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.