The Sweat Lodge

Thanks to Gerald’s excellent description, in the comments on the Rainbow Gathering post, which are posted below, I’ve been reminded of my one and only ‘sweat lodge’ experience.

Gerald writes…

Gatherings are clothes optional. Many like the feeling of freedom. Others see in nudity a spiritual component. Either way here we are creating an Eden where you can be naked without shame. This doesn’t mean you can’t wear clothes, you just don’t have to. We celebrate diversity with tolerance + acceptance, knowing we are all really part of the ONE. I would like to share a report I wrote on thw winter gathering held at a old hippy community at Takaka. The occasion of Matariki was marked by a sweat lodge ceremony held on the nearby beach at Milnthorpe. Proceedings began with the lighting of a large bonfire at dusk of driftwood into which stones were placed. A structure of bent branches covered with blankets, the lodge, was located nearby. At a given time we removed our clothes and moved inside in an orderly way where we sat cross legged in circular fashion. On four occasions hot stones were received and welcomed from the fire and placed into a central fire pit.
Water sprinkled, to a prayer, generated clouds of hot steam, and a feeling of close oneness.
At one point personal prayers of thanks and appreciation were recited. Gathering around the bonfire, on leaving, for seemingly ages , the heat dried and warmed our naked bodies.
Some choose to swim in the incoming tide, the phenomena of green luminescent water adding to the occasion. Overhead the Milky Way slowly traversed the sky and in the distance the lights of Farewell Spit and the dark shape of hills. The quarter moon came and set. And not a breath of wind.
Sunset was just as spectacular as the night was. Pure magic. What a memory.
Back in the house [of the community] the lights were off for the night. The coal range generating a warm comforting heat in the dark.This was the time for head-torches and freshly baked bread.

One of the advantages of living in Scotland is that there are some fabulous and remote beaches an hour’s drive away. Less, but not quite as remote or wildly beautiful.

Beaches such as the one above are two-a-penny as one goes up into the Highlands and Islands. Naturism is entirely do-able because it’s likely you can find a spot where you won’t see another soul all day. Before the children came along we used to spend a couple of weekends a month in places such as this, and it was up in the Highlands where we came across a group of rather lovely New Age travellers who’d had a bit of a hard time with the authorities.

(Note: the story in the link doesn’t refer to the people we encountered, the time frame is wrong, but I offer the link to illustrate Scotland’s approach to New Age folk).

On a Friday evening we’d pack a tent, a camping stove and some food into the car after work and then drive north. It was possible to live nude all weekend if the weather was good. Which isn’t always the case in Scotland! It could be 10pm or beyond before we’d find a place we liked, but as it’s fairly northerly not dark until 11pm and beyond so it was still possible to pitch a tent and settle in for the night.

The two of us arrived at a beach late one evening to discover a quartet of nude bathers a little distance off. Reasoning that they obviously wouldn’t mind if we did the same, we stripped off too and went swimming after giving them a cheery wave to declare our solidarity with them. One of them eventually approached us and it transpired they were New Age folk who were spending the summer travelling around the Highlands and Islands in a tatty old van, living in tents like we were.

For once, they’d discovered a friendly farmer who’d provided them with some vegetables for free and they were cooking up a lentil stew at their ‘encampment’. By way of repayment, the guys in the group had been helping the elderly farmer rebuild some dry stone walls on the land, and the women had been whitewashing his croft dwelling for him.

A Scottish croft house

We got invited along for a bowl of stew, and discovered their ‘encampment’ was an awning draped off the side of their van, a tent, a fire pit they’d dug (with the intention of replacing the turf and leaving no evidence of them having been there when they moved on…and it’s ‘regular’ people who litter their way up and down the coast, yet it’s these guardians of the planet who get the bad press????) and a strange little structure. A sweat lodge, they explained over a bowl of hot stew.

At the time, I don’t think we’d ever heard of the term, but we grasped the ‘sauna’ concept of it. A whole purification process was explained in terms of mystical ritual, but it was also possible to use it as a sauna without a need to buy into the purification ritual.

The sweat lodge has its roots in the indigenous peoples of north and south America, although they can be found in other locations too.

