Go Nude

a couple of years ago

Dear wonderful souls, I am writing to you this morning from the comfort of my favorite chair and a half in my living room, enjoying my coffee. And I am naked.

There is something immensely powerful about sitting in your body, doing everyday things, while naked. For people with a natural hippie leaning, this is probably not news. If you’ve ever been to a natural hot springs type place or a nudist resort, you probably have experienced this. Even the people I know who are most self-conscious, most self-critical, most modest, have learned to find some peace and connection in moments of nudity in such places, and have commented after on how powerful it is to just simply be, without clothing, in the world.

The experience is different for each individual. For me, the act of nudity provides a level of connectedness to the earth around me. I find that after a period of time being naked, my mind is clearer. I am more relaxed. But the biggest thing for me is that I find I am less critical of myself. I’m more able to look in the mirror and notice the saggy fat around my waist, the stretch marks from birthing a nine pound baby, the dimples in my butt, without wincing at any of those things. I can actually, without sarcasm, send both the parts of my body that usually make me cringe and the parts that I like all my love and positive energy. I can find self-acceptance where I am without constantly thinking only of where I wish I was.

I believe that is a powerful and rare moment for any woman to have, regardless of her age, shape or size. For that reason, moments of nudity have almost become a form of therapy for me.

The first time I full experienced this phenomenon was just a few years ago. On the morning of my thirtieth birthday, I got up early in the morning with two of my girlfriends and drove 5 hours to a hot spring retreat resort in the middle of nowhere, Oregon. I had spent the last two days alternately drinking, dancing, and being outrageous with friends, and spending some time with my family. My thought process had been that I would spend the last few days of my twenties doing what I did most of my twenties, drinking and partying and being relatively maladaptive in my self-care habits. The first few days of my 30’s I would spend doing yoga, meditating, soaking in hot springs, and eating all vegetarian organic food, which was the way I wanted to spend more of my time in my thirties. While I cannot say that this plan has entirely worked (I have not been without my fair share of drunken nights in my 30’s), I can say I certainly have more balance now than I ever have. And since that weekend, I go back to the hot springs at least twice a year, oftentimes more, in order to reconnect with myself and disconnect from everything else.

More than 10 miles from the nearest town, which consists solely of a lone gas station, and completely out of the range of all cell phone carriers, Breitenbush retreat center is a rare chance to disconnect. While the disconnection is amazing, and so is the food and the entire experience, what was most surprising to me that first trip was the power I found in being naked. Being naked by yourself is great, sure. That was something I’d caught onto a long time ago. But being naked around other people in a non-sexual way? That was a new experience. It was deeply uncomfortable and yet oddly comforting. It was boundary pushing and yet oddly relaxing. It was certainly inspiring. As I settled into it more and more as the weekend went on, I realized what was happening. I could look at every other soul there and find beauty in their bodies. Regardless of age, weight, scars, and supposed imperfections, I saw beauty everywhere. The act of being naked together was an act of shared vulnerability, even if we never talked, and that immediately created a bond, a sense of compassion for those sitting naked in the hot springs with me, a sense of empathy. Without it consciously happening, I became less critical of everyone around me, and in turn, I immediately become less critical of myself. How can I find beauty in everyone else, and yet revile my own body as being ugly? I asked myself. The answer of course was that I couldn’t. It was ridiculous. I was clearly being overly critical of myself, and I had to accept that if I was able to find beauty in everyone else, it was likely that most of those around me were seeing beauty in me in the same places I saw flaws. The act of shared nudity created a normalization of the naked human body, in all its shapes and forms, which allowed me for the first time to see the body, and my body, as a beautiful thing rather than something to critically assess.

I went home from that trip feeling as if I’d done a year of therapy in three days. As the weeks went on, as these things tend to do, the experience faded a bit. While I was forever impacted and changed from it, most things fell quickly back into normal patterns. I lost the connection with my body that I had discovered there, and while I would find it each time I went back to the hot springs, I was never able to carry it at home for very long. Without consciously realizing it, I would always fall back into a pattern of battling with my body rather than loving and embracing it.

Then, a year ago, a post came across my Facebook feed. A picture of a friend of mine, sitting in the morning sun, enjoying her coffee… naked (a from the shoulders up picture, because Facebook rules and the internet and all, but still). It was a no makeup, messy hair, naked declaration of loving herself, and it linked to a blog post encouraging other women to do the same: Naked coffee was not only a thing, it was a movement (You can check out the original blog post here).

I immediately connected on a soul level to the idea; I was already a believer in the power of connecting to my body through nudity, and naked coffee seemed like a way to bring this into my home in the times between my two or three retreats per year to the hot springs. I stripped off all my clothes and brewed a hot cup of joe, and settled in to relax on my couch. And you know what? It was incredible. Within moments, I was relaxed and calm, centered in my body, connected to it. I knew I had found a new ritual for my daily life. I even posted a picture of me, no makeup and messy hair, to document the moment------>

In the year since that moment, I cannot say that I’ve managed to make naked coffee a daily habit. There are times when the hectic schedule of life takes over, and I forget to take time for myself. But inevitably, I’ll remember, and pause. At least once a month, oftentimes more, I’ll strip off my clothes and relax into a comfortable chair, and take ten minutes of quiet solitude to enjoy my coffee and connect with my body. I send it love and acceptance, and I never fail to feel more centered and calm afterward. I hope to one day be able to hold those feelings of love toward myself, my body, and my whole being as a constant state of being, but in the meantime, I am glad to have found a way to always find my way back to those feelings when I lose my way.

As a woman in today’s world, there is never a lack of criticism on how we should look, on how our bodies should be; it surrounds us constantly, both overtly and subtle, telling us to look critically at how we fail to live up to whatever perfection is. At the same time, there is a desperate scarcity of self-love, of body love, of positive examples of how to embrace our bodies, accept them, and move within them holding them as a cherished friend rather than an enemy that must be conquered. My wish for each of you is that you find your own way to honor your body in small moments, and connect to a sense of love and acceptance of where you are, right now. It is an amazing feeling to press pause on the barrage of negative feelings and direct some love to your body and your soul. Go nude. Sit down and have a cup of coffee. Try some yoga stretches in the buff. Dance. Whatever works for you is what is right. Find the peace I feel as I write this, drinking coffee with no clothes on.

Jennifer Underwood

About the Author

Jennifer Underwood

Jennifer is a coach, a counselor, and an entrepreneur, who lives in Seattle with her daughter. To find out more, check out the About Me page.

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