Monthly Archives: August 2015
It’s our anniversary today. We were married 45 years ago, two relative strangers standing together promising to stick together while we figure out who we were as well as who was the stranger that we married. We are about as different as one could possibly imagine, yet we find ourselves constantly shifting and changing and somehow still walking together, literally, hand in hand through life. Well, most of the time.
Here on the Camino we walk within ourselves, our hands holding onto walking poles that click off the kilometres. It’s hard work, tiring work. At the end of six hours of walking we are dead tired and want nothing but to shower and perhaps take a rest before we set out to discover the small community we have chosen for our night’s stay. This late afternoon walk is done hand-in-hand just like the walks we take around our home town. With no poles to occupy our hands, it is as though magnets force our hands to seek each other. The mind doesn’t play a role in this phenomenon – magic is all that can be said to explain it. I admit it, she is my Magical Other.
I am walking the Camino as you read this post. If all goes according to plan, we will walk from Orisson to Berguette, a tiny village after Roncevalles in Spain. Obviously this post was written before I left as I knew that I wouldn’t have internet access for another day or two at the least. Likely I will access internet in Pamplona which is famous for the running of the bulls.
The last full day in Saskatchewan was another dreary and cold day with the high only reaching 12C and the low threatening to approach zero overnight. Walking in the back lane was a mud festival as the ground is so soft from the frequent rains and cool weather. The weather also kept most people indoors which allowed me to wander a bit further than normal from my yard while skyclad.
Someone asked me if I was going to walk part of my Camino skyclad. To be honest I don’t think I will even try as there are hundreds of walkers in front of me and behind me, usually within sight, being passed or passing us in turn. The journey has a different impulse, a different goal, something that I can only suggest touches on the spiritual dimension. All pilgrimages work a change on the psyche and spirit of the men and women who walk them, a change that is not very predictable, sometimes not even wanted as it disturbs the way we live in the world and understand the world. Still, I do imagine that I will continue to sleep nude and meditate au naturel. Some things are not very negotiable.
I wrote this post before leaving Canada with the intention of it’s being scheduled to appear at this time, the day when my wife and I take our first steps up the side of a mountain as we leave a town called Saint Jean Pied de Port.
Today is my wife’s sixty-fifth birthday. Setting this day as our first walking day was a very intentional act. I am sixty-six and we have both become “senior” citizens with all of the benefits that the status grants us back home in Canada – free entry into provincial parks, free fishing license, and reduced rates at most golf courses. I was going to say that reaching the golden years meant that we had retired from working, but that isn’t exactly true. We both continue to work at things that we love to do. She continues to be a care giver in a nursing home, and I continue to provide therapy in my office. We don’t have to work, our work is something in which we find great value, something that gives our life meaning.
The walk today is a short walk of only eleven kilometres, almost halfway up the mountain. We could probably hike the whole distance to the top and over it to the next pilgrim hostel, but we are not in a hurry. I need time to meditate, to sit at the edge of the walking paths so that I can write in my journal, as well as to wander off the path to take photos that call out to me with echoes of ancient stories. At this rate of hiking, we should reach Santiago in six weeks.
No, I didn’t take this photo, I borrowed it from a google search. Our train was likely the same train which we caught after a night’s stay in Bayonne. I have prepared this post ahead of time after doing an image search as I knew that for the next several days I wasn’t likely going to find time to write up blog posts. I know our schedule so it wasn’t something hard to do.
Since we were staying in a cheap hotel, I was able to meditate before leaving our room, of course meditation was au naturel. I have a feeling that this is going to become a rare way of meditating in the weeks to come. Tonight we sleep in Saint Jean Pied de Port after registering at the Pilgrim Office in the town.
I got to have a massage before I left with my masseuse who has no issues with my being nude and undraped while she works on my hips and back. I am aware that there are massage opportunities en route but from what I understand, they are expensive. I found this photo from a pilgrim’s blog where he was able to get a massage while nude for a reasonable price. He didn’t say in which village that he found this opportunity, so I will have to discover opportunities, when needed, on my own.
What other opportunities will present themselves for me to experience being skyclad while on the Camino? A question with no answer in sight.