The following evening, after a day in and out of the sea, going walking (clothed) and a trip into the nearest town to buy some extra provisions to share with our new friends, we wandered over to their camp, broke out the bottles of wine we’d purchased, offered some bread, and I helped prepare a simple curry meal while Jim helped light up for the sweat lodge.

We then formed a drum circle and drummed for an hour around the camp fire. The drumming got hypnotic. It was also physically exerting, so it wasn’t long until someone would drop out of the circle temporarily to remove some of the few clothes we were wearing to begin with. A little way away, the elderly farmer watched with a kind of amused detachment and puffed on his pipe. Elderly he may have been, but he was young at heart, but declined the opportunity to be part of it. But I think he was loving the idea of young people indulging in a bit of fun.

A naked drum circle

After we’d drummed ourselves into silence, it was into the sweat lodge, followed by a race down the nearby beach and into the sea -Finnish sauna style- to close up the pores after a bit of sweating out the body’s impurities. A nice experience, but something I’ve never had the chance to repeat.

For once, SL let me down in terms of the availability of a sweat lodge, either on a sim or on the Marketplace, but I was able to locate a Native American sim complete with a tent containing a fire, which is certainly appropriate given the historical aspect of sweat lodges, and replicate the idea of one.

Anton joins me in the ‘sweat lodge’

One thing I would say is that there appears to be a certain risk with sweat lodges in the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing.

If in doubt, don’t! Perhaps stick to a sauna. I’ve no idea if the folk we shared a sweat lodge with knew what they were doing. They appeared to, but I’m no expert. We survived it and enjoyed it and their company greatly.

Ella

A Rainbow Gathering…and Burn 2 is getting nearer.

I begin lots and lots of blog posts, but many invariably slip through the net as we move on to other naturist-related news. Some begin as a ‘good idea’ that peters out. There’s about 500 drafts for the 2000+ posts we have published, so a 25% failure rate.

I began the following post at the beginning of this year, but it was (yet another post) never completed. This week I’ve been tidying up aspects of the blog, trashing some posts and examining others for possible use. With SL’s own ‘Burning Man’ happening in October (21st-29th)*, I thought it was a useful time to revisit this particular ‘counter culture’ posting, rework it and expand it.

 

One fascinating article I read in the media, early in this year, was about Rainbow Gatherings, a loose conglomeration of ‘new age’ type people that we’ve written about before in the context of a hippy counterculture.

SL serves people interested in this sort of hippy look very well, with ‘boho’ fashion being regularly blogged by various people, there’s a variety of dreadlock hairstyles in SL, and becoming a hippy avatar is relatively easy and cheap to do, whereupon you can visit numerous sims where aspects of this alternative lifestyle takes place, and usually these sims are nude-friendly, as they are in real life.

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p1100410There are several excellent sims where you can indulge your inner, or visible, hippy, counterculture lifestyle.

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rainbow-gathering-montana-201337

Flower Fairy practices her yoga in a quiet, SL gorge

I’ll be revisiting the ‘Burn 2’ (SL’s own ‘Burning Man’ festival) again next week, as well as talking to and hopefully photographing some of SL’s ‘hippy’ avatars.

 

Ella

*We were part of the press team for Burn2 last year and have applied to be part of that again this year.

Topless Tuesday

 

While researching this blog I occasionally land somewhere…unsavoury. Sites that are more pornographic than naturist, despite being dressed up as naturist (hey! some SL ‘naturist’ sims are like that too!). Links to ‘naturist’ sites aren’t guaranteed to be naturist by any stretch of the imagination.

And so it was that I clicked into a site recently that was focussed on voyeur photos of women on holiday. Not pornographic, just exploitative. Several photos were of naturist women, of all shapes and sizes and ages on the beach. Fine…apart from the fact that most of the photos were taken without the subject’s consent. Laughably, one contributor even had the audacity to watermark his work with copyright!

Other photos were topless women on the beach. What caught my eye here was one commenter, presumably from somewhere other than Europe, referencing a young woman with large breasts emerging from the surf, with the words that ‘guys are pretending they don’t notice. I’d have a [insert word for erection here] all day!’

Weird?

