Daniel – USA

One day while walking, a gust of winter wind chilled my human bones. Pulling my coat up around my shoulders, I shuddered. Instantly, my fleshy body disintegrated and scattered to the wind. Ten thousand crisped leaves appeared in its place. My breath now frozen into sparkling mist, it was also taken up by the invisible currents of air. I was all dry leaves and molecular debris, swirling and rolling along the frosty ground, up trunks of great trees and past dry grass nests of twig and string.

Birds welcomed me with spinning song as I drifted out over wild fields. I floated amidst treetops, over rocky cliffs, down cold rapids into streams and rushing rivers below. The elements that once gave form to my body spread out in all directions. Then the deep snow came. Biting ice and thaw and spring. Seasons became small moments. For decades I moved about with no intent. Particulate matter taken by whatever moved me. Creatures looking for food carried me in their fur.  I traveled by talon. I traveled by night. I washed down into small crevices decomposing into dirt. I broke down wherever I was. Hundreds of years passed as I found my way deeper into the earth wet with worms. It was here I learned about real pressure. Real pressure indeed. Tons of earth pressed on me from all sides. The slow heaviness forced a certain silence on me. With this came the awareness that I was everywhere. Physical motion became a dream, a familiar memory. Yet instantaneous travel was very real. It was here where I learned to flash in and out of existence, to move without motion, to see with no eyes. The darkness was my vehicle into the void, the outer realms and inner realms alike.

But nothing lasts.

I was exploring a distant star when I felt it and knew to return. I was melting. What a feeling! What power! Glowing with billions of other small suns, I scorched my way through miles of metal and mineraloids, moving massive mountains, giving birth to myself. Vibration. Chaos. Expanding, I burned the surrounding lithosphere to black glass. I breathed steam and spit lava into the ashen sky. With hands of hot rock, I crawled out of the earth and oozed life onto the planet through perfect petrification. I seared my way into the surrounding valleys, and eventually slowed.

Following the violence, I found a calm state of restful recovery and warm recrystallization. Wind cooled my surface. Life grew out of my cracks.

Here I am.


Jenna – USA

Today, I celebrate my sexuality as a dynamic, daring and expressive force! I am cultivating a practice of coming back into the present moment to inquire, “What is truly alive in my body, where do I feel it and what does it feel like?” Today I am on the mountain, looking out at the landscape I have traversed to arrive at this breathtaking, ecstatic moment of clarity.

I speak from the earth. I am the foundation, the pelvic floor that holds everything up. My words come from the soil, the underside universe of roots and invisible life. And I need witness. I am your heart and your bones and your sex. Don’t you feel me? I am blood spiraling in your veins. I am red. I go down and down and down. I speak to your deep places that flow with the changing moon and tides.

Sexuality and embodiment are integral parts of being human! In my embodied understanding of sexuality, I see the full range of my body’s monthly changes, from the bleeding time to ovulation back to bleeding time. All life stages from birth to crone hood need to be honored.

I am dark. I birth. I die. I give death. I am born. I take all the forms that you see on this planet, I am spirit turned into matter, the Mother. You need to feed me, otherwise I will become ravenous. I will become terrifying. Sit with me in the bleeding times and feed my life with the one you are not growing. Tell every young woman that her blood is holy, that her blood is a gift. 

A radically sex-positive culture is my vision, wherein both feminine and masculine expressions of sexuality are honored and where young people are educated about the power of their sexual life force.

I am the sparks that created you, the first light of breath that breathed and sparked insistence into what was just a disembodied thought at first. The fires of passion and ecstatic union are mine, and the deep, reverberating pulse of my sexuality ignites the world into being. I am a living temple, a sacred place, and everything contained in me is my sexual expression.

Embodiment is not always a celebration. I survived what I have learned to be the voice of the earth coming through my body to tell the story of the abuse, lack of nourishment, violence, life, and beauty; killing and in total denial of the feminine through how we as a modern culture inhabit her. Eating disorders are a modern dis-ease, and the gift has been learning that my body truly is the earth, and the earth speaks through me. It is time to listen.

