“So your clients are potentially walking naked through the beach, the forest?”  says Sarah Climenhaga host of the Creating a Parallel Society podcast, to me.

I didn’t intend to talk about nakedness on her podcast.  And having done so, I will put more flesh on the bones so to say.

Indeed, I have worked with leaders for over 25 years and I can’t believe it is only just now I am advocating nakedness as a conscious practice.   Or as I like to term it, an earthconversing practice: a way to intentionally be in connection with nature.

I see there is the Naked Leadership Podcast, about talking honestly and openheartedly. There is also The Naked Leader network of practitioners who “strip away the hype, jargon and mystery around leadership, business and success.”  I am not sure to what extent they advocate actual nakedness either, but it is the embodied experience that I am talking about.

Born and bred

It is a curious thing indeed.  We may not die naked, but we were all born so.

Since that arrival into the world, family and society has helped us layer on experiences, beliefs and opinions about nudity, naked skin and body parts. What is acceptable to show in public and how we are to conduct ourselves even in the privacy of our own homes.

For some cultures, it is the social norm to be naked or mostly so.  In the history of humans we see how clothing was at first a practical solution to the problems of cold, dust and sun.  And how along the way it has became a signal of difference, division and disconnect. Alongside, we see how naked bodies have been glorified, abused, manipulated, condoned and celebrated.

Personally, I wasn’t brought up in a ‘naked house’.  Not in a body shame way but nakedness was generally confined to being solo in the bathroom.  And even now, as an adult, the amount of times I wander naked around the house is relatively limited – such are my programming and habits. Though please knock first if you visit.   You won’t find me sitting around naked with my friends, nor am I part of a naturist group.  I do however fully respect naturism as a way of life. And I know in my skin that nakedness has been fundamental to my nature-connection and my journey.

Back to nature

If one of the pathways to nature connectedness and therefore developing our nature-human relationship is sensory contact, to be fully naked heightens that sensory experience.  To feel the air, sun, breeze, rain, shade, textures on our skin. To be fully in one’s body accesses aliveness, literally.

For me, the natural world is the natural home to safely and wildly explore nakedness as a conscious or mindful practice.  In doing so, you can notice how nudity surfaces feelings, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, old patterns, bias and conditional filters …and how it accesses a knowing, a feeling of completeness, of ‘returning’, remembering a more natural, wilder, freer, playful and liberated self.

Certainly a turning point for me was when I was on a mirroring programme with the School of Lost Borders amongst a group of experienced wilderness guides and facilitators.  The first day we were invited to have solo time on the land and “go out and reclaim our innocence”.

I ended up playing in a stream, stripping off and joyfully playing in the mud. And afterwards laid on a rock like a lizard under the Colorado sun until it was clay baked hard on my skin. Then walked back to camp, like a warrior princess.   Out on the land, I did pass others but as is the practice to be invisible, I went on my way and they individually went on theirs.  Later in the circle that afternoon, having showered and changed in fresh clothes, we told our stories. And I was humbled how many feedback, that seeing me embrace nakedness so unabashedly, helped them to remember their own freedom to do the same.

Now I pass on that experience, through working with leaders and other brave souls. And encourage them to experiment going naked whilst on their nature solo time.   For some it is the most natural, even obvious thing to do. For others it is beyond their imagination or comfort.

Nakedness as a leadership portal

As many leadership experts have advocated, we need to look holistically at our development.  At earth converse, we call it naturing our mind.  We take responsibility to integrate our mind, body and soul, to tap into our greater intelligence connected with the natural world.  The larger mystery from which we are part.  It is embodied, felt, lived. To read a book about being a regenerative leader, will not make you one. You can be told about a body scan meditation but unless you do it,  you will not benefit.  You can think about the suffering of the earth, but if you are disembodied, you won’t activate compassionate action.

In my experience, the natural world is where we can use nakedness as a portal to explore qualities and challenges in an embodied way, such as:

  • Bodymind wisdom: we can talk about self-awareness, but we limit ourselves if we don’t develop our somatic awareness. With that we learn to witness our body-mind connection and access its expansive intelligence.  Nakedness is one such practice that can help us attune to this bodymind wisdom, and enhance our sensitivity to our inner and outer world.
  • Authenticity: if we find ourselves talking about being authentic, honest, true – what better way to embody this than to go physically naked.  To strip away the layers of pretense and the masks we wear, by symbolically stripping away our layers of clothes.   By being game to ‘bare all’, we can experience being literally and figuratively comfortable in our skin.  In our beingness and belonging in the world.
  • Non-judgement:  to navigate our biases and be openhearted and open minded, we need to cultivate non-judgement.  In being naked, we can hold ourselves in our purity. We can feel what it is to be witnessed by the non-judgmental more-than-human world.
  • Vulnerability and Courage:  in her beautiful book Wild Courage: A transformation for you and your business, Elle Harrison explores the six often hidden qualities of leadership (dying, stillness, intuition, vulnerability, wildness and surrender).  She doesn’t talk about it, but I am pretty sure she would support nakedness as one useful practice to explore all six.
  • Innocence: we can reconnect with our quintessential selves by reconnecting with our nakedness of birth. Or the innocence of being a child running around without clothes. And the playfulness of moving our bodies.
  • Resilience, rest and reset:  quite often in life we come to the stage of needing to start again, to reset and come back to a beginner’s mind. To feel strong again and see things afresh.   Going naked can literally help you embody that new beginning.  Particularly if you jump into a cold river and feel the physiological reset.
  • Transitions: we are always changing and transitioning, and nakedness can be a perfect way to ceremonially mark a transition in life. An ending and letting go or a beginning and renewal.

The list goes on.

Start there

Being naked in nature for 2 minutes, 2 hours or whatever may not change your life or leadership, but it may.

It may just unlock a bias, a way of being.  Perhaps give you a moment of freedom, wildness, liberation that is now stored in your body.  And open you up to a more intimately expansive relationship. With yourself, each other and the earth that is our home.

It is like the starting line of Wild Geese, one of the many beautiful poems of Mary Oliver.

You do not have to be good

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves

We start with our body, accessing its wisdom for connection, inspiration and belonging.

Let your animal body love what it loves.

 

Sources:

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