Lanie – On Trusting Oneself to be Nude and Vulnerable

Lanie – “feeling happy and peaceful, enjoying the outdoors”

It has been a while since Lanie has been featured here at Sky Clad Therapist. I begin today’s post with a different kind of image, one in which she is wearing clothing. Of course, like most women I know [not all], Lanie does enjoy clothing. My wife is no different as she takes pride in looking good as she takes part in various social and professional functions. Yet, once at home, it isn’t unusual for the clothing to fall off, so to speak.

The images being used today, with permission of course, don’t just tell us a story about various aspects of Lanie, they evoke something universal, a sort of wandering through two worlds – the personal unconscious and consciousness. I am drawing upon James Hollis’ book, Swamplands of the Soul, for the purpose of looking at “Grief, Loss, and Betrayal,” which forms chapter two of that book. Hollis states:

“Our life begins in loss. We are profoundly separated from the protective womb, disconnected from the heartbeat of the cosmos, thrust into an uncertain and often murderous world …there are repeated losses – of security, of connectedness, of unconsciousness, of innocence, and progressively, the loss of comrades, bodily energies and stages of ego identification.”

Lanie – image is copyright of Double Thirteen Photography

Lanie, like all of us has experienced losses and grief. Her work as a model takes her experiences and transforms them into images that speak to all of us. We understand and resonate with the evoked shadows, sadness, and in a strange way, even a hint of grief at having survived all of these losses.  James Hollis goes on to say:

Loss is central to our condition. If we live long enough, we will lose everyone for whom we care. If we do not live long enough, they will have lost us.

I lost my maternal grandmother, a wise lady who was very familiar with the world in between. Before her death when I was seventeen, she gave me her copy of Dante’s book, The Divine Comedy. Before that I had lost two school friends who died – one while I was in grade two, and another while I was in grade nine. Then I lost the three remaining grandparents and finally my parents. As one gets older, nature ensures that we suffer these kinds of losses. And, it just isn’t the loss of others around us through death, divorce, separation, geography, or whatever else conspires to separate us; every step we make forward as we change means that we leave something behind, sometimes cherished beliefs about oneself or others. So how does one cope with loss?

Lanie – more than what she has been or has been seen to be.

“Since we are unable to successfully control life, we suffer in proportion to our losses. The only path through and beyond … is the relinquishment of the desire to control, to let be …”

So, the key is to stop trying to control the things we can’t control. And strangely, that includes the bindings and fetters that we try to place upon ourselves. We frequently block our own creative energies as well as those darker impulses. At least, that is what we assume when unfamiliar impulses surface. What do you mean, take off my clothes and walk nude in my home? Or My family, friends, and neighbours would be shocked? More often than not, it isn’t the others who limit or try to control us in order to stuff us into some acceptable container. We do it to ourselves.

It is with the appearance of Lanie, or some other free spirit who dares to self-discover, to inspire us to trust ourselves enough to free those aspects of self that would have us be better people, and to become aware of the darker sides of self so as to navigate safely around them. We need to learn to trust ourselves.

Lanie can be found on Twitter at @lanie_model.

 

allAblur – Looking Back Through a Naked Lens

Scott

A long-time friend of mine from the U.K., Scott, also known as “allablur” in the twittersphere, has been a photographer for many decades. It was as a photographer that I got to know, Scott. I had begun taking nude photos in the early 1970s and have continued to do so up to the present day.  Since we live on different continents with different professional backgrounds, life somehow conspired to allow us to meet and begin a friendship.

Since we are both “not-so-young-anymore” men, we both find ourselves being more reflective of our lives, not trapped in the past, but aware of how our pasts have crafted us to become the men we are at present. It just so happens that I am reading a book by another longtime friend, Canadian Jungian analyst, Daryl Sharp, Not the Big Sleep: On Having Fun, Seriously. Here are a few words from his introduction:

“Life itself is like a ball,; it rolls along, taking us with it. Basically, we’re just along for the ride and we might just as well enjoy it as complain about the bumps.”

I chose this book after having spent a bit too much time listening to others my age complain constantly about almost everything. Hearing them complain, I come to see just how different I still am in community. When I was young, I had thought that I was a loner because of the constant changes of address from city to city, and province to province, believing I just didn’t have the time, or the skills needed in order to connect. Then, as a teenager in high school, in a school that I was to finish off my last three years of secondary education in spite of the fact of having five different addresses over those three years, I believed that I was the runt of the litter. I was short, skinny, and had no confidence. I was extremely self-conscious of my “smallness” in the shower room after physical education classes. Those were the days when highs school boys still took showers with their classmates – no private shower stalls. The evidence was there to validate my self-beliefs.