I am fiercely devoted to Life. I am Life. Death eats me and digested I resprout. Death and I are the same creature. I am made of the bodies of all of your human and not-human ancestors, and one day I will be made of you. One day, I will embrace you and bring you back into the underside universe of roots and invisible life.


Scott – USA

The day of my photo shoot with Erica was going to be a cold one. Though I really wanted to do it out in nature, I seriously debated moving it indoors for the sole purpose of avoiding the cold air’s shrinking effects on certain body parts. As much as I truly resent the fact that it was even of the slightest concern, I have to face it and accept that the issue of penis size is for me, as it is for many men, a source of insecurity.

But in the end, I knew that I had to go through with it. I would deal with the cold air on my bare skin, and face the resultant diminishment of my most sensitive of extremities. After all, isn’t the point of the Embody Project to address body issues and to foster acceptance of the human body in its myriad shapes and sizes? What, then, could be more appropriate than to choose a setting that would force me to confront one of my own issues during the photo shoot itself? As I see it, the Embody Project has the potential to be the antidote to Mass Media’s all-pervasive message that your body must meet very idealized and narrow criteria in order to be acceptable. This project instead sends the message that the human animal has a wide range of appearances and that every single one of them is not only acceptable, but also beautiful. If it has the power to transform and heal the body issues of even a few of its viewers, to let them take comfort in seeing that people in fact don’t all fit this manufactured and limiting ideal of what it means to be beautiful, or sexy, or masculine or feminine, then I knew that I simply had to be a part of this wonderful, potential solution to a widespread, emotionally damaging societal problem.

The main reason I was so insistent upon having my photo shoot be in nature is that, to me, nudism is all about getting back to our own true nature. This is how we are supposed to be. If you see a chimpanzee wearing a shirt and pants, the absurdity of it makes you laugh. Why should it be any different for us? I’ve long felt that to wear clothes, except when necessary, (say, for example, while walking through the woods on a particularly cold day *cough*) is just as absurd as a chimp in a suit and tie. Nudism is the acceptance of ourselves as a part of nature, rather than thinking of ourselves as being separate from it or, worse still, at war with it and needing to conquer and tame it. So the decision to be photographed outdoors was very important and meaningful to me.

It was only natural.


SaNdRa* – USA

When I appreciate beauty in whatever it is: in the landscape, in people, in music, in our bodies, I feel like we are opening up in a higher level within ourselves and with the oneness we share with the rest of the people in the world.

As human beings in this physical world, we receive a body, a vessel to our soul. Like it or hate it, it’s the only sure thing we have for the rest of our life.

If humans would not wear clothes or any accessories we would be very similar. Underneath our skin we are all the same: flesh, blood, muscles, organs, water, systems, etc. Interconnectedness that resembles the micro and macro cosmos with all that is in our planet and our universe.

It has amazed me since very early age in my life how our human bodies function without us making any effort, it is the miracle of life. But at the same time we are powerful beings who can transform and heal our whole bodies with our intentions and thoughts or if we chose the opposite we can make ourselves sick.

Honoring my body with the right nourishment at all levels bring me in touch with my spirit. Being in nature as much as possible and sun-gazing have been lovely ways to ground myself, release the tensions of the world, learn from the stillness of our mother earth, reconnect with my higher self and experience self-love and self-acceptance.

That’s the reason why when I was invited to be photographed for this project in the first place what came to my mind was to do it in nature, honoring the sun. The wisdom of our ancient ancestors who were so connected with the sky inspired me. I knew that mother Gaia would allow me to let go of my shyness if I would feel it at any moment, and it was just like that. I was a bit nervous but Erica offered to be naked with me during our shoot. My apprehensions were gone immediately. We shared the moment as joyful goddesses playing freely without any boundaries. The beauty connected and inspired us.

Holding a mandala with a pre-Colombian symbol of the sun above my head I honor the sun, mother earth, the present moment, and myself. The sun activates our codes, remind us that we are light beings. Without the sun we could not have life on our planet.

This amazing experience grounded me, liberated me, released me from any thoughts I had ever had about my body or the public who would ever see me in this media. The same media that I bought into many times in my life; maybe since I was a little child, when I wanted to be like the girls in the magazines… with long blond hair. I have gone far since those times. I have been on a journey of self-acceptance and finding my own truth in my adulthood. A quest that has lead me to understand that we are all the same, no matter race, religion, social status, etc.

