How naked can you go in your writing and your living? That is a question I’ve been asking myself lately as I’ve become aware of how much gets between us and… you name it. Other people, ourselves, our writing, full vibrant living.
This question came to me, quite literally, on a recent trip to assistant teach at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.
When I arrived, tired after a long trip, I had only a few minutes to dash down to the famed hot springs to soak before a massage. So I threw on my bathing suit, followed the path along the rocky coastline to the springs, and eased my way into the warm water. Only I noticed something unusual. Everyone else was laughing and bubbling and… naked.
I’d heard that the hot springs were clothing optional, but what they didn’t say was that I would be the only one there wearing a bathing suit, and for the first time in my life feel weird about the fact that I was covered up and others were not.
I contemplated taking off my suit… for about 10 seconds. No, I knew how naked I wanted to go and it wasn’t one iota less than my modest one piece bathing suit.
As I was floating in the water, trying not to stare awkwardly at anything other than the faces around me, suddenly one of the women who had been submerged in the springs stood up to look over the ocean. She stretched, and with a conversational tone as if we were in her living room she commented on the sea otters that were playing in the ocean below.
What caught me off guard was her obvious pride in a body that wasn’t 17, but at least 70. It was clear that shame had long ago drifted away and been replaced by acceptance. She spoke and moved in a leisurely fashion, much like the otters below. Her beauty and power were palpable. Meantime, I sat in the springs, fully covered, my mind racing in a disconnected dance apart from my body.
After she left, I was called into my massage, an Esalen special where the strokes are long and fluid. As I lay there, listening to the ocean come in and out, my mind slowed and eventually dissolved. I became a shell on the beach, worn by the water and the sun, or a grain of sand. Rather than my worrying, planning, controlling mind pushing forward my body, the small “me” dissolved and I felt connected to everything around me.
Afterwards, I walked out to the springs, easily dropped the towel I was wearing, and stepped into the water. The modesty and self-judgment that had seemed so real two hours earlier had disappeared. I realized how tightly we cling to our fears, our self-judgment, our over-thinking – and how freeing it feels to release them.
Now, when I ponder whether to expose myself in a sentence I’m writing or a disclosure with a new friend, I ponder how naked I can go. Some days I’m only willing to take off my metaphoric shoes, other days it’s everything. I want to be more like the woman in the hot tub – fearless to expose herself because she already accepts it all. As author Brene Brown says, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”
I hope you’ll join me in the challenge – together, how naked can we go? …
I’d love to hear your comments on the article, what pearls you notice when you begin reflecting. Please share your thoughts below in the Reply box …
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Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects. She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.
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