“A moment that is transitory, even if I don’t look this way all the time.”

In Jungian terms, I had embedded and solidified what is called a complex. It was an experiential, psychological, and unconscious conspiring to complicate the years ahead of me. Here is what Sharp has to say about complexes:

complexes – well, you know, all those painful buttons that give us a hard time when they’re pushed – arise from our individual experience in the here and now, putting skin and flesh on the collective bones of instinct and archetype.”

In my talks with Scott, I learned that he had many of the same experiences when it came to self-concept that had a good part of its foundation in the body. I was about five foot five in high school and didn’t weigh 130 pounds. I didn’t participate on sport teams that demanded any size – the runt of the litter you know. So I went running and became the best distance runner in a high school of 1700 students. And, I lifted weights, bench pressing more than 200 pounds and lifting more than my body weight in the clean and jerk lift. Scott saw the physical difference in the showers following sports, a difference that had most assume he must be gay, another shared life experience. But like myself, he wasn’t attracted to men; and like myself, it took some time before virginity was lost.

“this is me and only me, but at the same time I am none of the people you see in these images.” – Scott

Because of my past, my size, and my sensitive nature, I am still frequently assumed to be gay. Perhaps it is because I have posted photos of nude men such as Scott and Lucas and Harold and others. Perhaps it is because I take so many nude photos of myself, some of which are definitely making statements about penis and masculinity. Perhaps it is because of my sense of presence. In spite of almost fifty years of monogamous presence with my wife, even she often remarks about what she thinks is a “Gay” man beneath the surface.

In this image which Scott calls his “naturist tiff” and which he suggested to me could be renamed as a “Gay naturist tiff,” obvious masculinity in the presence of a penis is almost contradicted by what stereotypes dictate would/should be the image of what it is to be a man.

muscled torso and proud penis

Rather, the true man, a real man, has a body with obvious attributes of strength and sexuality, a body that women would willingly take into their beds and their lives. Men with little to show and as far from having six-pack abs, are questionable as men. Yet, both Scott and myself are married and monogamous, married to women who know the truth that it is what lies beneath the skin which defines what it is to be a man, a man worth keeping in their lives.

Finally, Sharp said in a few words, part of what has been the life experiences that show up in the photography of both Scott and myself:

the relationship between erotic feelings and being creative … they’ve always gone hand in hand. Are there others who feel the same?”

 

When Being a Naturist is Added to the Problems of Relationship

Just a note to let my readers know that I am not writing about Holly though I do have her permission to use these images for the blog post.

It must be because I am getting old. So many people around me are divorced, separated, or seriously contemplating whether or not they can continue to remain with their current partner. As I go through the role call of the naturists I know, there is no difference in the circumstances. And for some reason, most of the shit-hits-the-fan, so to speak, at midlife. I first noticed this phenomenon as a teacher in high school where my students were having to deal with their families splitting up. I blamed it on living in a small town on the prairies as that was the culture within which I was first noticing the ending of relationships.

Holly says “I am free to be me.”

I’ve since seen the same thing happening with my colleagues in the mental-health field and in the naturist communities here on the prairies. I have come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter too much which career path, address, or life style one lives, relationships crash and burn. So, what is it about relationships that somehow end up with between 40 and 50% of North American marriages ending up in divorce?

I think I need to look at the beginnings of most modern relationships, those based on romantic love.  Here’s a few words from James Hollis in The Middle Passage.

“Romantic love gives one a sense of profound connectedness, new energy, hope and a sense of homecoming. Love at first sight is the most notable of such projections. …. Living together on a daily basis remorselessly wears away the projections; one  is left with the otherness of the Other, who will not and cannot meet the largeness of the projections.”

Daring oneself to be authentic regardless of the cost.

Of course I can only talk about myself with any authority. I met a young woman when I was a young man. And like in the fairy tales, it was love at first sight. Within hours of meeting her, I proposed and she accepted. We didn’t have the foggiest clue who we had just committed our live to, all we knew was that we were in love. And of course, over the years, just as Hollis says above, living together forced us to remove our rose-coloured glasses and eventually meet the real person hidden behind our projections. We didn’t know it then, but we were both looking to the other to fill in the role of Magical Other. Then one day we woke up, like so many others, and discovered that we were married to an ordinary person, not some powerful Magical Other who would save us, rescue us, fill in all of the holes in our lives that we didn’t even know existed.

