Naturism as Therapy – On a Personal Note

Opening up to the healing rays of the sun in Mexico

Opening up to the healing rays of the sun in Mexico

One of the things that has led me to believing that naturism provides a portal into self-healing has been my personal experience. Long before I was aware of the world of therapy, back in the days when I was a teenager struggling with issues of sexual abuse, incest and other issues that came out of living in chaos; I had stumbled upon my sanctuary in nature. My home was filled with siblings where there was no place, no space, no time that could ever be considered a safe place in spite of all efforts. One day in desperation, I fled into the pastureland that was near my family’s home, a place that had small copses of trees within which I could hide and find silence. The discovery of that space changed my life, perhaps saved it. It wasn’t long before I would retreat into this safe space with a book of poetry that was a gift from my maternal grandmother before she passed away a year earlier. As the temperatures warmed in the spring that began to turn to summer, I found sitting against a tree even more comfortable without the confines of clothing. There was something so innocent and pure about being alone with a book in my hand and my clothing set neatly nearby. It was as though in removing the clothing, I was removing all those things that had stained my soul, wounded my soul. For the first time since early childhood I felt I could finally breathe freely without fear.

Today, I begin each day with time outside when the weather permits, or indoors, with nude meditation. I track the breaths in and out and watch as thoughts arise and fall with similar patterns as my breathing. It is a time when my ego gets to rest while the psyche investigates the shadows that wait for their turn to be shown into light and to be recognized. Morning coffee and conversation follows as I sit with my wife while still clothing free. Then, the spell is lifted as we have our breakfast before heading out for a beach walk which require at least a minimalist bathing suit. The beach walk is another form of meditation as ten kilometres of walking on sand or in the surf at the edge of the sea over a period of two hours finds us back at our starting point. Then, usually, we go into the sea for another half hour to cool down. For me that means removing my swimming briefs as soon as the water’s depths allows. The briefs become like a torc worn on my upper arm as I float free in the sea. Back at the casa, a quick shower in the garden beneath a hose is typically followed by a sun bath where my wife tells me the heat of the sun cooks the devil out of me.

This is just part of my naturist day, a day in which the work of welcoming light and consciousness becomes almost a ritual. Now in my 65th year of life, I find myself at peace with myself most of the time. There is no question that naturism has been a key strategy in my own journey to the healing of my soul and psyche.

Naturism as Therapy – Self-Help Part 2

Sacred space while taking one’s seat for clothing-free meditation.

Sacred space while taking one’s seat for clothing-free meditation.

Last post, I gave a number of steps to take in order to claim your sacred and safe place for the work of “self” healing. Today I am going to push you a bit further, perhaps stretching your comfort zone, perhaps not. I am going to approach the “naturist” aspect of self-healing in a very controlled manner and would ask that you limit your efforts to the time devoted to this practice. Going past these steps would suggest that your motive is not about healing, but about ego or exhibitionism. But before I get to the next steps, I want to bring forth a few critical bits of awareness with regards to “Why?”

The idea of shedding clothing as part of a therapy practice in a private, safe space has nothing to do with self-gratification, it has nothing to do with sex. In the setting of your sacred space, removing your clothing is a visible note to oneself to be honest, not to hide. There is a key aspect that I have discovered, that of taking the psyche to a time of innocence and trust. For self-therapy to be effective, one must risk and trust that the risks taken will heal and not harm the “self.”

  1. Remove clothing within your safe place which you have prepared earlier, making sure that you will not be interrupted by anyone. Lock the door if necessary to the room if necessary. If others are in the house, it would be a good idea to place a sign on the outside of the door letting others know not to disturb you as you are meditating, a true statement for what happens during the session.
  2. Take a seat using your preferred seat – Cushions, an armchair, a rocking chair, or anything that is about comfort. Make sure to put a towel or other covering down on the seat before sitting, with something that can easily be cleaned. It is a good idea to take a shower before beginning the session to ensure a sense of comfort with your seat as well.
  3. Simply sit still focusing on your breathing – the in-breath and the out-breath. If ideas arise, notice them and then again return to focusing on your breathing and letting the ideas go. Ten minutes is all the time needed for this exercise at this time.
  4. Take a few moments to record your thoughts to this point, thoughts about being clothing-free, thoughts about what is right or wrong about the ten minutes of naked meditation, and the thoughts that came to your attention while meditating.
  5. Write in your journal whatever comes to mind following this activity – what questions, what images, what feelings surfaced. What thoughts arrived? Write without making judgments of the worth of your words. The journal is for your eyes only and spelling and grammar is not an issue.
  6. With writing set aside, spend some time in this sacred and safe space – listening to music or simply resting without any other agenda other than “being” present in your sacred space.
  7. Take a deep breath and then get dressed to return to your normal activities.
  8. Before retiring for the night, take out your journal and read the day’s entries. Place a second journal close to your bedside with a pencil in order to record any dreams that emerge. Even if there are only a few words captured, they are valuable. Don’t censor your recording of dreams judging their worth. Don’t censor the contents of your dreams. Remember, only you will be having access to this “Dream” journal.

