solstice season

Relating with others with joy during the winter solstice season

We had an early Christmas with most of our children and grandchildren due to a number of circumstances that meant we couldn’t do our “Christmas” family dinner on Christmas Day. There was no doubt that those who didn’t get to attend, were missed. However, there were enough present to make the event “feel” like Christmas. Christmas isn’t about a calendar date, it is about a state of relationship – a relationship to those in our life who hold a special place within us. I am blessed with a solid circle of family who surround me with love.

 

Blue - Blue Christmas

Blue – Blue Christmas

Others are not so fortunate. Even when held in the arms of relationship – family, lover or friend – depression can leave one blind to the unconditional love and respect of others. We find ourselves caught in darkness. I have been there and still fall into the dark holes which block out the light that comes from the love of others.

Due to life circumstances, too many find themselves alone, without relationships of family, friends or lovers with whom to share time during those pivotal moments during the year that are best experienced as a group hug. Christmas, the winter solstice celebration that brings us together in the darkest part of the year to celebrate surviving that darkness and the movement towards a growing lightness. For those who stand outside the darkness being lived and experienced in loneliness by others, it isn’t a hardship to open a door of light for those in darkness. To open a physical door and invite someone to enter who would otherwise be left alone in darkness, is not just a gift of love and hope to the lonely and blue, it is one of the greatest gifts one can give to self. When all is said and done, we are all, family.

Going Naked Into Unknown Territory

When one is depressed, the sun is missing.

When one is depressed, the sun is missing.

As you can tell, I borrowed this image from the web universe. Some images capture so well what it is like when things fall apart. Each time I or anyone else falls out of sunshine and into darkness, it is like a part of one’s being has died. If we look close enough, we learn that this is the truth – some part of who we were is no more.  Perhaps it is the realisation that as a child one was abused or suffered some sort of trauma – sexual abuse, the loss of a parent, the loss of innocence, the loss of a lover or friend, physical abuse, abandonment – the list is too long to write here. It is not only the “big” losses that torment us. Even the smallest things let us know that all is transitory – a favorite coffee mug breaks or sensing the loss felt by others.

“Basically,, disappointment, embarrassment, and all these places where we cannot feel good are a sort of death. We’ve lost our ground completely; we are unable to hold it together and feel that we’re on top of things. Rather than realizing that it takes death for there to be birth, we just fight back against the fear of death.” [Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, p. 14]

It wasn’t too many years ago while I was struggling to stay on top and hold it all together, pushing and pulling and averting as much as possible the shadow that was asking me to become aware so that I could change, grow. I was so wound up that it would take only the slightest glitch to set me off. My usual tolerance with young adults in the classroom wore thin and the smallest perceived criticism would tumble me into another depression.

I blamed others for each and every depression, blaming their insensitivity or their deliberate assaults on my psyche. There was a lot of blaming of others from my parents to my employers, my colleagues, my wife, my community and the world in general. I had reached my limits in trying to stay on top of things, trying hard to keep Pandora’s Box locked tight.

“Reaching our limit is not some kind of punishment. It’s actually a sign of health that, when we meet the place where we are about to die, we feel fear and trembling. A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. Things like disappointment and anxiety are messengers telling us that we’re about to go into unknown territory.” [p. 14]

Depression is a messenger, not a pathology that needs to be masked by medication. The messenger wants us to stop our struggles long enough to ask ourselves what it is that we are fighting. It is only with the question and answer that we can let go and move forward on our life journey, as Chodron puts it, into unknown territory.