Monthly Archives: November 2014
Speak to Us of Love – Kahlil Gibran
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
It’s the last day of November, and as with other years, it is the time for me to put up our Christmas tree and decorations. I love this season of colour and lights, a time when as a collective, we unconsciously revolt against the darkness and despair that come with the shortened days, killing cold, and confinement as if we are going into hibernation simply to survive. I opened up the post with another bit from The Prophet, as Gibran’s book has recaptured my attention after a decade or two of sitting on my book shelves.
One of the surprises as I revisited his book was to rediscover his images as well as his words. I wonder if my poetry book last year which paired each poem with an image had its genesis in Gibran’s work? This year’s poetry book is still in the image pairing stage though I hope that in the next few weeks to finish this project.
For now, it is my wish that we all become the light in the darkness that is the modern world.
On Clothes – The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
And the weaver said, “Speak to us of Clothes.”
And he answered:
Your clothes conceal much of your beauty,
yet they hide not the unbeautiful.
And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy
you may find in them a harness and a chain.
Would that you could meet the sun and the wind
with more of your skin and less of your raiment,
For the breath of life is in the sunlight
and the hand of life is in the wind.
Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes to wear.”
But shame was his loom,
and the softening of the sinews was his thread.
And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.
Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.
And when the unclean shall be no more,
what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet
and the winds long to play with your hair.
As I am writing this, a blizzard is raging outside. I am fortunate enough not to be homeless so I have the luxury of being able to stay warm and stay naked at the same time. Thankfully the outside temperature is not as bad as it usually is in winter, only -6 Celsius. However, the wind makes it feel like -20 and reduces visibility at the same time. As you can see, it is perfect weather for a quick celebration of snow before heading into an outdoor hot tub. Sitting in steaming water while snow falls on you is a priceless experience.
In the water, I remember my first winter sauna in the mountains of British Columbia. I was attending university and my sociology prof invited my wife and I and others to visit him and his wife at their cabin on the side of a mountain. We ate, laughed, shared stories and then joined in with stripping off our clothes to experience a sauna, getting to take a turn at pouring water over rocks. When the heat became too much to bear any longer, we would race out into the snow making snow angels or throwing snowballs until we would again retreat into the sauna. Life was simpler then, but the passion for being naked and enjoying winter while warm still burns strong within.
As I have often blogged about nude meditation, part of nude yoga (or is it the other way around), I wonder if my readers get tired of hearing about nudism as a spiritual endeavor. I have been writing a novel that focuses predominantly with the depth of spirituality that one can access while nude. History has taught us so much about being clothes free when approaching whatever it is that is the source of our soul, our spiritual centre. It is only in relatively modern times with the dominance of the three desert religions that nudity has become the portal to evil rather than the portal to the temple of heaven within each of us. And, it has taken a serious and determined effort on the part of the good fathers of religion to make this happen in spite of the documents they claim as the authentic word of the Creator.
For example, the Creation story begins with God/Allah/Yaweh creating man and woman, creating them nude and then judging that creation as “good.” Go a little further into that story and we find this first man and woman noticing their nudity and covering up in shame (why is irrelevant at this point). Now upon noticing the “cover-up” the Creator loses it asking who told them that there bodies were shameful and needed covering up. Notice that covering up is synonymous with lying. When we cover up, we are actually creating a false image of God/Allah/Yaweh. I don’t know about you, but I have learned that it is best to confess one’s error rather than covering it up hoping that it doesn’t get noticed or that the blame then falls to someone else, an innocent someone else. We have to risk being vulnerable and authentic. Who can trust you when you hide behind masks?
What are we rejecting when we reject our natural selves, our bodies created naked? We are rejecting our authentic self. We are rejecting the good self created in the image of the Creator. To demonize and pathologize nudity is to defy the value held by the Creator, to pass judgment on the Creator. Yet, we play loose with rational thought by then blaming the devil for it all as if it was the devil who invented nudity.