Yes, it’s weird, because in Europe most guys have seen it all before, and they genuinely don’t notice. A glance in the direction of someone fully clothed, or in a full bikini, is about all they’d give any woman. It used to be that ‘going topless’ was something of a first-holiday-with-your-pals-and-no-parents-around ‘rite of passage’, but topless sunbathing and swimming has become so much part of the beach furniture in Europe now that many young women have never covered up top, from childhood, through puberty and into adulthood. Grandmothers, mothers, teenage daughters, children…all ‘topless’. And while full nudity is still a lump in the throat moment, many women go topless, even the first time, without so much as moment’s thought.

This woman’s young son(?), right of the pic, and the men in the vicinity, remain disinterested in her topless state.

More interested in their smartphones or gazing into the middle distance.

Her breasts are being bared, but there’s the sun to turn your face to, or waves to watch

Not even looking in her direction, he’s seen breasts before.

Tops pulled down, hamming it up for the cameras, tan lines giving away the fact that there’s not been any topless sunbathing before today, there’s a good chance this trio are going topless for the first time, with possibly some sort of dare having been issued and a holiday ‘rite of passage’ having been ticked off.

‘Faggots’

 

Hmmm. 😦

I managed to grab some SL inworld time this afternoon, doing my usual round of the naturist sims.

It’s not as bad as it used to be, but you still get the odd ‘hi, wanna sex me?’ comment from a month (or less) old avatar.

This one wasn’t as bad as that, but was heading in that direction, my experience told me. He just wasn’t bold enough to come right out and say it and, besides, I was hoping that if he did take that approach I could do a little ‘education’.

‘So you write a blog?’

I gave him the link. I went on with taking some photographs, and there was no IM replies for about five minutes. It was fairly obvious he’d gone off to scroll through the blog.

‘Wow! Never knew there was so much nudie activities going on. Great blog, some nice photos of nekkid women (yes, he used that spelling), but the photo of the faggots was f****** sick’.

Faggots? Here in the UK ‘faggots’ are a meat dish made from pork offal  and believe me, whenever I hear the word used, rarely in real life but still something that pops up occasionally, I play on that definition to the max.

‘Eh?’ I said, ‘I don’t post photos of food’

(Well, let me break that rule now… 😉 )

I then had to explain the British definition of the word.

‘No. Those two faggots kissing’.

I was toying with him. I knew exactly what he was getting at. We published a photograph of two male avatars kissing the other day.

Here it is again…

‘I don’t want any faggots near me’, he (I assume) growled. ‘Sick deviants’.

Hmmm. I bet you’re 300lbs with a beard, dungarees and shoot at road signs for fun. Why assume you’d even be attractive to a gay man? Or any female, come to think of it. Why assume anyone would hit on you?

I didn’t think there were any people so limited by intelligence that these views existed anymore. Clearly I inhabit a bit of a deviant liberal world both in real life and in SL.

We live in a hateful world. An intolerant, and increasingly intolerant, world. The last any of us can or should do is impose our limited world views on anyone else. When love turns up, embrace it. It may not last forever, but we must embrace it while we can. And not criticise others who’ve chosen their own path to find love with someone else.

‘That’s an exceptionally intolerant view, and if you hold and voice that idea, SL may not be for you’.

I tp’ed away and muted this idiot. A couple of minutes later a SL friend, lesbian in SL & RL, popped online.

‘Hey, send me some pics of you and a girlfriend’.


You see, mister, if you’re reading, there, in the photo above, is another two people who’ve found love in SL. Don’t be so narrow minded and bigoted. Celebrate their love together. You never know, exposure to a broader outlook in SL just might eventually feed into your own RL mindset.

Ella

 

 

 

Children and naturism

Children take to naturism easily and naturally. There’s a time when they don’t even notice the genital differences between boys and girls, or men and women. Much more immediate, in terms of inevitable questions, is body hair and breasts. When they do raise these questions, they readily accept factual answers, even though they might not fully comprehend what you’re saying. As a Mum, I’ve never shied away from any queries.

We’re regularly nude around the house, as well as obviously being nude on holiday, so our kids happily accept these situations, and two of them could explain why and when breasts grow, why and when pubic hair sprouts, even if ‘puberty’ isn’t something they necessarily understand fully yet.

Children are an integral part of naturism, and will grow up without body shame or curiosity, accepting their own bodies and those around them. I think it’s a healthy approach, that there’s no mystique taught.

