Monthly Archives: September 2014

Authentic In Our Imperfect Bodies

There is beauty in imperfection.

There is beauty in imperfection.

While my wife and I were hiking down a trail last week, I saw these leaves highlighted by the morning sun and knew that I had a photo to take. I saw them as something beautiful in spite of the fact that there were scars showing that these leaves were on their last legs of life. It reminded me of those old people who are so wrinkled and bent with years who have been fully touched by their lives, authentically real.

There is a Japanese term that comes to mind, Wabi Sabi. “Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.” [Wikipedia] Nature is filled with things we would call imperfect, yet when we truly look closely, we find a curious perfection in their authenticism. It is much the same with people.

Faces that have stories to tell.

Faces that have stories to tell.

In our travels around the world, we have seen many, many older people whose faces grab one’s attention. It is as though their faces become works of art upon which there are many stories to be told. Seeing these faces, there is a sense of respect for them as humans that emerges. If you have ever been to Cuba, there is an old woman who smokes cigars in a city square in Havana who draws everyone’s attention. It seems everyone wants to take her picture. Once while we were in Shanghai, we saw an old, very old Chinese man in traditional costume much as the old lady in Cuba was in traditional costume. Like the Cuban woman, this Chinese man captured my attention as well as the attention of other foreigners in the city. And like I did in Cuba, I took a photo.

Strangely, these people pictures I take on our travels around the world never include faces of sculpted perfection where wrinkles have been banished beneath too much makeup or cosmetic surgery. It is as though such faces deny nature, disrespect nature.

Those who fight the good fight, caring for others, being fully invested in living, and respecting their own bodies as they work to the moment were working is not possible anymore – these are the people I respect the most. They have dared life and met what life gave them, unashamed of their scars, their bent bodies. Honesty is beautiful, isn’t it?

Trees Stripping And Going Bare For Winter

It was a cold, blustery day . . .

It was a cold, blustery day . . .

I took a bit of time out from writing to take this post-supper photo in our back yard before day had turned into night. I was checking out some of the chores which are accumulating as fall advances, especially as there is a suggestion of snow within the next week. Ugh! I love snow, but not before it is actually winter. Likely I will have to roto-till the garden tomorrow before the rain arrives tomorrow evening, rain which might become snow before the night is over.

With weather becoming an issue for outdoor naturism, I am likely going to have to get all of my clothing-free fixes indoors until I arrive in Mexico in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations with some acquaintances there. My wife and I spend three months in Mexico staying warm and working on regaining the tans we will have lost by then. With a few different writing projects underway, and all of that writing done au naturel, I will not suffer too much in the process of waiting for Mexico time.

I think I have found a solution for the photographs for my second book of Naked Poetry – photo submission by naturist friends and acquaintances. Where there is an interest in submitting a photo, I will be sending these friends and acquaintances a poem for which they will create a photo that compliments the poem. I put out that idea earlier today on Facebook and have already had a good number expressing interest in participating. If you have an interest in joining in, read my poetry book Naked Poetry and see how a photo works with a poem. Then, send me a message indicating your interest. I will follow up from there and we will see where that takes us. I have to admit I am very excited about the whole process and how it will turn out as a final product.

Just Another Nude Hiker When Opportunity Is Present

No this isn't me though it looks like some place I have hiked once upon a time.

No this isn’t me though it looks like some place I have hiked once upon a time.

I do a lot of hiking. Just this month of September, 2014 I have already hiked over 300 kilometres. I do have to admit that most of those kilometres had me hike while wearing clothing. Finding hiking spots where nudity is possible is a major task as the true wilderness, rather than public trails, are unmarked and quite inaccessible for the most part. Strangely, I can do more naked hiking close to home in the hills and valleys found on the prairies.

There is a lot of space, seemingly empty space, on the prairies where farms and ranches are huge. The distance to the next town to the south of where I live is 44 kilometres, and to the north, 37 kilometres. Most farmers now live in the closest town rather than on their farms so that their children can take part in community activities without having unending commutes from farm house to community activity centre. That leaves a sparsely settled countryside even emptier of human presence most of the time.

With that said, there are times when human presence in the countryside is frequent enough to make the risk to hike naked not worth it. Seeding, crop spraying and harvest seasons have the roads busy with traffic. During those times, one needs to retreat into the hills and just relax in some remote location where the only presence might be a cow or a passing deer.

Of course, there are always mosquitoes, black flies, wind, and other elements of nature to make it even more difficult. But, as any naturist already knows, the risks are worth it when you can feel the trail beneath your feet and feel the breeze on your body while getting a full dose of vitamin D from the sun. Happy hiking.