As Pierre de Chardin said: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

… And all of this too shall pass.


Michael – USA

I come from small-city Kentucky, a place on the Ohio River, spreading up into the surrounding hills and forests. I was raised on camping trips and too many books. It leaves its impact. I’ve always been quiet, prone more to thought, first, than to hasty action. I study philosophy, and that’s a big part of my life. That’s the short and quick of my history.

I did this for me. It gives me the opportunity to view myself in ways that I otherwise cannot. We are all embodied, facing out. We cannot go outside of ourselves and look back at how we move in the world, but we may gain some other perspective from our representations through art. Seeing myself in this way, I think, could tell me a great deal about who I am. A whole realm of interactions is captured in a single picture of my body in media res. My body’s attitudes and positions are expressed in relation to the goings-on in my environment. A picture of me naked, without all my everyday trappings and doing something I love, makes more explicit to me the unconscious ways in which I move and act. It’s the sort of self-knowledge that helps challenge my own subjective experience.

But the project also presented another opportunity. I wanted, as part of the shoot, to try to articulate some of the things I have been thinking about. That’s what I’m doing, there, in front of the whiteboard. The body is often absent in my discipline. When it appears, it tends to be a brute fact or a mere means to Mind’s ends. I don’t agree with this. I am my body, the emergent sum of all the microbes and neurons and bone and blood and flesh. I am my heart, my hands, my feet, my brain, my hair, etc. Moreover, there are always bodies; there is never just one. The dependencies of our own bodies on others are vast and intricate, a product of millennia of cell lineage, mutations, reproduction. You cannot and I cannot be conceived outside of the environments which generate and nourish us

If there is beauty and meaning and truth, why is it that we could not find it there, in the grit of things? Biologically, all bodies are different. I said this during the shoot, and both Bri and Erica laughed at the obviousness. But this fact begs a question: why are different forms of bodies not considered beautiful? The answer is articulated in others of these essays. In short, “beauty” in our culture is a construction of societal norms, themselves dependent upon a proliferation of idealized images in mass media. But the construction is not determinate of what you or I will think. What we may find beautiful might deviate from the unattainable, airbrushed ideals seen on screens and billboards. Who interests us, arouses us, inspires us, may constitute a challenge to the monolithic ideals of masculine and feminine.

By and large, I am happy with my body. Some find it beautiful. There are still times when I feel inadequate, that I, quite literally, do not measure up to what is expected from a man. It comes and goes, and I feel this despite my own experience. However much we challenge, the images are still there in our memory. The relation between culture and biology has been stressed by a prevailing ideology viewing the organisms and environments of the world as mere compositions of discrete parts, to be recombined for the furthering of (certain) humans’ interests. We think less and less about where we came from, what we rely on, and in the pursuit of affluence, we destroy both the world and the beauty in it. Environmental troubles and body troubles, I think, are very much interconnected symptoms of shared causes

I live in Memphis, but I miss the hills. Every time I drive back home, or to Asheville, I get excited when the road curves. It rises and dips, flows with the curves of the mountains. The road is in some way different every time. Whether it’s the time I am driving, or the colors of the trees, the blooms on the flowers. It’s unpredictable, and invariably, beautiful.


Sean – USA

As I was being photographed I felt at ease.  In considering you reading this and looking at my photo, I still feel at ease.  Is that strange to you?  Am I only saying that because I love my body?  What does it mean to love my body?  Oh, ok, I’m still insecure.  I don’t want to be judged, even by strangers.

This Project is still working its way through me.  It’s challenging what I call body awareness, and helping me question what I think I am doing in my professional practice.

As I was growing up, around say 12, when I began to shift hormonally and I began to become aware of my body, just simply aware that it was different than other people’s, I immediately began to judge myself. To me the learning has been that I have a unique body and that it houses my unique psyche (Soul).

My body has been a source of pleasure, pain, a sense of ability and also a sense of limitation.  My body has been with me my whole life, in that time it has changed, grown, aged, strengthened, weakened, toxified and detoxified, and gotten strong again.  I have learned to dance, to play musical instruments, to write, to build, to make love, to walk, to run, to sing, and to experience the effects of my biochemistry through so many chemical experiments.