So people will conclude at midlife that “You’re not the person I married.” Actually, they never were. They always were somebody else, a stranger we barely knew then and know only a little better now … one literally fell in love with missing parts of oneself.”

This is me, take me as I am or not at all.

Sometimes two such people can work things out, find enough in common to build a different version of themselves as a couple, all the while honouring the differences that exist between them. When it comes to naturism as one of the differences, finding common ground gets even harder. It then comes down to respect and trust. Just how much can a non-naturist trust a naturist? How much can they respect someone who challenges their belief systems about nudity?

I am one of the luck ones … so far. We are still together after forty-seven years in spite of our differences. Will it last? I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t do well if I life conspires to rob me of the part of my soul that is entangled in naturism. Only time will tell if we can continue to navigate the white water of differences.

 

Choosing To Be More While Naked in the Swamplands

“Truth is always on the side of the more difficult.” – Nietzsche

Midlife, as I’ve noted before, is a time for making choices. Doing nothing is a choice and every choice we make results in finding ourselves following along until one is again confronted by a choice. If that wasn’t bad enough, each choice with which we are faced, has ripple effects upon those we love, and even upon so many more who have no knowledge of our individual existences. Lucas is on holiday in Spain and sees the mountains ahead and knows that to head off to cross over those mountains would be much more difficult than to remain on flatter terrain.

Uncomfortable truths

Our present day world situation is confronting us to an alarming degree, a confrontation that has us turning from considering our own thoughts, feelings, and hard-earned wisdom. Hollis states in his book, Swamplands of the Soul, that the:

great rhythms of nature, of time and tide, of fate and destiny, and our own psyche, move their powerful ways quite outside our will.”

Lucas in Spain

Yet, in spite of the massive upheavals in the outer world that are having so many retreat into a numbed existence wanting only to be distracted from the fear and the uncertainty of life in the present, some like Lukas, choose to become something more than what had happened to them in the past, or what threatens them in the present. The choices being made are about being the journey, about becoming, and about refusing to limit who they are based on the fears and proscriptions that others make.

When a world leader talks about draining the swamplands, the threat isn’t about ridding the world of the bad actors. Rather, the threat is to silence those who dare to journey through the swamplands to emerge with a gift of wisdom for the world.

Being Humbled When Vulnerable and Exposed

The fundamental result of the Middle Passage is to be humbled.”

Harold a mystery, a humbled man.

Happy Harold has returned to share some of his images and even a few words here at SkyCladTherapist. Like many naturists and nudists, HH explores who he is through activity and contemplation and images.  When we are honest with ourselves, we come to realise that we are strangers to ourselves and thus go exploring the inner and outer landscapes of self. We end up being constantly humbled by what we discover – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

HH states about the picture to the right, an image taken through mosquito netting: “A bit lost. It sums up how I feel when I have no answers. No inspiration to lift me out of where I am and move me forward. I know this moment will pass, but I need to acknowledge it. Suffer it, and learn from it.” Humble Harold is on his own journey through midlife.

As simplistic as it may sound, growing up is really the inescapable demand of the Middle Passage. It means finally confronting one’s dependencies, complexes and fears without the mediation of others. It requires us to relinquish blaming others for our lot and to take full responsibility for our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”

More words from Hollis in his book, The Middle Passage. When I began to confront myself, still blaming the universe for the place and state of being within which I found myself, I placed all of my bets on mental-health counselling and psychoanalysis. I passed the buck to a handful of others with the belief and hope that they would fix me. That didn’t go all that well. I did learn much that was useful, but it didn’t absolve me of doing my own work.

And so, I turned my writing and photography into tools to help me make the transition, to help me see the universe through a different set of lenses. I also added music and meditation. I wrote poetry, songs, and finally after a lot of resistance, I began to write and explore my own story so that I could confront the ghosts [complexes and fears] that had paralysed me for too long.

HH says, ” I’m meditating to quiet the mind, sit naked, and feel the sunshine. Being with my thoughts, watching them pass, and hopefully subside. Getting more in touch with my spiritual side is essential on this path.” He has it right – body, mind, and spirit.

Now, a few more words from Hollis:

It takes enormous courage to say that what is wrong in the world is wrong in us, and so on. But in such humbling moments we begin to improve the world we inhabit, and bring about the conditions for healing of both one’s relationships and oneself.”

Approval of One’s Naked Self

The eyes are the windows of the soul.