The Naked Ego is Puffed Up With Ignorance

I have been talking about Shadow and the Personal Unconscious, as well as the Collective Unconscious, often enough in my blog posts, that perhaps I need to spend a bit of time to explain what I mean by these words. Perhaps I have assumed too much from my readers. Let me begin to explain that I truly am a trained psychotherapist with most of my training in depth psychology with a focus on Jungian psychology. I do have training in cognitive psychology with a focus on brief therapy models such as solution-focused therapy; as well, I have a background in Gestalt therapy which I found very useful in working with adolescents and adults who are more body oriented (sensate). Add to this mix a strong grounding in Tibetan Buddhism and you will begin to see a significant part of what I draw upon for my way of understanding the human psyche.

jo-hari windowLet me begin with the Jo-Hari Window, a simple diagram that looks at the self in a two-dimensional grid:

We obviously, no matter how hard we work or try can ever completely know ourselves. We can with a lot of effort become more aware, more conscious of ourselves. We may even be willing to acknowledge that even what we think we know, is somehow suspect because of various unidentified factors that slip under our control to affect our thoughts, moods and actions. What we know is simply that, what we know – ego knowledge. It is that area that is “unknown” that is the source of most of our problems that we typically blame on others. That unknown is called the unconscious. The diagram to the left is misleading as it suggests that the unconscious is relatively small and perhaps can be made smaller if we simply expose more of our “hidden self” to others who would in turn clue us in to those things about ourselves for which we are “blind.”

I am sure, that like everyone I know, there are things you regret saying and regret doing. More often than not, you can’t even explain why you might have said or done these things to people you profess to love. Often when confronted byHoll those we love about what we have said or done, we deny them while honestly believing that we are truly innocent of what we have been accused of saying or doing. “What made me say that?” becomes, “Why did you make me say that?” as we blame others for our unconscious actions and speech. I could go on and on with examples, but there is enough to give one the idea that perhaps we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.  As James Hollis puts it, “the ego seldom really knows enough to know that it does not know enough.” (Hollis, Why Good People Do Bad Things, p. 12) We learn as we get older that our truths and certainties of our younger years are now fuzzy at best. It seems the more we learn, the less we “know.”

This unconscious aspect of ourselves permeates all of our lives, all of our relationships, our beliefs, our avoidances, our embracings including naturism and nudism. As soon as we think we “know,” as soon as we are convinced of our truths, we are limited in our awareness. We have retreated into yet another fundamentalist belief whether it is the belief that nudity is immoral, that naturism is the only true way of being – any idea that reduces the world to black and white; us versus them; good guys and bad guys with God on our side – all of these are examples of being caught up in a blend of collective and personal unconscious – or Shadow. The Shadow is not black or white either. The debate trying to discern who is a true nudist, what is a true nudist, is a debate that reeks of ego rather than awareness. For with awareness, the debate becomes pointless.

Childhood Collusion And Adult Shame and Guilt

A return to shadow work on one of the last "warm" days of the season.

A return to shadow work on one of the last “warm” days of the season.

I have now returned from our last camping trip and the camper is unpacked and soon to be put into its winter resting place nearby. Since it is a warm day (30C) and sunny, it didn’t take me long to find a spot in my back yard where I could be skyclad and do some reading. It has been a while since I have looked at James Hollis’ book, Why Good People Do Bad Things, so it just felt right to bring the book out from the shelf where it has lain idle.

Why? Well perhaps it has to do with the fact that being nude, even in one’s own yard, is doing something bad. If this wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t be hiding in the back yard or staying clothed when in other nature settings where people are present. Of course I am using the word “people” here to refer to others in general terms for other naturists/nudists wouldn’t view my nudity as me doing something bad – maybe a bit controversial or risky given the environmental and societal conditions surrounding my nudity.

As it happens, I found something in the book that bears repeating here, a quotation that fits what I am talking about.

As children, we learn to “read” the world around us to find what is acceptable, what is dangerous. Many learned that matters of sexual character were not permissible in their family or religion, and so associated their own natural impulses and desires as something evil, or at best furtive and contaminated. [p. 205]

Nudity, in spite of all the noise made by naturists and nudists to the contrary, is sexual. Sexual does not mean that being nude means that one is on the verge of copulating with another person (willingly or unwillingly on their part). Sexual does mean that one’s sexuality is not disguised or denied as though that sexuality – bare skin, exposed genitals (overt or implied) – was indeed something to be ashamed of. Toddlers exhibit a “natural” way of being when they lose their clothing to run freely in their “birthday suits.” We teach these toddlers that it is unacceptable to be natural in this manner, basing our beliefs on religion, societal prejudices, law, and even under the guise of simply it being infantile and unseemly as one grows older. I notice that just by my finding a quiet and secluded space in my yard, I demonstrate just how powerful those childhood injunctions are on the psyche. Hollis goes on to explain further.