And yet in naturist publications ‘the child’ (up to the age of 18) has disappeared entirely. Where they used to be in evidence in photographs, and in articles similar to this one about the benefits of teaching a child to grow up without shame, they’re absent. It creates the impression naturism is an ‘adults only’ lifestyle, where in fact it’s very much family orientated, and extended-family orientated at that.

The reason for this is, of course, paedophiles. I feel angry at them for existing. I also feel angry at them for skewing the perception of the lifestyle I enjoy, and its representation. When I started in SL it wasn’t uncommon to end up in a naturist sim which contained naked child avatars. As a real life naturist, I’m used to seeing this all the time, and wouldn’t blink an eye. Even then, the word ‘paedophile’ wouldn’t enter my head in an SL context. But it’s certain that there were adult avatars abusing child avatars (controlled by an adult) within SL, both parties complicit in the sordid fantasy. Suddenly, things changed.

Which is only right and proper. It was good to see that sort of behaviour weeded out of SL. One of the game’s strengths has been to keep it pure in some areas of role play. I remember, long before the current, rather idiotic support for Neo-Nazism reared its ugly head, the far right were being weeded out of SL. I know for certain that one (legal) British political party of the Far Right were hounded out of SL by more liberal SL voices. I know this because I was part of those avatars making life difficult for them. There’s no need for Far Right nonsense in SL, nor is there any justification for paedophiles to be anywhere near the game. I’m not so naive to suggest that issues like support for Neo-Nazism or age-play aren’t still happening, but it has been dragged away to some ‘dark SL’ and isn’t in evidence in the manner it once was. So far, so good.

But then there’s a variety of reasons, many innocent, where an avatar might be played as a teen or younger. Indeed, ‘petites’, child avatars on the grid, abound, and there’s blogs dedicated to clothes, hair, skins etc designed purely for ‘petites’. I would imagine the majority just play this role entirely innocently. Perhaps it’s an escape back to their own, idyllic childhood, who knows? There will be as many reasons to play SL as a petite as there are petites. And no one is suggesting there’s anything wrong with that.

What’s not so easy is for me to represent family naturist values in this blog. I’ve an alt set up as a ‘petite’ which I’ve often considered utilising into the blog. I sometimes see naturism through my children’s eyes, and there’s a raft of material I could use, but can’t ever effectively illustrate.

In the photographs above, I’ve used this alt girl avi, which I think perfectly illustrates family naturism in and around a pool, a family simply enjoying time together on holiday, reinforcing a positive family naturism that exists in RL. Even so, I’ve opted to pixelate my own alt avi, just in case someone doesn’t approach it with the right motives. To me, it’s a positive celebration of family naturism. To others, it’s some sort of sick, sexual perversion.

What of a representation of my son (this is just the same alt with a different ‘costume’, incidentally…you’ll understand how this works if you use SL)? Pixelate SL nude representations?

Or show ‘him’ (and my daughter’s representation) in swimming costumes?


And if I do that, am I still feeding some sicko’s fantasy?

In real life naturism, occasionally, you do see naked parents getting their children to wear swimwear on the naturist beach, such is their concern with the exploitation of children. children, when they reach puberty, often recoil from naturism, and some return to it. Others won’t, as their own act of rebellion against naturist parents.

My own son often wears a swimming costume to the naturist beach. He’s not at an age yet where he’s concluded he’s embarrassed by his own nudity, he still is very relaxed about it, but more that he’s at an age now where his imagination is gripped by ‘superheroes’, so his bedroom walls are decorated with images of Wolverine and Spiderman. And once he’d spotted those Spiderman swimming trunks…well, he likes to wear them to reinforce his own identification with fantasy and feed his imagination. That’s his own Second Life! He already understands instinctively he can wear them on the beach, but costumes aren’t allowed by the pool area, and he’ll happily take them off to swim there.

I don’t have teenage sons (or a daughter) – yet! But sometime in the future, I will. How they’ll react to naturism then (many naturist children recoil from it during puberty, then return to the lifestyle) remains to be seen, but let me imagine it.