It’s cold outside, a blue cold tinged with steel gray chiseled clouds. It’s time for a cup of coffee while planning what’s next. My grandson is off to classes and I have the house to myself, a quiet house where the only sound I hear is from the central heating as a fan forces a bit of artificial warmth into the house. Outside the temperature is -13 Celsius with a windchill approaching -20. A light snow is beginning to fall and I begin to think of my retreat to the Mayan Riviera for three months of the harsh prairie winters. I leave in about five weeks time with my wife, returning to our Mexican sanctuary where I have the freedom to be bare outdoors in a private, high-walled garden.
When my coffee is done, I will return to writing my current novel which is nearing the end of the first draft. Already I know that major revisions are needed. I approached this novel with no real plans other than to see where the words were trying to take me, what they were trying to tell me. Sixty thousand words finished and likely another five to ten thousand left to arrive at the destination of an ending of sorts.
And sitting in the background, patiently waiting for its turn, is a book of poetry.waiting for me to illustrate the collection of poems with images taken by myself and others.
This is my life.
I am bringing another segment of my novel-in-progress, the opening of Chapter 20.
René rose early in darkness as did all of the others, intent on getting out the door as soon as the pre-dawn light allowed. With a twenty-five kilometre walk ahead of them and increased pilgrim traffic, the last thing they wanted to do was to walk extra kilometres in search of a bed for the night. Before they had gone too far, dawn spread its rays of approaching sunlight to accentuate the few clouds with a vibrant palette of colour. They were just passing the Cruce Baxán when the sun broke free of the eastern horizon. They continued on the trail for another half hour reaching another cross, the Cruce Leiman which had a café nearby where they stopped for a quick coffee and toast.
They stopped between Morgade and Ferreios having found a perfect place for their group meditation off the tree-lined path. Meditation was kept short at twenty minutes so they soon regained the path and walked another two and a half hours reaching Portomarin where they stopped for a late breakfast, early lunch at the popular O Mirador café.
Two hours after eating lunch the group arrived at Gonzar where they settled for the night at the Xunta Hostel which had Internet and all the facilities they needed. When post-hiking chores were done, they gathered for a late lunch feeling good about having completed the distance in good time. Following their meal, René went for a walk with Ed who wanted to talk about some of the ideas that were swirling around in his head.
“You know, René” he began, “we have been meditating nude for so long as a group that it has become almost natural for me. I mean, in spite of being naked, I can feel a collective spirituality that makes me question my beliefs about nudity and spiritualism.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” admitted René. “It has been much the same for me. At home I have always meditated nude, but always in private. Meditation has always been a spiritual practice for me, a private spiritual practice.”
“Well, as I was saying, it got me thinking about taking this home with me. How do I get passed the barriers we have about nudity? It’s hard enough in our homes let alone building a spiritual community where we could deepen our spiritual practice by being fully and honestly present, something that being naked almost forces upon us.”
“Well,” pondered René, “I guess you’d have to identify the pros and cons of the idea before coming up with a why and how for naked spiritual practice as a group. What are your thoughts?”
“Well, I could see how for some, seeing others naked would be a distraction. It’s a problem that could only be overcome if nudity could shift to feeling comfortable. You know, being comfortable in your own skin. I suspect that Robert Heilein is right in saying that they easiest nudity to accept in community is our own personal nudity. Once you have that then it would become so much easier to be with others while naked. In any case, branching out to being spiritual with people is not just a question of acceptance of their nakedness but of them as people. I wonder if mutual tolerance of nudity makes for acceptance of others.”38
“Well, that seems to be what has happened to both of us here, isn’t it?” noted René. “I mean, I thought I was comfortable with myself when nude, but when I found myself nude the first time, here with others, I immediately found that I still had some hangups about myself which then made me uncomfortable with others. It was actually the calmness and unconditional acceptance of Sid and Akka that allowed something to shift within me. Perhaps we need a guide or guides to bridge that gap?”
