Today’s post features Lanie, a professional model from the U.K. who has been gracious enough to allow me to bring her photos here. Today’s topic doesn’t speak about her life or state-of-being, but her photos do evoke some of the mystery and depth of humanity that is the theme of today’s post.
Though I experienced naturism first as a teenager, it never became anything but a rare escape from life’s complexities for the next few decades. Then midlife came and shook up the world as I knew it. I didn’t think so then, but now upon looking back, I’m grateful for this pivotal part of my history. James Hollis writes in his book, The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife:
“Symptoms of midlife distress are in fact to be welcomed, for they represent not only and instinctually grounded self underneath the acquired personality but a powerful imperative for renewal.”
It’s the renewal part that is the gift that comes with midlife. As Hollis notes, “the Middle Passage starts when we ask, “Who am I, apart from my history and the roles I have played?” Going through the middle passage isn’t all that comfortable as one is forced to either give up being owned by one’s history and roles, or to settle for watching and living reruns of one’s life like some pathetic soap opera. Whatever dreams one might have had, tend to shrivel up like a raisin in the sun – yes, that was intended. I used to be an English literature teacher in my past.
For many who find themselves navigating through the middle passage, the route takes them to the world of naturism. Being out of one’s clothing has this magical effect of forcing a person to be fully aware and present in the moment. The sun’s rays, breezes, rain showers, and the lack of constrictions tell the body, and then the mind, that this moment is real. Naturism then nurtures the body and mind as one accepts being in the moment, much like mindful meditation tries to teach us. In the moment, the past loses it’s depressive or nostalgic hold on the psyche. One finds themselves in a “humble but dignified relationship to the universe.” And in the process, the renewal has each of us present ourselves with a new, improved identity.
I want to finish off with a final quote from the opening chapter of Hollis’ book, as well as with a thank you to Lanie for allowing me to feature her images here, images that speak to the idea of having a humble and dignified relationship to the universe.
“In our own culture there are no meaningful rites of passage into adulthood … we can only transmit twentieth century beliefs in materialism, hedonism and narcissism – with some computer skills thrown in. None of this provides salvation, connection to the earth and its great rhythms, meaning or depth to one’s journey.”
Perhaps the journey into naturism is one of the missing meaningful rights of passage into the second half of life.