Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tilted Fences

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I’m on the road as this post reaches you. Every once in a while life conspires to provide me a bit of time and inclination to write in advance. Today (yesterday for you) is one of those times. Today’s photo comes from last spring-summer when I did some necessary repairs to my fence because a neighbour backed into it, tilting the fence. She’s a great lady and the damage was just in alignment, not in broken boards or posts, so no hard feelings or anger made an appearance. I was fortunate that I could do the work while nude – just one of those times when life opens doors.

Fences are boundary markers. We use them to provide a safe container for ourselves where we can better express our individual natures. Fences are also prisons behind which we hide, or which keep us contained and out of the view and interaction with others. When we look closer at fences, we see that they not only provide us with a safe space, they also at the same time, imprison us. It’s never and either or situation.

Of course, it isn’t just about fences. We build all kinds of barriers between ourselves and the world, ourselves and others. The first impulse is always about personal safety and survival – keeping dangerous people and dangerous animals and dangerous environmental conditions from hurting us. Yet, no sooner do we build a safe container, we find ourselves prisoners within the safe container.

All that said, the world demands too much of us, threatens us too much to simply leave ourselves fully vulnerable with no safe space or place within which we can retreat. Finding a balance between the extremes is what we need to focus on, consciously, so that we don’t “tilt.”

Football Frenzy

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It’s football time in North Dakota. The game is televised though played outdoors at the eastern edge of the Canadian prairies. With temperatures expected to hover around -6 C, it will be a coldish experience for spectators and just about right for the players. Here in the house, a collection of finger foods and beverages that are kid-friendly will be setting the scene for an enjoyable evening of Championship football.

Tomorrow we head home, leaving at six in the morning. It’s a long eleven hours of driving to reach our home on the Canadian prairies. I doubt that there will be a post tomorrow, but you never know.

Sensory Overload

Sometimes it is too busy, too stimulating, too overwhelming when you are an introvert surrounded by a busy bunch of boys and extroverted adults. Welcome to my world when I visit my family here in the U.S.A. Somehow, I can hang in there playing various basketball games, football, and soccer games outside followed by endless card games and board games where the volume seems to go above legal allowable limits until some youngster storms off in a huff because he is losing to a sibling. Perhaps it is the fact that it is a four-day weekend with no quiet spaces that would be places of refuge that accents the fact of sensory overload.  Even taking a few moments to put up this meagre blog post is being done while the action swirls around me with expectation that I engage in side conversations. Being an introvert is often like being thrown into the “hole” in prison (solitary confinement) for a social butterfly. It is the best route to take if one is invested in becoming zombie-like. Yet, I love the swirling mass of sound, movement, smells and buffeting that is the status quo when visiting my grandsons.

There are no spaces or times for simply shedding my clothing and meditating in silence, for breathing and being able to hear and feel each breath. Being able to look to a place in time just days down the road tells me that I will have that time in abundance. I will wander the whole house, perhaps even into my yard without the need to “cover-up.”

Regrets? No, I am simply stating that life is bumpy and one may as well buckle up and enjoy the ride through the quite doldrums and the hair-raising action.

Winter Sky on the Prairies

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This was the scene from my window back home in Canada. Of course I took the photo while skyclad, if one can be skyclad in the house. Thanksgiving Day is done and now it is Black Friday, a day we are staying in the house away from all the insanity that comes with fighting crowds for “deals” on stuff we would never buy anyway. The reason for this photo is more of an experiment than it is of intent to wax philosophical or psychological about the image. I am adding the image as a URL link because for whatever reason, I can’t upload images to my blog site from the computer at my daughter’s house. I can, however, upload an image to my Flickr account. This could mean a rethinking of how images will be posted and stored for the blog site from now on. More experimentation is to be done with images in the future.

Now, back to this image, it is one that I was satisfied with in terms of how, even in winter, perhaps best in winter, we find the heat, the energy to do the work of rummaging around in our inner spaces, those darkish zones where we have a tendency to get lost, to lose hope, to wallow in a despairing sadness. The colours are there for light, life, and warmth, but the image contradicts this expectation and hope. It definitely is a scene that doesn’t invite one to take off the clothes and wander like a free spirit through nature, through the quiet streets of town.

Thanksgiving Day in My Daughter's Home

It’s Thanksgiving Day at my daughter’s home in the U.S.A. I have to admit that it doesn’t feel any different from any other time we visit her home. No matter the time of year, we celebrate getting together with turkey and all the trimmings. The same happens every time they come to our house on the Prairies. It is just this way for us. We appreciate the opportunities that present themselves. Family is the most precious gift there is.