“Another problem that came up for me was that it, naked group spiritual practice could soon focus on the nudity and have the spiritual aspect become lost in the group’s awareness of their nudity and using it to distance themselves from others they would see as “less spiritual” because they weren’t naked. You know, being naked spiritual exhibitionists.”
“Ha ha,” laughed René. “You made me think of some of the Naga Babas I saw in India. Their nudity and spiritual practice seemed to have become street theatre, supposed holy men in search of tourist cameras.”
“Exactly!” confirmed Ed. “It’s that look at me narcissism feeding off being exposed, rather than a spiritual humility.”
“I like that, Ed, spiritual humility.”
“The last thing I came up with,” continued Ed, “was about spiritual maturity. For some, there isn’t enough spiritual maturity for group practice whether they are clothed or not clothed. Nudity could just accentuate that spiritual immaturity. In a way, it ties in with what I have already said. Are you mature enough to view nudity as a means of approaching God and not view nudity as the focus of worship. If not, then it is likely that one needs to approach nudity as a means of approaching God as a way to build maturity rather than simply discard the idea. People do need time to grow into authentic spiritual practice, naked or clothed.”
René clapped Ed on the back as he said, “It sounds like you have it all reasoned out. Now, the hard part comes in risking it, Ed.”
“Yeah, you’re not kidding,” he admitted.
I woke up this morning to a temperature of -22C with a windchill dropping that temperature to -33C. Yes it is cold out there. However, cold weather outside doesn’t prohibit me from writing sans vêtements while inside the house. It’s day thirteen of the NaNoWriMo challenge which asks writers to come up with at least 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. As I write this blog post, my story has already surpassed the 30,000 word mark. But of course, my life isn’t just about writing.
As usual, my wife and I went out for a walk in the countryside. Since it is sunny, it was a much more pleasant walk than it has been during the past four days. We walked six kilometres bundled up against the cold at a pace that left me drenched in sweat upon my return. Thank goodness, I was able to take off the sweaty clothing for something more suitable for writing.
So much for the small talk about my life, now for another peek at the novel, a part of Chapter 10.
“Really, Ed?” Rainy managed to sputter out after swallowing the piece of sandwich in his mouth. “You just don’t talk about nudity to everyone. You’ve got nakedness on your brain. All people aren’t as comfortable with the topic as you are.”
Looking at Rainy with a smile on her face, Frieda added, “I’m not in the least uncomfortable talking about nudity, Rainy. The truth is, as I was telling Ed, I am almost always naked when I am at home. We Norse have a healthy attitude towards nudity, one that comes out of our earliest roots as a people. As you might or might not know, our Norse gods and goddesses were usually nude,” she added with a barely perceptible wink and smile directed at Rainy.
“Um,” was all that Rainy can say in response.
“We are born naked, and we die naked,” Frieda continues. ”That is the truth of who and what we are. So, why not live naked as much as is practical?”
Ed is quick to add his two cents worth into the discussion as Frieda opens up, “That sounds just like Job, in the Bible, and I quote, Job 1:20 – 22:
“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither . . . In all of this Job sinned not”20
“You see, that nakedness was not a sin. Job tears off his clothes and it was all okay in God’s eyes,” Ed summarized in support of what Frieda had been saying. “And that isn’t the only time that God sees no problem with being naked in public either, he continued. “In Isaiah 20 verses 2 and 3, God commanded Isaiah to strip naked, including his shoes and to stay that way for three years. God told Isaiah to be a nudist for three years.”21
“That was back thousands of years ago,” sputtered Rainy. “You’d end up in jail if you tried wandering around buck naked for three years. Take a look at Stephen Gough in the U.K.; he tried walking around the countryside naked and he has spent a fair number of years in jail as a result.”
“You’re such a prude,” laughed Frieda. “Have you ever been naked in public, say at a beach or at a resort?”