As with the last post, I am bringing Joy Nelson’s images to serve as illustrations of the idea of soul-searching with the intention to validate the idea of being nude in a world where being clothing free goes against the collective norms. Again, I want to remind you of Joy’s website which you will find here.

I am going to continue looking at perhaps what lays behind the shift in midlife to the re-framing one’s life to include naturism. Of course, the only way to make such a choice is if one somehow takes back authority of themselves. Most often, in an attempt to belong, we give up authority over ourselves to others, a boss at work, a peer group, or most commonly, one’s spouse. More often than not, we move from authority held by parents into careers and our own families with little or no time of conscious and independent adult.  When it comes to shedding one’s clothing, we cede our authority to these others and hide our nudity.

Do we seek validation from others at the cost of self?

When there is a time of true independence for the most part, the likelihood of making a more conscious choice where we set aside spaces and places for ourselves to celebrate the freedom to be nude becomes more likely. Yet, this choice is not typical when one enters into a relationship. In a relationship, we retreat into a magical realm where we are willing to transfer our authority to a god or goddess, or to charismatic religious or political figure, or a human who we feel will fill all the holes in our psyche – we all have holes that apparently need filling. But then, these holders of our authority become fallible humans in our eyes. Usually when midlife starts to have us chafe under the authority

held by others, which we have given away, we regret being constrained.

“Whenever we transfer the authority of instinct and intuition to our external environment, often as a result of childhood vulnerability and dependence, we remain thereafter at its mercy.

Honouring the soul without hiding from self behind the injunctions of others.

Being at the mercy of … that is what finally gets to us as we approach and enter into midlife.  The response that we take to “being at its mercy,” is varied. Many simply shrug their shoulders with resignation and accept their “fate.” Others distract themselves with some sort of addiction or other, and a few rebel basically saying that they are going to be the boss of their own lives. Regardless of which way we turn, there will be losses to the others in our lives, and to ourselves. Do we make choices for ourselves and thus cause others to lose? Or, do we choose to give to others at the expense of ourselves?

So how does that show up in our lives, becoming self-responsible. The first step is realising, as James Hollis points out in his book On This Journey We Call Our Life, “We are all more that the sum of what has happened to us.” We need to look at what we are doing, at the outer-world evidence which points out what we do, how we are living our lives. What we do when no one is looking is critical to become aware of as we try to weigh our lives in order to chart our way ahead to a more authentic way of living. It all becomes at that point about risking.

“If I risk myself, I may lose your approval. If I lose your approval, I will perhaps still be larger, for I will have gained my own approval.”

And that is how each of us must look at the idea of entry and whether or not one stays in the world of naturism. Is this what you want at the cost of … ? You fill in the blanks.

 

Choosing to be Accountable and a Naturist

Joy Nelson looks out the window

Today, I have found the opportunity to bring a new presence to SkyCladTherapist. Joy Nelson, a fellow Canadian, is living an authentic life that embraces naturism. She has her own website in which she asks her readers to “Drop into a space of sacred silence and allow your mind to relax as you connect with your inner and outer nakedness.” Her message resonates with much of what I have to say here. I do hope you visit her site which is linked above. With that said, I invite you to read on.

I, like many others that I know in the face-to-face world and the world of cyberspace, am a naturist. I choose to not wear clothing when and where it is possible to do so. When I am clothing free, I am not searching for someone to notice my nakedness, rather I am simply revelling in the freedom from clothing. It’s a choice. I often claim that there is also an aspect of compulsion, something about the unconscious part of who I am also being involved in the choice for nudity. It’s hard to admit, but none of us is fully conscious enough to escape the imperatives of the unconscious self.

The sun makes all the difference, even within an inner world.

James Hollis, in his book, The Examined Life, talks about the power and the need for choice.

“Our life begins twice: the day we are born and the day we accept the radical existential fact that our life, for all its delimiting factors, is essentially ours to choose. And the moment when we open to that invitation and step into that accountability, we take on the power of choice.”

One needs to embrace the light as one emerges through the swamplands of midlife.

Still, in spite of not being fully, 100% in conscious control of my actions, what consciousness I do have is fully aware and accountable for when and where I choose to take off my clothing to again experience the world nude.

“When we have had our lives reframed and see them as they often are – fear driven, petty, repetitive – we either anesthetize ourselves, or realize that something has to change. … If we are to show up, we must make choices and stop whining … We realize that we cannot remain bound by fear, convention, or adaptation. We realize that we now have, and have always had, choices.