I’ve one friend in SL who keeps a ‘teen boy’ alt avatar. He doesn’t roll it out very often, but will do so for specific scenarios in SL. Funfairs, driving a car and so on. He does this because, like me, he feels he wants to inhabit the avatar, and the best way to plug into the thrill of a funfair is to visit it as a teen. It’s a fantasy world, and anything that deepens the fantasy is fine. My own son is deepening his pre-teen fantasy by identifying with Spiderman as much as he can.

I asked my SL friend (non naturist) with the teen boy avi to pose with me for a couple of photos to further illustrate the minefield of representation of children in SL.

So here’s a couple of  imagined ‘Mum with teenage son’ photos…

Once again, I’ve chosen to pixelate where a depiction of a naked teen occurs. (I particularly like the ‘awkward, gawky teenage son being forced to be photographed with Mum and hating every second’ look)And finally, that awkward pose in its full glory, but in this one ‘awkward teen male’ has opted to reject naturism to wear clothes.

I think it’s important, for the progression of the blog, that we  now seek to ensure that, occasionally and where appropriate, children are represented in the blog. I’ve been thinking hard about this for some time, because their perspective is important for the future of naturism. Moving forward, though, I’d foresee that while I will seek to represent children as part of family naturism, I’ll opt to show them in swimwear.

Ella

 

Build it and they will come.

And they that are far off shall come and build the temple of the LORD, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.

(Zachariah 6 : 15)

I’m not a God-botherer, but I know enough about the Bible stories to be able to know where some aphorisms and sayings in modern life originate. I think the same story is also to be found in the Book of Jeremiah, at least, interest research suggests this is the case.

It’s a theme also explored in the film Field of Dreams, where the Kevin Costner character hears a voice telling him to build a baseball stadium in the middle of nowhere. I’m guessing that the film is some kind of allegory for the Bible story, but as I’ve not seen the film, or know the Bible story particularly well, I’m not certain.

Anyway…

…whatever the reality behind it all, I was thinking how it applies equally well to naturism in and out of Second Life.

There’s a thriving naturist community in Second Life, as evidenced by the massive sims at Eden Naturopolis and Blue Lagoon Naturist Estate. Both are excellent builds too, as well as being popular. And that doesn’t take into account smaller, equally popular and photogenic sims, some of which have lasted for years, which is quite an achievement in the context of Second Life. Take a bow, Lupe’s, Su Casa and others.

7 Hills, another naturist location, only closed after its owner/builder, died. Otherwise it would still have been going too. The appeal of naturism, in Second Life, is obvious. ‘Skinny dipping’ is on most people’s bucket lists, and if it’s not achievable in real life, then social nudity in a virtual world could be considered to be some sort of alternative.

Granted, the idea of nudity and SLex (Second Life sex, for those who don’t know), and using text or voice as some sort of masturbatory aid is also part of SL. I won’t criticise, because there’s a world full of lonely people out there, with few friends and no life companion, so ‘SL as masturbatory aid’ is possibly therapeutic.

Many, many people I know trot out the same excuses about real life naturism. ‘My body’s not good enough’. ‘I’m overweight’. ‘I’d be too excited’. All trotted out without making the slightest effort to experience naturism for real and see/experience the reality.

It’s estimated that there are 4m naturists in the UK.  That’s 6% of the population. And we’re the ‘prudish’, ‘uptight’ nation of Europe!

There’s 740m people in Europe. Extrapolated across the continent, disregarding that our European neighbours can and do embrace social nudity better than we Brits, that’s an astonishing number. 43m.

Now…consider this in comparison to skiing. Estimates are that there’s 390m skiers across the world, accounting for 65m ski holidays. I know we’re comparing apples with pears, but it’s clear that there’s a hell of a lot more dedicated ski resorts around the world than there are dedicated naturist resorts. Because ‘naked people!!!!!’.

We remain scared of naked people, despite them being out there. What would happen if we provided facilities?

If we built it, would they come? I’d argue ‘yes’, for the following reason.

In Spain or France, where there’s a naturist culture in some locations, people grow up with the idea of nude sun or sea bathing. It’s how you ‘dress’ for the beach. So it becomes an entirely natural thing to do as a child, an adult, a parent or grandparent. Why spend money on silly costumes?

In Germany, or Finland, there’s a culture of nude sauna. Wearing costumes in there is considered unhygienic.