I cannot separate my journey of body-awareness from my journey of self-awareness.  And this keeps me grounded, in my healing practice, in physical work rather than energetic. Through focusing on the physical experience I have helped guide people deeper into their own journeys of the psyche.  What is so fascinating about being in a body to begin with is that we cannot separate physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and therefore all our relationships from each other.  They all work together to create a sense of ourselves in the world that is ever changing and ever evolving in a nonlinear and organic way.

When I first went to Harrimon Lake in VT at 22, I saw real naked people of all ages in one place for the first time in this life.  Since then I’ve been skinny-dipping on a few rivers, and I have worked on a few hundred bodies.  So, I have a greater sense than many people about what people really look like as a species.  But initially I was awestruck that I had no reason to feel insecure about my body.  That mostly people just look like people, weird and beautiful simultaneously.  That there was no one perfect body type, and that I looked pretty good compared to a lot of the older people I saw left me feeling so relieved that it felt like an awakening.  Instead it was simply putting down the weight of worrying that I might ‘look weird’ in some way, or that I might be undeserving in some way due to how I look.  This wasn’t an awakening, it was a healing of something that hadn’t been clear to me, and an insecurity that I was carrying, prior to hanging out on that shore.  I loved it.

Why is it that we are so shut down from our bodies? When did this start? Who upholds this lack of education? How is this directly tied to the personal healing journey?

I have been on a personal journey to live in my beauty.  To allow my beauty to be seen, and to be recognized as healthy in my beauty and because of my beauty.  I love my body, I love my voice, I love my mind, I love the pleasure my body brings me, and the humility in healing it.  The humility of coming into relationship with the earth has been fascinating, and that it goes hand in hand with the healing of dancing and making love is fascinating.

Mind and Earth. This is where we come from and where we shall return.  While we are individualized we are no less beautiful.  Our personal healing journey is that of all humanity.  I respect that my ongoing, ever evolving, relationship to my body is part of this journey

I love the opportunity be photographed naked.  I love that there is an outlet here to be seen as much more than sexual creatures when we are naked.  We are so much more dynamic.  And sexuality is so much more dynamic than our culture teaches us.  We just are our bodies for the time we are here.  We are so much more also, and until we get over our body issues and judgments we may never see the grander beauty that we encompass.


Yves – USA

My physical issues are real.

All I have to do is point them out; they cannot be denied. I do not believe other people do not see them. What I believe is that where I see imperfections, defects, ugliness and deformities others can see uniqueness, exotic looks, charm or maybe even beauty.

That last one is still hard for me to see but I also know it is how I need to see myself in order to truly be myself

Being attracted to a creative and artistic life, I discovered music and songwriting at an early age and set to make a life for myself in the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, that choice only added to my fear of rejection when I realized the importance of an entertainer’s image.

The constant reminders through television, magazines and all forms of media of what is considered beautiful and what is not in our society often managed to shatter my confidence and can sometimes still do so.

I know many people go through similar struggles and their battle often continues for the best part of their lives. It is a search for acceptance, inner balance, growth and ultimately freedom to be oneself, completely and without reservation. To feel we are worth being.

To take part in the Embody Project was a revealing experience and a great way for me to get one step closer to finding that inner-peace about my physical appearance. Some may find it inappropriate or even taboo to be photographed naked, maybe because our society tells them it is, or maybe because their religion says so or their parents or loved ones own beliefs have a great influence on theirs.

For me, I believe staying in hiding and unhappy about my physical body is not the way to be. Finding the true me must include accepting myself for who I am and how I look. It is being willing to go out in the world without feeling inadequate, to show myself for who I am and be confident about it, to get up in the morning feeling good about myself. It is to not let society, people or even my own fears force me to hide behind closed doors.

In my early adult life, I sported a goatee for many years before I found the courage to shave it. Now I let it grow when I feel like it.  The smallest steps are as important as the big ones. I have many more steps to climb but every single one is worth the effort.

I am 47 and still on that journey of self-discovery and I think it’s a wonderful place to be.


