(to be published by More to Life Magazine soon)
Remember this dream? You know, the one where you find yourself naked in public on your way somewhere. There’s a sick feeling of humiliation combined with anxiety as you try to run away or find clothes to cover yourself. The dream points to a feeling of being vulnerable before others. It sends the clear message: I am not “presentable” as is.
I’ve been trained in this culture to associate being naked in public with being open to ridicule and scorn (not to mention criminal sanction.) Nakedness is bad. Nakedness is taboo. Not to mention that nakedness exposes what I believe are a myriad of physical flaws. I judge myself for the “imperfections” of my body, and also fear the judgment of others. After all, I know exactly what a perfect body looks like and I feel confident this ain’t it.
What are some examples of the perfect body, you ask? A perfect body is . . . well . . . it’s . . . some sort of combination of all those photo-shopped bodies I see on the covers of the supermarket magazines, right?
I don’t investigate too deeply.
Instead, I measure myself against some compilation of others and come up short.
As a result, I’ve learned to hide myself from others—to remain covered and “presentable.” I protect my feelings, my fears, and my judgments, too, and act as if defending my beliefs is more important than listening to others.
In short, I’ve learned it’s risky to be vulnerable.
Thankfully, I’ve had other opportunities to experience something more—opportunities that move me out of the fear of “being naked” and into the enlivening realm of naked being.
In a state of naked being, rather than an armoring of oneself, there is a relaxing—an opening. In this opening, “imperfections” are similarly exposed and potential vulnerability is high, but the experience is quite different, marked by acceptance rather than resistance. Judgments and fears fade to the background. Attention is drawn instead to the magnificent experience of being present without an abundance of self-consciousness.
We all experience this many times in the course of our life—such as when we are overcome with awe or even tickled with delight. In those moments, there is an inadvertent letting go of projections and armoring in place of pure unadulterated experience. We don’t analyze whether a sunset is beautiful, we just know that it is. We don’t compare the tinkling sound of a child laughing to an adult laughing and decide if one is better than the other; we just enjoy it.
In a state of naked being, the perpetual focus on the self in relation to other relaxes. Opinions and beliefs drift away too.
I’ve learned to accept these two worldviews—they are like the optical illusion where a picture can be seen either as a homely hag (i.e. the experience of being naked, eliciting fear, judgment and withdrawal) or a comely gal (i.e. the experience of naked being, eliciting love, acceptance and openness.) The two views exist side-by-side, though profoundly different.
How powerful, though, to let them meet—to watch as one becomes the other.
I head to the bedroom, naked, hauling with me the baggage being naked can carry. Thoughts swirl about perceived physical flaws. Have I gained weight? I suck my stomach in. I feel insecure. I carry too, opinions, hurts, sorrows, and a plethora of problems demanding my attention. I worry that I said too much and the wrong thing at a meeting and that I will rightfully be newly labeled “program manager bitch.”
But, having experienced the meeting of the two worldviews many times, I trust the process. I settle my naked, flawed body down and focus my attention. I gaze into the eyes of my beloved, and allow attention to be drawn to the sensations happening right now, rather than the mental stories swirling.
I breathe in and bring my attention back again and again to right here, right now. My focus stills as does the room around me. Everything I thought was important moments ago, fades away.
My stomach relaxes, allowing small rolls of fat to line up (very un-model like.) But, the relaxing softens too the habitual self-consciousness. As the body and mind relax, attention is naturally drawn to the present, where there is no “self” perceiving a need to protect or defend herself. Here, now, there is no one beating herself up for failure and imperfection.
Attention spills in all directions without preference. Time stops. Warmth spreads. There is no I and other.
No judgment. No fear. No beliefs. No worries about being exposed or ridiculed.
Only this. Only now.
Only naked being.
And it is magnificent.
I seek out that state of naked being these days, encouraging myself to see past the fear of being naked and vulnerable for the potential to see something from a different perspective, something freeing.
I was at a meditation retreat the other day and dreamt that I was naked and in public, but this time I was flying/floating with a host of others who were also naked. In the dream I was not ashamed or fearful, and neither were the others. We were naked and we were free.
There is a whole new world out there when we risk nakedly being with others, without the covering of our fears, beliefs and judgments.
(Note: article to be published by More to Life Magazine)