The day began with coffee before shifting to a new activity, the idea of the youngest grandson in the house, a collaborative writing affair. He wanted us to write a story with each person writing a paragraph based on whatever had been written before it. Soon we had five laptops logged in to One Drive to work on a Word On-line document. The experiment was a success that got celebrated by going outside to play some football (until my back got sore) followed by soccer. Now, there is NFL on the TV occupying the attention of the boys while I try to recuperate from the high levels of adrenalin. Life is good.

Yes, turkey is on the agenda for the evening meal. After all, it is Thanksgiving Day.

Fresh Air and New Snow

It's snowing out.  Bracing for colder weather.

It’s snowing out. Bracing for colder weather.

In spite of my perpetual preference for warm, sunny days, I love the smell and feel of fresh-falling snow, especially when it feels like the first page of winter, the start of a new story. It looks as though we will be getting snow for the next day, perhaps day and a half. Since we are travelling tomorrow, I am hoping the snow doesn’t begin to melt until we are out of the snow zone. Freezing rain is my greatest concern for when we travel.

The story is coming along on the writing front. It is slow writing as I am making it up as I go while trying to ground the story in Jungian psychology, as well as tie it to the previous novel in a logical manner. Of course, naturism is a vital part of the story, both in practice as well as a means of healing the soul. I am including a scene from the book below just to illustrate what I am trying to do.

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My tea had turned cold as I had forgotten it was there as I got lost in thought. I am used to this, having my hot drinks grow cold because of my head taking off to wander in inner worlds. I got up from my chair in front of the fireplace and wandered into the kitchen in order to warm up my tea in the microwave. With the mug of tea re-heated, I was about to return to my comfortable chair when the door opened. It was Jacques who entered. Seeing me standing there with the mug of tea, he spoke:

“Why is it every time I come here since your return from Europe, you are stark naked? Don’t just stand there with your mouth open, go back into the kitchen and pour me a cup of tea, in a proper cup, not a mug.”

“If it bothers you to see me naked in my own house, knock and wait until I have time to put something on so that your sensibilities aren’t disturbed.” I set my mug down and headed back into the kitchen remarking as I walked off, “Go make yourself comfortable by the fireplace. I’ll be right back with your proper cup of tea – one sugar and double cream coming up.”

Jacques is a psychoanalyst in his mid-eighties. We became friends about fifteen years ago when I met him at a depth psychology conference in Toronto. I had been working as a therapist for almost five years and was still exploring various counselling techniques which would help me work with my older clients. For adolescents and adults in the first half of life, Gestalt therapy and Solution-Focused Brief therapy worked well. For those who came with issues such as Richard’s, something more was needed. Jacques had taken a seat at a table near the front of the convention room which was in a large hotel with round tables with seating for six people at each table. Though the other chairs were still empty as most people took seats closer to the back of the room, he sat immediately beside me. We were there to listen to a Jungian psychoanalyst and author give a presentation on something called archetypes, presences within each of us, part of us, yet somehow independent of us. I know, it all sounds quite confusing, but it was interesting, even fascinating.

Jacques often visited unannounced, always walking in as if my house was his home. Somehow, he only did so when I was alone, when there were no clients or family to disturb. And typically, it was when I had need of him whether I was consciously aware of that need or not.  I had become used to him showing up unannounced. However, in the beginning, it was kind of shocking to see him walk into the house without ringing the bell or knocking. I seriously was upset that he didn’t respect my space and simply acted as if he owned the space. Jacques was my mentor, my father-confessor, my amiable pain-in-the-ass when I needed a kick in the pants.

I walked back into my office carrying a small tray with an old English teapot, a cup and saucer, sugar cubes and a shot glass filled with condensed milk, Jacques idea of cream. Setting the tray on a TV tray beside Jacques favourite chair, a rocking chair with upholstered fabric the same as that used on my reclining arm chair and the swivel chair, I reached for my robe to cover up before sitting down.

“What? Are you all of a sudden turning into a prude?” criticized Jacques as I began to wrap the robe around me. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you toute nue before.”

“But, you were complaining just a few minutes ago about my nudity.”

“No I wasn’t, I simply made an observation that you need to think about. Now,” he continued, “Sit down and enjoy your tea before it gets cold.”

I left my robe on as I sat, still feeling uncomfortable with what Jacques had intimated. We didn’t say much while he poured himself a cup of proper tea. After several quiet moments of savouring his tea, Jacques brought up the reason for his visit.

Creatures of Darkness and Light

Dreams of walking in public while nude.

Dreams of walking in public while nude.

Dreams are troublesome things, sometimes so troublesome they become nightmares. The shadows, the presences, the heaviness, the vulnerability of the ego – it all disturbs what might have been a good night’s sleep. Sometimes we remember dreams; sometimes we don’t. Regardless, we all suffer from sleep periods that don’t have wake up the next morning feeling rested.