Reve – USA

I stand on the muddy bank
stark still, excited, apprehensive
gazing at the dark
fall-chilled, cold river.
Colorful leaves sail along the surface,
tumble along the bottom.

This is my desire
my enchantment.
This water. This fluid.
I am lured, enticed.
I long to submerge myself,
to dive below the surface,
to get under the water,
silent, subtle, sensuous.

I step in
the chill wrapping its grip
around my feet, ankles, calves.

As I slide my body
under the surface and swim upstream,
I feel my heart pumping hard,
sending warm blood,
my inner river,
outward to my extremities.

At the top of the shallow pool,
I turn and release effort,
surrendering to the current,
merging with the flow,
slipping downstream.

The familiar touch
of water on skin,
suspends me, embraces me.
As we flow together,
the river and I,
everything condenses
into this moment of extreme presence,
this moving feast of sensuality.

I turn at the end of the rocky pool
and swim upstream
to pass again
before the camera’s lens.

I am a naked man,
exposed, vulnerable.
My head aches from the cold,
my body numb, yet vibrant,
my mind crystal clear.

For a third time
I swim upstream
to let myself go,
for a final drift down
skimming the rocky river bed.

And then,
once again
I stand on the muddy bank.
This time
dripping and shivering,
smiling and laughing,
with my living, breathing
fluid body.


Erica – USA

We were getting ready to go out. My dad was in the bathroom down the hall and my mom was in the bedroom fresh from a shower. I was eight years old and sat on the bed telling her about my day as she began to dress herself. My parent’s shared laundry basket was in the corner of the room and my mom grabbed a pair of jeans hanging over the edge. Balancing, she stepped her left leg through and then her right. As she pulled the jeans up a struggle began just over her knees. She jumped up and down, twisting the top back and forth, almost falling over, but they wouldn’t budge past her thighs. The whole scene was sending me into a fit of giggles. That’s when we both realized she had grabbed my dad’s jeans by accident.

That sent me into full blown laughter. My dad yelled down the hall, “What’s so funny in there?” I could tell he was smiling. We both loved a good laugh. As I attempted to tell him, my mother begged me in a hushed voice “Please don’t Erica, please.” I didn’t understand. Why was she always so serious? “Dad, you gotta see this! Mom tried to put your jeans on!” My dad flew out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. “How’d that work out for you?” he said to my mom laughing. I turned to look at my mom who was now sitting on the bed taking the jeans off from around her ankles, her head hanging down, avoiding eye contact with either of us. I immediately stopped laughing. As he continued to tease her I realized that the humor we saw in this situation was coming from very different places.

Although they rarely talk about it, my parents both had difficult upbringings. Neither of them learned how to deal with emotion very well and healthy communication was almost nonexistent in our household as a result. They both played out patterns witnessed in their childhoods. My dad obsessed over trying to make things look picture perfect. My mother battled with depression and became more detached and unpredictable the harder he pushed for that perfection. One of the most obvious ways this dynamic played out was through my mother’s physical appearance, namely her weight.

It was hard to ignore my dad’s mockery of anyone that looked unattractive in his eyes. His fear of being judged by others made him more judgmental of everyone else, especially my mom. She already struggled with body image and the pressure to look like she was supposed to became overwhelming. I remember the Weight Watcher’s meetings in the basement of the Lutheran church, the freezer stocked with low-cal dinners, and endless weigh-ins on the scale at home. The upswings when she would lose a few pounds followed by the deep sadness when the weight came back. She battled with food. She battled with what she saw in the mirror. She battled with loving who she was. Without knowing it, I was also was learning to battle these things. My father saw all of this as weakness and a lack of will power – just get over it and fix it. I learned to see it this way too.

For a long time, I struggled with how I looked. I battled with loving who I was. I analyzed every part of my physical appearance. I was terrified of ever gaining weight because it would mean I was weak. It was exhausting to be so involved with how I looked. It demanded constant attention and weaved its way into every part of my life. It also distracted me from other issues that were harder to see and harder to control. A few years ago I recognized this and I realized that I was just perpetuating the story I had witnessed growing up. I needed to break the cycle.