The image is not a real person, rather it is a statue found in the Jardins de Trocadero which lays on the northwestern bank of the Seine River across from the Eiffel Tower. We have been through these gardens a few times on various visits to Paris. It’s unlikely that we will be wandering around these Gardens today as we have a train to catch in order to travel on to Bayonne where we intend on spending a night before taking our last conveyance to Saint Jean Pied de Port.
Paris is a magical place for me. I can still remember as if it was yesterday, the first evening my wife and I spend in Montmartre, having a drink at a tiny table while waiting to have our turn at getting our portrait done, a caricature really. I bought her a single red rose from a passing vendor and presented it to her.
Bayonee is a small city, more of a town than a city with just over 100,000 people. I don’t know what we will find there for accommodations as I didn’t book a hotel room. When we get there, we will discover what is available, leaving it chance, something that we will have to do for most of the nights during our stay in Spain when walking the Camino. We do have accommodations booked in Saint Jean and in Orisson a hostel just eleven kilometres passed Saint Jean. No other accommodations have been booked as we don’t know where or when we will be at any of the other stops along the pilgrimage route. We will be listening to our bodies and basing decisions on what they tell us.
Yes, if you are reading this today, August 23rd, we are likely flying on our way to Paris which we will reach tomorrow morning. From the airport in Paris we will take a train to Bayonne and then another little train to Saint Jean Pied de Port. It won’t be a day where nudity will make an appearance in my life.
I have flown into Charles de Gaulle airport about seven times if I remember correctly and never have I met an opportunity to fly nude. It would be some experience, a positive one if they didn’t turn on the air conditioning too much. This will be my wife’s fifth visit to France.
I love France and could see retiring there if I didn’t have grandchildren and children committed to living in North America for the foreseeable future. If France was home, I would definitely find myself in the south near the Mediterranean. Perhaps two months in Spain will make me change my mind.
The neighbour is waiting to drive us to the airport. Just think, tomorrow Paris and more.
Yes, tomorrow I leave on my two month journey that will be physically, mentally and psychologically testing. Walking a 1000 kilometres – can I physically measure up to this task knowing that I have hip problems and heel spurs? I am not so worried about being able to handle the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with walking between 20 and 25 kilometres each day before searching for a place to sleep for the night. Rather than worry about it, I find myself looking at what I am leaving behind me.
Obviously, I am leaving my therapy practice. Arrangements have been made for contact during the two months, primarily through e-mail, with the knowledge that face to face sessions will resume with my return. I am also leaving my Buddhist corner within my office, my retreat into temenos through meditation. Yet, I will not be leaving behind meditation itself. If anything, I will end up doing more meditation than I have ever done during the pilgrimage tho the end of the world (Finisterre, Spain).
When I return, I will have changed. There is no way one can take such a journey and not change. As I say this, I was thinking of how I will become more of myself in the process, more aware of myself. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about my body changing though that will also be true. Will I return a broken man? Will I still be an advocate for naturism or will I find that I have abandoned that need, that impulse to be nude? Will I return at all? There are no guarantees about anything. But then again, there are no guarantees if one stays home believing that “home” will protect them from change.
It is another wet morning and quite chilly.I woke up before six this morning as the phone went off calling my wife to work at the nursing home. When I got up to turn on the coffee maker, I checked the thermostat only to find that it had dropped to 6C (43F) overnight. Brrr! At the time of my writing this post it finally warmed up to 13C (55F) with a promise of another four degrees Celsius to come.
The chores continue for our preparation for leaving our home for two months. Since we expect to return home to winter, we are making sure all paints and liquids now stored in the garage are placed in the basement. The last of the back yard ornaments need to be placed either in the garden shed or the garage for the winter as well.
One of the negative consequences of our leaving is that we will be unable to vote in our federal elections. I have only missed voting once for any election that has been called since reaching voting age. Regardless of whether or not my vote influences the choice for the riding in which I live, I still feel that my vote counts in the big picture. Voting is an affirmation to the self that one is part of a community. Even a black sheep is contained in a herd. Dissociation from the electoral process is akin to taking an eraser and attempting to erase one’s presence in life, at least a portion of that presence. One might think they are sitting on a fence because there is no one “worthy” of being elected, but in the final analysis, it really isn’t about the “other” or the “candidates” at all. The action of not voting is a statement of “self,” not “other.”