“Never!” protested Rainy. “Those places are all about sex, sex, sex. And believe me, even Ed’s God doesn’t approve of nude and lewd.”
“Nude is not necessarily lewd,” challenged Frieda with more than a bit of heat. “Or, are you telling me that when you are nude, it’s all about sex, sex, sex? It sure as hell isn’t that way for me!”
“That’s not what I said, I said that being nude at resorts and nude beaches is not in the least like the nudity when one showers . . .”
“How do you know that?” demanded Frieda. “As you’ve said, you’ve never been to either a nude beach or nude resort.”
“She got you there, didn’t she?” crowed Ed with pleasure. “And as far as being nude in public, well let’s just say that I know you’ve been there and done that. Does naked meditation ring any bells?”
In frustration, Rainy put on his socks and shoes, and his backpack, and left the two of them sitting there. However, it wasn’t long before he sensed them walking behind him. Every once in a while Rainy heard them chatting though he refused to listen to what they might be saying. Eventually, the tree of them reached the junction that took them back onto the main pilgrimage trail. There, they joined in as part of a larger flowing line of hikers who had not taken the high road, the road less taken.
The next two hours passed in a continued silence as they walked along country lanes to Los Arcos. Rainy again kept his camera in its holder around his waist as they passed by another set of ruins, another bridge over a dry riverbed and into the town of Los Arcos. When they arrived at Casa la Fuente, where the group had planned on staying, they found out that all the beds were filled; so, they made their way further into town to try a new hostel called Casa de la Abuela. They were in luck and soon installed themselves in one of the pleasant rooms. Anticipating the arrival of their friends, they reserved the five of the six remaining beds in the room. The hospedador, the host that was taking care of arrivals, informed them that if their friends didn’t arrive by three-thirty, the beds would be given to others who needed them as well. Since there were two hours remaining, they felt that this would not be a problem. Ed offered to return to the Casa la Fuente to leave a note on the board there for the rest of the crew.
As soon as Ed had left, Rainy busied himself with washing out his socks, top, and shorts. Frieda followed his example and soon was washing her socks as well. Not noticing because of his thoughts being elsewhere, Frieda had removed all her clothes and proceeded to wash them in her birthday suit. Suddenly, it registered that he was standing beside an incredibly fit and beautiful woman with long, dark hair who was totally naked. Involuntarily, he felt his manhood responding, something that Frieda noticed as well.
“Ah, so you want to prove that nude is lewd?” she laughed embarrassing Rainy even more. “Relax, Rainy. I’m just washing my clothes and then taking a shower. Why get dressed to wash the clothing and undressed a few minutes later to wash my body.” She turned back to the rinsing of her hiking clothes and then hung them up on a line to dry in their room. Then, she grabbed her shower bag and walked into the shower room. Before disappearing into the shower room, she asked, “Aren’t you coming for a shower?”
Here is a portion of Chapter Five from my novel in progress:
The walk to Zubiri was pleasant with sunshine and forests as part of his experience. When he got to the bridge over the Agra River, called Puente de la Rabia, Rainy decided to walk along the river a ways to find a quiet spot where he could relax, perhaps even meditate. About two hundred metres away from the pilgrim path, he saw a small mat of grass along the river’s edge with a small bush that hid the sunlit grass from all passersby. It was perfect, the perfect place to enjoy the sun and to meditate.
Rainy took off his socks and boots and took a sitting position for meditation. Try as much as he could, he just didn’t find a comfortable posture. He struggled to hold his meditative attention for quite a few minutes before giving up and laying back on the grass to enjoy the heat of the sun. It wasn’t long before his tee shirt was off so that he could feel the breeze coming off the river. He was tempted to remove his shorts and sunbathe, but the idea of someone seeing him was enough to stop that idea. However, perhaps meditating half nude would work. Strangely, it was much easier though he could feel the strain that his shorts put on his body in comparison to the freedom he felt on the rest of his body.