It took time. It took looking deep inside and seeing that real beauty existed within. I had to get naked from the inside out before I was able to really see myself. I no longer look in the mirror and agonize over my jiggly butt or rogue body hairs. I no longer curse my genes for giving me fine hair or veiny legs. I am imperfect and I am beautiful.

These days I think more and more about the children I will have. I think about what I want to teach them. Not the things I will say to them, but the things they will learn by watching me. I realize that I cannot hide how I feel about myself or my body. If I feel shame I will teach shame. If I feel love I will teach love. The choice is mine.


Dana – USA

I was 13 when “heroin chic” mainlined into popular culture.  This aesthetic exalted women for visible bones and total passivity.  My developing prefrontal cortex internalized that success as a female equaled emaciation and feigned cynicism, an anesthetized abstention from appetite.

But my body was young, curvaceous, and hungry.  I had ferocious adolescent emotions that ripped through me like hurricanes.  I couldn’t fabricate apathy, nor tolerate starvation.  I consumed my desires as dizzying relationships and late nights in the dorm with cheap pizza and Boone’s Farm.  But after I’d gorged on these sugary, intoxicating experiences, the tyrant of inadequacy hissed at me to reject them through self-loathing and self-induced vomiting.  I looked and felt nothing like Kate Moss.  I thought I had failed as a woman.

In my early 20s, heroin chic rehabbed and unrolled itself as the “yoga body”.  This was an upgraded version of Woman that admitted she needed to eat, but maintained ethereality through obsessive adherence to hot vinyasa flow.  While I floundered as emotionless anorectic, I dominated at vegan yoga girl.  I enthusiastically juiced and ate organic.  I didn’t just DO yoga, I taught it , vacationed with it, and sponged up my teachers’ cheerfully babbled, half-digested philosophy.

This satisfied for years.  I could make (and eat!) quinoa, stand on my head, and refer blithely to my “authentic self”.  But the more I listened to mid-20s girls from the midwest in $200 yoga outfits talk about how little they’d eaten, how much they’d practiced, and how few opinions they held, I realized that the apathetic drug addict of my adolescence hadn’t recovered after all.   She’d simply morphed into the docile yoga gazelle.

I was irate that nothing had actually changed.  What further provoked me was how thoroughly suckered I’d been by the hoax.  Just as no amount of willpower made starving a sustainable practice, no amount of platitudinous “shining my heart” could subdue the feral emotions and wild appetites that paced savagely just below my ujjayi breath.

It was CrossFit that let me embody that stalking lioness.

I was 31 when I found CrossFit, where women challenge the function of their bodies and size is meaningless.  Here, in a cinder block garage, women with thighs that would have been transparently judged in the mirrors of the yoga studio hefted hundreds of pounds and roared with effort.  They were solid, sinewy, and gorgeous.  The unapologetic three-dimensional vigor of their physiques was a revelation.

One workout later, I was hooked.  In three months, I was transformed.  CrossFit demanded a ravenous, robust embodiment.  There was no mental check-out while I squatted and jerked, no skipping meals if I wanted to perform.  Passivity was not acceptable.  I had to be fully present, deliberately focused, and I had to WANT it.  I cannonballed into myself.

So when I peeled off my leggings and shimmied out of my sports bra the night of my shoot, I wondered if the old demons of self-doubt would congregate, but they never did.  In the first moment of nakedness I felt astonishingly comfortable, and I bounced over to the Olympic bar to show off what my body was capable of doing.

With no place to hide, I had no secrets.  There was no posturing or veiling of perceived flaws, no false narrative of perfection.  There was nothing I could do but be exactly what I am.  So, I picked up the bar.  I snatched it overhead.  I dropped into a full overhead squat and pushed out my knees like my coaches taught me to do.  I drove my heels into the ground and stood, skimmed the bar down the front of my body until it kissed the floor.  I snatched it up again.

I used to think that my value was determined by how I looked. Now I know it is a function of what I do.  CrossFit is my training ground for life.  In that gym I prove to myself, with every lift, that I am fully authorized to establish my own self worth.  My feminine flexibility now sits where it belongs in a fluid duality opposite strength.  When I hurl that weight overhead, I am literally raising the bar of what it means to be a fully functional, emphatically embodied woman.