The by-product of our necessary collusion with the realpolitik of childhood vulnerability is guilt, shame,inhibition, and most of all, self-alienation. We all, still today, reenact these collusions, suffer this shame, and retreat from our wholeness. [ibid]

The shoe fits, doesn’t it? It’s time to go back to some more reading. I will be back. Until then, ask yourself a few hard questions and see just how much you want to avoid admitting that this also speaks about you and your experience.

Naked Beneath One's Skin

Risking exposing the truth of self.

Risking exposing the truth of self.

I guess there is some truth that we choose what we do and who we are for most things in life. I know that for me, There was a choice to stop repressing a need for being skyclad, a need to stop hiding behind all sorts of costumes, roles and social expectations. I could have chosen to stay in hiding. However, I am prone to think that the end results wouldn’t have been very pretty.

Naturism is a therapy, nature’s therapy for the soul. There is no better way to simply experience the fullness of being alive in the world that to make oneself fully vulnerable to that world. It doesn’t take long for a person to “fit” within the natural world, the world of nature, than to be intimately present. I have found that I am able to get much closer to animals, to be seen as less of a threat when I put myself in their environment without need of camouflage. When there is a need for camouflage, a need to hide, there is an aura of danger that then emanates from one’s body and psyche, an aura that permeates the natural world which then becomes wary of something unnatural in the shadows.

Yes, making oneself vulnerable is risky, very risky in our modern western world which understands that the norm is to be hidden in the shadows, to be cloaked in camouflage and disguises and a grab-bag of roles. Strangely, the more we hide our essence as a human, the more we are trusted – we play the game of cloak and dagger with attention to all the details and rules. When we say “fuck it” and toss out the game plans that society has created, we are a threat to the status quo. What if everyone said the hell with it and did their own thing? Then what?

In the end, it comes down to the fact that more than hiding the self from the threats of the collective, one is hiding from the unknowns within our own psyche. Who is that stranger behind the face that stares back in the mirror?

Naked Beneath One’s Skin

Taking a moment to think about what it means to be a naturist.

Taking a moment to think about what it means to be a naturist.

I guess there is some truth that we choose what we do and who we are for most things in life. I know that for me, There was a choice to stop repressing a need for being skyclad, a need to stop hiding behind all sorts of costumes, roles and social expectations. I could have chosen to stay in hiding. However, I am prone to think that the end results wouldn’t have been very pretty.

Naturism is a therapy, nature’s therapy for the soul. There is no better way to simply experience the fullness of being alive in the world that to make oneself fully vulnerable to that world. It doesn’t take long for a person to “fit” within the natural world, the world of nature, than to be intimately present. I have found that I am able to get much closer to animals, to be seen as less of a threat when I put myself in their environment without need of camouflage. When there is a need for camouflage, a need to hide, there is an aura of danger that then emanates from one’s body and psyche, an aura that permeates the natural world which then becomes wary of something unnatural in the shadows.

Yes, making oneself vulnerable is risky, very risky in our modern western world which understands that the norm is to be hidden in the shadows, to be cloaked in camouflage and disguises and a grab-bag of roles. Strangely, the more we hide our essence as a human, the more we are trusted – we play the game of cloak and dagger with attention to all the details and rules. When we say “fuck it” and toss out the game plans that society has created, we are a threat to the status quo. What if everyone said the hell with it and did their own thing? Then what?

In the end, it comes down to the fact that more than hiding the self from the threats of the collective, one is hiding from the unknowns within our own psyche. Who is that stranger behind the face that stares back in the mirror?

Naked, Safe and Healing in Darkness

In the still moments waiting for dawn and sunrise with coffee in hand.

In the still moments waiting for dawn and sunrise with coffee in hand.

One of my favourite times of the day is in the early morning while I get to sit in my living room in what is mostly darkness, waiting for daylight to appear. The scene outside my window changes from a black sky with one small lamp lighting an entrance to a building to one side, a flickering light atop an antenna tower about seven kilometres away on the hills in the south, and that is about it – until the darkness begins to shift, slowly, to dawn.

I feel comfortable in darkness, but I much prefer sunshine and warm temperatures which invite me to be outside, skyclad. It wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t many years ago that I hid my need for being skyclad in sunshine. Back then, I was going crazy, slowly losing my soul. If it hadn’t been for my feeling at home in darkness, I would never have survived this long. Darkness held my sanity intact. In the darkness, no one saw or cared if I spent those hours without clothing. In darkness,

I began to spend time in darkness, awake and unclothed, when I was a teenager, and adolescent on the verge of being a man. It was the only quiet time for me in a house filled with children and strife. I had a lot to process and found being naked and listening to classical music played at very low levels in the darkness an act of healing. It was all about privacy and freedom and safety. Perhaps these early experiences taught me more than I realised.