As he closed his eyes and began focusing on his breathing, he heard a voice singing, a woman’s voice. Rather than have the beautiful sounds be a distraction, he simply accepted the music as part of this place and time and returned to noticing that small space between outbreath and in breath, that in between space of nothingness. The voice became stronger letting Rainy know that whoever was singing was coming closer. Almost against his will, his eyes opened and he saw Akka on the other side of the river, slowly walking as she sang. Her long black hair framed her unclothed body. As if aware of Rainy’s eyes on her, she turned her head and smiled. Giving him a slight wave of her hand, she turned and continued her song and her riverside stroll. He listened as he watched her. He heard the words of her song:
A half hour later, Rainy put his tee shirt, socks and boots back on and walked into Zubiri wondering if he had imagined the scene with Akka as he had with Sid the day before. It didn’t take too long to reach the Albergue Escuela in the town, an old school building that had been converted into a basic needs hostel. The talk among the group from the night before had suggested that this be the first place they would check upon reaching Zubiri in hopes of meeting up together for an afternoon of enjoyable company and recovery from two good days of hiking. As expected, the hostel had lots of room. Rainy checked in and found that Sid and Akka had already claimed their bunks in one of the three dormitories.
Rainy claimed a bed next to them after greeting them with a smile and a voiced Namaste with hands clasped together as if in prayer. Rainy liked to honour others in small ways such as with greetings in their own language if he could. In his opinion, it was all about respect. It was obvious by their widened grins that both were pleased with his efforts. As he set his backpack on the bed, he asked about their walk that day as well as making small talk about the pleasant weather. As they chatted, he got out his change of clothes and his shower kit. He knew that washing his socks and tee shirt needed to be done early so that they would be dry by the evening. As he headed to the shower, he asked if they would join him for a late lunch at one of the local restaurants. Receiving a nod of assent, Rainy then left the room to shower, shave and wash his few items of clothing.
In the shower, he thought again about the incident at the side of the river. He could still hear the words of the song and the voice that sang them. The words seemed to have been burnt into his mind, or perhaps his heart. Wearing a clean top and his lightweight runners, a pair of Merrells, Rainy rejoined Akka and Sid as they set out to discover a place to eat. It wasn’t a long walk before they found a sidewalk café just past the non-descript square building that appeared to be the village’s church. Before leaving, Rainy had posted a note on the bulletin board letting Joe and Karl know that they had already checked in and were out for lunch.
With a bocadillo, a glorified sandwich, on his plate with some fries, and a cup of café con leche, Rainy felt he was in heaven. It wasn’t too hot out, if that was ever possible in his mind, and it was sunny. What more could a man ask but to share this with someone. That thought brought a small cloud over his mood . . . ‘with someone’ . . . he missed his wife, Marianne. Sensing his quick change of mood, Sid asked Rainy how his meditation by the river went. Rainy was jolted out of his inner mood with a start. How did Sid know he had meditated beside the river?
“Ah, my friend,” soothed Sid as he noted the look of discomfort on Rainy’s face. “Akka had told me earlier that she saw you meditating by the river.”
“She saw me?”
“Yes, she said you were meditating half-naked and so got to know why others call you the half-naked pilgrim.”
Turning a deep shade of pink, Rainy mumbled, “Uh, yeah, I was meditating there. I didn’t think anyone would see me there hidden from the road and nearby buildings.”
“Oh,” remarked Akka, now speaking for herself. I am sure that I was the only one who saw you. I thought that you saw me, Rainy?”
“Um, I guess I did see you. I, I . . . I just thought that maybe I was imagining that,” he replied softly and with a hint of embarrassment.
“Oh no!” apologized Akka, “I hope that I didn’t offend you.”
“No.” Rainy quickly returned. “I just thought that maybe you had hoped to have privacy while you walked and sang.”
Akka looked at Rainy with a hint of a smile of understanding. “You are so gentle, Rainy. Yes, you saw me walking without my clothes while I was singing one of my poems. I didn’t mind that you saw me. After all, it was an honest and innocent moment that we shared by the river, don’t you think?”