In dreams, if remembered, we find ourselves in a world that sometimes mirrors our waking world. But sometimes, we find ourselves in a strange universe where there are no rules that fit in with our sense of reality. We find ourselves, flying through the air and sometimes through what appears to be solid objects. We navigate through water without the sensation of drowning. We wander through landscapes of incredible beauty or blasted war zones that are mined with explosions and fires filling the scenes. We find ourselves nude in public: in school, at work, on the street. In all of these scenes we are aware of “self,” our ego self.

What is unknown to us in these dreams is that we are also the scenes themselves as well as the presences, glowing-radiant presences and dark, demon-like presences. We are every man and woman in these dreams, even those presences we recognise from our waking life for those presences contain our projections and it is these projections that need to be addressed.

Nudity in dreams is not so easy to deal with, it leaves us feeling more uncomfortable that many other kinds of dreams with the exception of nightmares. We are exposed, vulnerable, almost helpless. Yet, there are times when these nude moments in dreams lift us up so that we soar as some sort of godlike being.  We are asked to accept that golden light of who we are, the authentic self that we too often hide.

Of course, dreams are dreams and have a life of their own that we can never control. These presences are beyond our waking awareness, lost in our waking-life unconscious, in the shadows. They are there even in our outer world but only visible through our projections, our passions, our fears, our hatreds; they are there teaching us beneath the level of consciousness if we would be willing learners; they are there ready to destroy and defile should we build walls that are meant to keep the inner presences forever bound so that the ego remains dictator. There are no boundaries that our shadows can’t or won’t breach. We can never escape the fullness of who we are, creatures of both darkness and light.

Fearing Nameless Uncontrollable Shadows

Taking care of dirty laundry.

Taking care of dirty laundry.

We all have dirty laundry. In our modern world we tend to hide our dirty laundry even more than in the past. Now, we have machines within our homes that are usually hidden from general view, behind closet doors, in basements, or tiny rooms in obscure corners of our homes. Our dirty laundry never gets exposed to the light of day, never gets exposed to the eyes of neighbours who might see. We believe we would be too vulnerable, too easily discovered for the imperfect beings that we are.

We hide in so many ways. We lock our doors, draw our drapes, and disappear into the world of cyberspace or game machines or numbing television programming. Who are we hiding from? We invest is many changes of clothing, cosmetics and scents, to disguise what we bury that is our authentic human shell, our bodies that are marked with age, with accidents, with disease, with the stress of abandonment. We bloat our bodies, we starve our bodies, we try to sculpt our bodies, mark our bodies taking revenge on them for being imperfect.

What we reject in ourselves, we project and then reject in others, making laws to force these evil others to hide, teaching others including our children that hiding is moral and right that exposing the authentic self is immoral, a sin, a blasphemy to be punished severely.

We fear the nameless, the shadows, the uncontrollable.

Writing, Breathing and Present

Like a crocus emerging from winter, I re-emerge with the sun's light.

Like a crocus emerging from winter, I re-emerge with the morning sun’s light.

I have found a way back into the light. I am writing again and feel like I have been released from a dark dungeon. My crash had been triggered by what I had been writing. The work had become uncontrollable as though the shadows escaping through the words were scattering all over to cause havoc. I wasn’t ready for this story to emerge. Perhaps I never will. And so I sank into a deep hole in the dungeon, a hole I had unconsciously created.

But the sun does come up again. I found a way back into breathing and the will to try once again to say things that need to be said. With this decision, I took up my keyboard and began to write. I borrowed characters from my previous novel, A Small Company of Pilgrims, and re-approached the truths that needed to be told. It will be a story of a psychotherapist (yes, that’s René Beauchemin), a client called Richard, an anima figure (Frieda, also known as Freya in Norse mythology), a mentor-guide as yet to be named, and assorted other archetypal characters. I guess in a way this could become the second book in the “Skyclad Pilgrim” series. But that is yet to be determined. What is important is the fact that I am again writing, breathing, and present in my world.

Putting A Face On Depression

Early winter's dawn

Early winter’s dawn

Waking up in darkness, turning on the coffee, and turning up the heat is getting to be the norm at this time of year. Darkness isn’t just about day and night, it is also about a psychological state where the spirit, like the weather outside, feels lifeless with barely a breath to register that one is alive. This is one face of depression.

Regardless of the external world, in spite of the sun’s rising to chase away darkness as the hours flow, the spirit remains at the edges between darkness and light. That edge is vital for survival as to sense a total absence of light signals the death of hope which then is embodied in the loss of will to live.

To risk staying at the edge, to admit that light does exist in spite of the darkness, is an act of hope. To seize that hope, one has to be willing to shed those beliefs that darkness defines who we are. One has to risk going forward fully naked into the rising light, allowing not only others to see that we exist, but to admit to ourselves that we truly are a part of the whole. The light on the horizon that promises a new day is the same light within us that validates our worth, that like the sun, we too can bring light into the world if only we dare to be authentic.

And so, with the dawn, I dare to make a new journey into light.