And even those of us in dear old, uptight Britain are promoting the idea of communal, nude bathing through the Great British Skinny Dip weekend, which is trying to promote the fun and health benefits of swimming freely. No infrastructure is needed -just a tolerant mindset- and yes indeed, GBSD are ‘building’ it as an event and people, many of whom wouldn’t label themselves as ‘naturist’, are coming.

And yet, as naturists, we’re corralled into small areas. Thousands upon thousands of kilometres of European shoreline and perhaps only dozens of kilometres of naturist designated beach? There’s something wrong there.

My argument is that  a good naturist hotel, with a good beach nearby, will readily fill with customers.


It’s simply a case of allowing people to immerse themselves in the naturist lifestyle, through the provision of more facilities, and they will adapt their mindset accordingly.

Before trying it, my mindset would have been ‘no, not me, never!’ Having tried it…well, I’ve been a naturist now for 22 years. 🙂

It’s not arousing or erotic. It’s natural. And, even amongst first-time males, often concerned with ‘a reaction’, I have to say I’ve never seen an erection on a naturist beach.

Once again, we’re comparing apples with pears, but the authorities, town councils and such like, have it in their gift to provide naturist facilities, everywhere, around the globe, within a month, passing legislation to make it all happen by the time of their next council meeting. It’s that easy.

‘I’m disgusted’, scream the prudes, faced with something new and alien to them. The same way they screamed ‘I’m disgusted’ when homosexuality was made legal, when gay marriage was made legal, when Pride marches emerged, when -the issue of the moment- transgender issues emerged. Councils and state/county/national legislatures moved quickly, in most jurisdictions, to legalise and formalise the rights of the LGBT folk. Quite rightly too. But why does something that seems to have become ‘a thing’ this year, at least in the eyes of the media and public, transgendered folk, suddenly find itself at the forefront of a race to put legislation in place to accommodate it while naturism, over a century old and with more numbers than transgendered folk around the globe, remain hidden and regarded very poorly in its social position. Legislators capacity to accommodate transgendered people in such a short space of time merely underscores their capacity to provide naturist facilities, beaches or municipal swimming pool sessions, in place, almost immediately. I’m loathe to draw direct parallels between any expression of sexuality and naturism, as it’s unlikely any naturist was ever beaten up or killed for being a naturist, but it’s the only way I can frame the point I’m making in the context of current western society.

So…build it and they will come. As sensible, intelligent people have come to regard LGBT rights as acceptable, normal and desired nowadays, perhaps the time is now to make naturism acceptable and normal in a grown up society.

Ella

 

The weather and the seasons

As a naturist, the summer months are clearly the season I’m going to enjoy most. I’m afraid, though, that apart from my trips to Spain this summer has been an almost total washout as far as home naturism here in Scotland has been concerned. May was quite good, but after that the weather descended into greyness and lots and lots of rain. 75% above our normal, which can be wet enough anyway!

As for the rest of the UK…northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland were in similar positions regarding the rain. Our garden is squidgy underfoot, so goodness knows what it’ll be like in the dead of winter. Of course, given the strange weather patterns that exist now (happy, climate change deniers?) the possibility remains that the rain stops soon and we won’t see a drop for weeks on end.

Umbrella L$10 from the Marketplace

Boots : Free from Fab Free’s freebie store (no longer available)

 

Sinking into the mud!

Of course I’ve been in naturist situations where we’ve been caught out in the rain. Often. But it brings its own pleasures. There’s something lovely about sitting in a swimming pool while the rain torrents down, bouncing off the surface of the water. Why should we care? We’re wet already! 🙂

In Spain, the rain does truly fall mainly on the plain. It can become positively dangerous as it cascades off the mountains and fills the ramblas, and can wash bridges away, destroy homes and such like.

This ‘rambla’, a dry river bed, can fill in a very short space of time when the rains arrive.

But hey! Here I am talking about the weather, sounding like a true Brit!

I started to write this blog entry on Saturday, when we’d had rain every day for weeks. Heavy rain. And sure enough, as I suggested, it stopped on Sunday and we’ve had wall to wall sunshine since 🙂 Once I’ve got the children off to school it even looks as though a bit of early autumnal naturism might be possibly in the sun-trapped patio of our house.

Ella