“Um, yes; I guess,” he spoke hesitantly. All of a sudden, what Akka had just said about singing her poem registered in his head. “You wrote that song, er, poem?”
“Yes,” teased Akka, “Did you like it?”
“It was beautiful, your voice was even more beautiful. I can still hear the words – People, male and female, blush when a cloth covering their shame, comes loose. – that you were nude as these words came from within you was somehow appropriate; I mean, it just seemed so perfect.”
“Yes, for me it was a holy moment,” agreed Akka. “For me I feel closest to the gods and goddesses when I sing to them without hiding behind clothes, as you say, a moment of perfection.”
Sid interjected, “I think we should go back to the albergue and see if the others have arrived yet.”
“I think I will just wander around a bit more,” said Rainy as he excused himself from the two. “I want to get a few photos of Zubiri and perhaps find an Internet café as I want to send Marianne a few photos. I’ll join you guys later.”
I am busy writing a novel as a NaNoWriMo challenge to myself. The story has been brewing for some time as though having taken a life of its own. My task is simply to allow the words out from the depths and make sure I don’t mess up the story with too many grammatical errors. The story is about some fictitious male around my age with my life experience, who goes on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.
In the story, the main character meets and interacts with a number of historical figures who, curiously, have no issue with the natural human body. One of these historical figures is the young Siddhartha Gautama, before he became Buddha. For six years, Siddhartha lived like all Sadhu holy men, without clothing, in search of enlightenment. Many early images of this man, as Buddha, show him with little or no clothing. It is with this image in mind that I have Sid [Siddhartha] play his role. Below you can see one of the scenes from the book that is in progress.
– – – * – – –
He still had just over four kilometres to travel before he reached the high point of the day’s travel at Col de Lepoeder.
Rainy was about halfway to the peak when he decided to stop for another break. After taking of his boots and socks, he dug out an apple, some cheese and a petit pain he had bought in Saint Jean. His water supply was good as he had refilled it while at Roland’s fountain just a short while earlier. Just as he was about to bite into his apple, he heard some excitement from other pilgrims on the trail just a bit further up the trail. Curious, he stood up, picked up his boots and walked about seventy-five metres where he saw five pilgrims in various stages of what could best be described as shock, exhilaration and even anger. Seeing him, one woman pointed to a rock about 100 metres away upon which a naked man was obviously engaged in meditation.
“It’s disgusting!” the woman ranted. “This isn’t the third world, this is a Christian world. That pervert should be arrested!”
Rainy looked critically at the outline of the man. It was obvious that he was naked, but it was impossible to see his genitals as he was faced away from the trail. Really, it was hard to see why the woman had taken offense. Sure he was naked, but not in a way that suggested he was trying to flaunt himself to all passersby. As he turned back to try and calm the woman, he caught her taking photos of the nude man with her smartphone.
“Do you think that’s appropriate?” Rainy questioned the woman who voice was almost screeching with indignation. “You can’t really see anything anyway.”
“But, it’s against the law! He should be in jail,” she protested. “What if some children saw him? They would be psychologically scarred. I’m going to show these photos to the police and get justice done.”
“Relax, lady,” Rainy interrupted. “He’s meditating, can’t you see that? Besides, there are no children here. Hell, even you can’t see his privates. Put your camera away. If anything, you are breaking the law taking photos of someone without permission. For sure if you put that photo on the Internet, you would be breaking the law. Why don’t you just continue on to Roncevalles? I will take care of this.”
With that said, Rainy walked across the barren hillside to reach the man who was meditating. As Rainy got closer, he realised that the man was Sid. ‘Where was Akka?’ was the first thought that went through his mind. Closing the distance, Rainy was taken by surprise when Sid spoke up without opening his eyes.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Rainy. It’s a beautiful afternoon. Won’t you join me for some meditation?”