Repeat this daily, or as many days per week as you can carve out your time for privacy. Make the effort, for only you can heal yourself.

Naturism as Therapy – Self Help Beginnings

Shifting from darkness to light, the journey.

Shifting from darkness to light, the journey.

As I explore the use of naturism for therapy, a journey to mental-health wellness, I am talking about a private, “self-therapy”, not a process that is done in the office of a therapist. Therapy, as any therapist worth her or his title can tell you, is a “work” that is done by the person who is in search of healing. A therapist is, at best, a guide. The therapist as guide can only be an effective guide if she or he has taken the same journey through what James Hollis has called “the Swamplands of the Soul.” Having been there and done that, there is a better chance that the therapist will give you tasks and challenges that will teach the skills needed to grow into the light. For, it is the light that is the source of healing.

Light exposes the darkness, the shadows that haunt us bringing us into a state of despair. With light, we strip away the power of what is hidden in the shadows, our inner shadows. Naturism, as a healing strategy, is a deliberate action to build confidence in “self.” But, where does one start? I want to provide a small blueprint of possibilities, a template that is based on the assumption that nudity is not a comfortable state of being. It begins with taking “baby” steps with the intention of improving one’s self-concept which is challenged internally and externally. If you wrestling with the darkness and despair of brokenness, one’s physical sense of self is as challenged as one’s inner sense of self.

  1. Select a safe place where you can be alone with yourself without fear of being interrupted. You can even lock the door to this space if there is a sense that someone, even a trusted someone, might enter.
  2. Prepare this space as your sanctuary. Cushions, an armchair, a rocking chair, or anything that is about comfort while you engage in “hard mental work” is placed in the space along with other objects such as incense, candles, aromatic oils, source of peace inducing music, etc.
  3. Prepare writing materials for it is necessary for you to document the journey. Part of the journey needs you to look back and see where you have been in order to learn from all that has happened so that you don’t get trapped in a constant repetition of the same defeating behaviours and attitudes.
  4. Spend time in this sacred and safe space – listen to music, or meditate, or play an instrument, or simply rest without any other agenda other than “being” present in your sacred space. I would recommend about fifteen minutes to a half-hour of this each day. If possible, try to do this at the same time each day.
  5. Write in your journal whatever comes to mind following this activity – what questions, what images, what feelings surfaced. What thoughts arrived? Write without making judgments of the worth of your words. The journal is for your eyes only and spelling and grammar is not an issue.
  6. Take a deep breath and realise that what has happened is a vital part of the healing journey. This is enough for a beginning for the journey is not a race to a finish line. You will build strength through repetition of small steps as you build new patterns in your life.

Thus the journey of healing begins.

Naturism as Therapy – Lurking Behind Camouflage

Can you see me? Hiding from one’s own self in hopes of staying safe from the shadows that lurk within.

Can you see me? Hiding from one’s own self in hopes of staying safe from the shadows that lurk within.

In spite of what we typically say, we rarely want people to actually see the real me. We prefer to hide the soft core of who we are behind some sort of protective camouflage. I use the word camouflage here not just as clothing with designs that have people avoid noticing our presence, for in most ways we all want to be seen – only we want to control just how others see us. We decorate ourselves with piercings and tattoos, we wear designer clothing, we wear uniforms, we use all sorts of tactics to redesign our bodies (diet, supplements, exercise, purging, etc,) so as to create a version of ourselves that gives us confidence in the outer world. Even nudity is used as camouflage.

For most people, the strategies work well enough to allow them to avoid their own shadows and to keep their conscious secrets safe from others. That doesn’t mean that they are happy campers, but simply that they are able to believe that they are safe. In a group of naked people, being nude soon has a naked person feel safe for their nudity becomes the norm, Curiously, being nude in a group of nude people lessens the sense of vulnerability. Being nude when you are the only one nude is a different story. In fact, in some nude gatherings, nudity is enforced for all so that there is a better sense of safety through conformity.

In therapy, there is a need to strip away the camouflage, become psychologically naked so to speak, to become vulnerable. To progress means that a person must expose their secrets and dare to look at what has been hidden for so long that it has even been forgotten. Can nudity in the therapeutic setting help? My best guess is affirmative. But, with that said, perhaps not at the beginning of therapy. My gut instinct tells me that this strategy could become useful when there has been a long trust relationship built between the therapist and the client AND only if therapy has hit a roadblock that has stalled progress where it seems that session after session, the process has become more like a hamster running on wheel getting nowhere.

What are your thoughts?

Naturism as Therapy – Nudity and Dreams

The world of dreams is a real world, one that is not afraid to be brutally honest.

Depth psychology, for me, Jungian psychology, has a long history with using dreams to access the inner world of the human psyche. However, it isn’t just depth psychology that has learned a lot from dreams. If one looks deep into human history, one finds the power of dreams manifesting themselves as gods and goddesses that show us our deepest secrets, our common bonds across time and cultures.