Those who know me, either face to face or in the Internet world of social media, I am a political person, involved and making my voice heard, and not just at election time. My concerns and statement reflect clearly my belief system of what it means to be a responsible person in terms of community, relations with others, with the environment, and even with advocacy for providing needed support systems for those who are victimized, abused, abandoned, or threatened by hate. Sitting on a fence is a statement that says community has no value because self has no value.
Meditate on this for a while.
It’s one of those necessary tasks that I face every year when we decide that camping season is over. It’s earlier than normal this year as we will be in Spain for the next two months. Typically we do a good amount of late summer and fall camping when campgrounds and Provincial and National Parks are basically empty. Come sometime next May, the battery cables will be reconnected and the plates will be reactivated so that we can once again enjoy camping with our small camping trailer.
I made the mistake once of leaving the cables connected and when we returned from a winter sojourn into Central America, the battery was completely dead and ended up being replaced. It isn’t much different than having the internal battery continuing to run with its constant “thinking,” a habit that often left me almost more exhausted than I believed could be possible, even after sleeping for the recommended 7 to 9 hours a night. Sleep didn’t stop the activity.
Then I discovered meditation. For me it was a personal disconnection of the battery cables that feed energy to the thinking brain. The chatter drifted into silence and I regained energy and was able to re-engage with the world from which I had been pulling away from, something that I blamed on my introverted nature. In the process I began to be aware of my breath entering and leaving my body which in turn brought me awareness about my body. I had basically dissociated from my body other than to push it to extremes with distance running and placing central importance on my brain. What a rude discovery it was to become aware of my body that had somehow, somewhere along the way, grown soft and served only to embarrass me in front of others who I thought were negatively critical of my body that was no longer young.
Meditation, mindful meditation, allowed my body to be without critical objections. Rather than remember what it used to be like, or fantasize about what it should be like if only I wasn’t so lazy, meditation simply allowed me to be self aware, body aware. With an uncritical appreciation of the fact that my body had survived well enough to get me to that point in life, I began to take better care of my body. It wasn’t that I was trying to erase my body for a different one, a newer model so to speak. Rather it was more like saying thank you to my body through gifts of healthy food. Shame somehow just disappeared like a thief trying to escape through a window left open by accident. It was through meditation that I rediscovered the freedom of being skyclad, a state of being that had been vital to me as a youth trying to cope with a childhood of abuse.
Today, I meditate nude indoors when the weather demands it, and outdoors when conditions are ripe. Allowing my body free expression and the gifts of air and the sun’s rays has become a natural and normal part of my daily life. Thankfully, my spouse accepts this change in me. Life is good.
This is the seat, a comfortable old swivel chair, that my client this morning will sit in as he continues on his journey of healing. It isn’t easy to begin and to stay on the path that leads through darkness holding the ghosts of one’s past, and the disturbing dreams that arise from the junction of past and present. As many of you already know, my practice is informed by a blend of models such as Gestalt, Brief Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy and a few others. Serving as a foundation to these modes is Jungian Psychology, also known as depth psychology.
So what does that mean, depth psychology? Well I guess it simply means that whatever it is that brings a person into a therapist’s office, the problem is rarely something that is strictly on the surface. Wounds happen to the self in the outer world. If the wounds can’t be healed with bandages, casts or surgery, there is likely something within the body and/or mind that asks the healer to go deeper. A physical disease such as diabetes or cancer makes this demand on the physician. Wounds to the psyche are much the same. The difference is that most of the work of healing must be performed by the person who is wounded. The therapist is a guide through that work. Of course, a guide is only as good as the guide’s personal experience and training. Imagine trying to be a guide for a tourist group travelling through China when the guide has never left North America and simply bases the plan on information gathered from books. It’s not exactly reassuring to those being guided.
It is no accident that one can’t be an effective guide without having experienced being led through the swamplands of the dark inner spaces. Typically, therapists in depth psychology sit in the chair for a minimum of 100 hours with countless hundreds of hours doing “homework” involving work that is basically stripping down to the bare self, exposing the stuff hidden and denied. Think of it as nudity of the psyche that leads to a positive inner self-image.