Not The Only Bare In The Forest

It is cold outside.

It is cold outside.

My wife and I have returned from six days of camping and hiking in Canada’s northern wilderness. The weather was perfect for fall camping even though it isn’t officially fall according to the calendar. Mornings temperatures hovered between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius with afternoon temperatures ranging from 9 to 17 C.

Each day we planned our hiking journeys to cover about 20 kilometres of woodland trails, most of these trails through very hilly terrain covered with bogs, spruce forest or aspen forests. I took way too many photos of nature and of my wife – can there ever be too many photos? – with only a few “naturist” photos such as this photo from our first full day, an “after a hike shower” moment.

Being able to be outside in nature seems to be the most soulful experiences I have experienced. To be able to have some of those moments au naturel makes these moments even more fulfilling. Of course not having to put up with mosquitoes and other biting insects also helps, one of the good reasons to hike in the autumn season.

A black bear in the forest.

A black bear in the forest.

I am including a second image, taken while we were on one of our walks, This is a black bear, a mother who was about 50 metres (or less) away from where I stood with my camera. I took other photos of her and her cubs (baby bears), but the camera was unable to capture the images well enough so that the cubs could be readily recognised as little bears.

A second black bear photo taken on our fourth day of hiking.

A second black bear photo taken on our fourth day of hiking.

Over the days, other animals appeared close at hand including another black bear who was alone, likely a solitary male. He was busy eating berries and didn’t notice the two of us. Because we were so close to him, with me being closer than my wife because I was intent on getting a good photo; my wife decided to get the bear spray ready just in case the bear noticed us and then took offense. Well, just moments after this photo the bear did notice my presence. However, instead of attacking, he turned in fright and bounded away from us in a hurry. We met up with him again further down the trail, and again he turned away to disappear into the forest.

I wasn’t the only “bare” in the northern forest.

Finding Balance In A Natural World While Naked

Our collection of spaghetti squash direct from our garden.

Our collection of spaghetti squash direct from our garden.

By the time you are reading this post, I will be well on my way to our north country for almost a week of camping in a forest filled with lakes. I have decided to prepare this post for you so that there will something to read while I am gone. I have chosen a photo taken early this evening. One of the small crops we have grown in our small garden has been spaghetti squash. Now, just to be clear, I use the word “we” but I can take no credit other than by staying out of my wife’s way as she spends quality time with the soil and her plants. On occasion, I am allowed to apply water or to take away the dead plants.

Each of us has a passion that can be awakened in the outdoors. Some of us have more than one such passion for outdoor activity. I take photos and write, two of my passions that are compatible with being outdoors though I have to admit that writing outdoors is almost always using a pen or pencil in my hardcover journal. Together, my wife and I enjoy camping and hiking, preferably long distances. While hiking, we soon fall silent and find ourselves curiously attuned to the outer world of nature, and at the same time, finding ourselves in meditative states of silence while inner stuff gets worked over until it disappears or gets resolved. I guess you could call our hiking as much walking meditation as it is discovery of the mysteries and beauty of nature.

We are not really “separate” from our world. Like anthropologists have long recognised, simply in observing, one becomes part of what is observed, an integral part of the whole who is in turn watched. Our simple presence changes the ecosystem in spite of all attempts to limit our “footprint.” One of the most amazing things to discover along the way is that there is no judgments of rightness or wrongness. Nature just is. Nature has so many faces and moods that come to mirror our own inner faces and moods. Nature is beyond Good and Evil. If we could only learn that in spite of all of our beliefs and theories, we, nature’s children, are in the end, beyond Good and Evil. In saying this, it doesn’t mean that nature doesn’t destroy, maim and kill – nature happens. When a tornado, earthquake or hurricane spreads death and destruction, we don’t look to a law book to somehow make nature pay a price for these acts. We accept the fact that rainbows and volcanic eruptions are both faces of nature, legitimate faces.

Yet, we aren’t so kind to ourselves as we create all sorts of codes to try and control humanity. In spite of the fact that we are essentially naked beings, we have found all sorts of ways to hide that fact and to punish, one way or another, those who refuse to honour the pact to hide the human body We threaten with eternal damnation. We levy fines. We ostracize and ridicule those who refuse to be ashamed of their natural state as a human. We imprison those who are too much in our faces with their nudity. The prohibitions against nudity is pervasive, yet we somehow manage to accept nudity if we, as a society, can profit from that nudity. It is this nudity for profit that shows our dark face as a species. Who really expected that humans could ever be anything other than a complex creature in a complex natural world where violence and beauty walk hand in hand, in balance.