When we look at our dreams, we generally find them too absurd to pay much attention to them. Yet, there are dreams that demand and get our attention. Some are nightmares where the “ego” is somehow threatened, put into situations of distress. Some are too realistic for our liking and feel more powerful, perhaps even prophetic for that realism. And some disturb our sense of propriety with scenes of ourselves nude, exposed, vulnerable.

Over many years I have recorded my own dreams with more than a few showing scenes of nudity. Some of the nudity is passive such as finding myself in a public space exposed but with no one paying attention; some of the nudity is found in scenes of surreal and magic where all rules are suspended such as when I find myself swimming forever in a sea with no fear of drowning or flying naked through space and solid mountains as though I was a god. And sometimes, the nudity is sexual with “natural” scenes and challenging scenes that shock and awe leaving me wondering if what I had witnessed in my dreams was about hidden intentions or desires.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I have heard many dreams. Surprisingly not so many of them have nudity within them suggesting to me that though we are aware of these dreams, we are reluctant to admit that we have had them. We censor what we record of our dreams even in dream journals. I wonder how many of you have dreams with nudity as part of the content of the dreams?I hope some of you will respond to that question here.

Naturism as Therapy – Daring to Look into the Shadows

Daring to look into the dark spaces to uncover the truth of who we are.

All valid therapy models require us to look deep within ourselves to figure out just what exactly makes us tick, to explain why we do what we do in spite of our best intentions. A few models simply see the whole operation as simply an exercise of behavioral reprogramming through negative and positive reinforcement stimuli. A few assume that our ego’s “will” is enough to have us change our belief systems. It is rare that we have and use models of therapy which includes the personal and the collective unconscious, the world of “shadow.”

Depth psychology, whether one uses the Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Archetypal or a blend of any and all modes that has us include connections with shadow through dream work, sand play, active imagination and association tasks. Depth psychology (I use a predominantly Jungian model) asks us to enter into our inner world, almost an alter universe, that is populated with powerful energies – archetypes – and begin a heroic journey of “self” discovery.

To include naturism in this model somehow seems to make a lot of sense to me, for the journey of self-discovery must include the external self, the ego self, as well as the hero of the inner journey. Hiding ourselves (inferiority complexes, negative body concepts, etc.) behind clothing sets us at a disadvantage. It is as though we make a deliberate attempt to disable ourselves through denial of our body, our sexual body. We have a magical belief that if we hide the sexual self from our own eyes and the eyes of others, we become more saintly thus more worthy of being healed. Of course that is “ego” talking and ego is not all that well informed or reliable for it is ego that has us arrive crippled at the therapist’s door begging to be healed.


Naturism as Therapy – Coming Clean Through Honesty

Naturism as therapy – engaging in sand play and active imagination – impermanence

Relationships are like sand castles, they are constantly shifting and changing with the wind, the rain, and the tides that sometimes engulf us. One of the significant things to realise is the fact that all relationships that we engage in have one thing in common – ourselves. When we are not fully conscious (and to tell the truth, no one is fully conscious), the unknown about ourselves finds a way to be the wind, rain and tides that act upon our relationships. What is vitally important for us to do is the work to uncover, unmask all that is hidden within. We have to risk being vulnerable as though walking through our relationships stripped of everything behind which we hide and protect our soft and vulnerable center.

Not only do our unknown aspects of self work to stress our relationships, there is always the unknown aspects of the other, our significant other, having the same effect upon our relationships. The result is that relationships are never as stable as one believes, especially as one ages and changes on the individual level.

If one person due to some reason or other, usually a crisis of some kind, decides to risk doing the work to unearth the unknown lurking within each of us by stripping away all the defenses, lies, and magical thinking that we have used to protect ourselves; the other has no choice but to respond to the changes in their partner in the relationship regardless if the relationship is to a parent, a child, a lover. All with whom we engage in relationship are buffeted by the changes within us. But how that “other” responds to our changes is not always for the better.

We see that in the world of naturism and nudism. Where one person frees themselves from the bondage of clothing, from fear of being exposed and vulnerable, there is a response in the others with whom that person is in relationship. Some decide to abandon relationship. Some decide to go on the offensive as though to save the person from him or herself. Some decide to risk opening up themselves having seen something in the other that seems to be about healing. Why are the responses all so different? It is encoded in their original relationships as an infant and child to parents and others within the orbit or those early years. Where there is a refusal to do the work of individuation, the responses are fear responses, fear based on both personal and collective shadow factors.

Using active imagination while risking a state of undress opens up portals to the inner self that have been barred for too long. The role of active imagination in therapy has a positive history in helping a person to heal themselves, to heal their soul and psyche. The role of being nude, especially outside in sunshine, adds a physiological dimension to the act of healing. Learning to be comfortable with one’s outer self, the physical self, goes a long way to enabling one to learn to trust and accept the inner self. In my opinion as a therapist, and my experience in doing the work of healing the self, naturism is a powerful and positive component of therapy.