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Honey – Black Rock City USA

When I was little I was aware of beauty, and my body and my face. I was aware of my outer beauty and that it was considered important. I was aware of Jane Fonda’s body in her aerobic videos, and in awe of what a woman’s body “should” look like.

I don’t know what initially sparked my insecurities, but I remember by age 4 or 5 I thought I wasn’t thin or beautiful enough. I remember trying to be thin, not aware of the harm I was causing my heart.

Years passed and my obsessions about my beauty would come and go. People would say I was pretty, but I never really believed it.

I took gymnastics, as a child, ages 7-12, and I continued to compare my body to the other girls. Their thighs didn’t touch, their stomachs were flat. My mother dieted a lot. I saw a lot of women doing weight watchers and “trying to lose weight.” I took to this pattern myself.

I ran cross-country and that made me feel strong and like a deer. I started ballet at a pre-professional dance school at age 11. I began to follow my dream to be a ballet dancer. Many of the girls had eating disorders and were very thin. I thought I should look like that. I counted my food, and I poked, prodded, and pounded my body to be a beautiful ballerina. I was never good enough.

In college, I turned to creative and healing practices; modern dance, experimental theater, music and yoga. Through time and awareness with these practices, I began to experience deep healing. I started to feel more self-care and self love, more connected to spirit, rather than what was a reflection in a mirror. I still deal with daily judgments. I am pursuing music as my career, and this nourishes my soul.

I believe in my spirit and have experienced moments, days, and weeks where I can start to see my body free from years of judgement. We all know our society places women in a place of thinness and modes of insanely impossible archetypes. This ideal in the commercial world represents the feminine. It still exists… yes there are movements, it is getting better, but the vast majority of the archetypes still in the magazines are beauty and thinness. Why is this cycle of pain, abuse, and judgment toward a women’s body still embedded inside of us? How do we as women collectively break this cycle together?

I am starting to heal and see my body as an emerald vessel, in rose quartz, all love and light. To expose my deeply felt emotions with the temple and the sunrise will always be a shimmering light of healing in my body. 

I stood at the temple today and released 20 or more years of body judgement and shame. I am beautiful, I felt beautiful. I felt supported and healed in this ball of open light. To have my sister there, and to share my feelings, has initiated a great letting go and an awareness of love. I am loved and supported. However, I still have loving work to do every day. I want to continue this loving practice in my body, to allow myself to feel peace inside of my body. 

My prayer is that this experience will help me in my healing, so that I may love my body as it is. It doesn’t matter how big or small I am; I will always be this love. I will always be a vessel of light.

My prayer is that other women can join on this path toward re-shaping our culture’s expectations of the feminine body. I would love to one day fully embody and embrace my heart, my magnetic body as something not of just skin and flesh and bone, but of pure spirit, pure bliss, pure gratitude, acceptance and love.

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Mudita – Black Rock City USA

Audacity and the desire to ask for permission to BE, still.

For so long, I tried to receive the kind of attention on my body that would make me feel safe. I looked to you, brothers and sisters, to affirm that I was okay.

Except for today.

Today audacity came before trying to look nice, be nice, and be accepted, as my naked body tore through the lines of observers who were not there to see me. In fact, I became an obstruction, a block, in the line of sight of a body of work burning down. I received a booo as I rose to stand against the grain, to defy an expectation that the best way to be is within the confines of following the rules, like the rule that “thinner is better,” or a size zero is better than a size six.

I rose in a cultural landscape that celebrates radical self-expression, which emboldened me. Still, I did not hear applause as I rose; but I cheered inside my mind. To be inside this skin is to be bold enough to be witnessed and to take action in the name of growth, by my choosing, against the grain of externalized self-hatred.

My sister cheered me on, watching, and as protestors to my desire to stand in front began to complain, she got up close and said “Don’t worry, this is for a really good cause.” My sister, whom I used to use as the standard to which I would most harshly compare myself. She was there, and later when I saw her tears I realized how impactful it is to be transforming so boldly in front of someone who knew so much of my struggles about body image.

With the competitive mind I cultivated as a defense mechanism with my sister, at Burning Man I also experienced the pangs of desire of having other people’s bodies. “Radical self-expression” became another kind of prison in my initial interpretation. I thought I needed to look sexy or cool, using the costumes employed in this landscape to experience acceptance in expression.

I can’t seem to escape the proclivity to compare, but I can curb the act of comparison by the act of love and the refusal to reflect on our unspoken agreements to keep our structures of defensiveness or towers of conformity up.

I stand for embodiment, to embrace my sisters and brothers even in disapproving eyes, and even when I shed my judgements on others.

Let’s burn our judgements down and stand in the truth of radical self-expression.

 

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EJ – Black Rock City USA

I discovered nudism when I was in college. There is a nude beach near Cape Canaveral, FL, where I could enjoy nature and study.

 

Later in life, I learned of nudist resorts in my area. I am still amazed at the freedom and unity that nudists experience.

 

Burning Man is nudist-friendly, which is certainly a bonus. The dust, like nudity, is a great equalizer.

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Zen Master This – Black Rock City USA

Growing up in New Jersey in the 1970’s as a skinny, unathletic kid, I didn’t have much of a connection with my body. I was usually fully covered, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long-legged pants.

I discovered backwoods hiking and cross-country biking in college and began to get a sense that there was a range of physical activities that complemented my intellectual and artistic interests.

Very nervously I tried skinny dipping and naturism a few times, and I enjoyed it. I gradually became a committed naturist and life model, and I’m happy to say I am now comfortable in my own skin.

Being part of the Embody Project is a natural extension of my naturist and life modeling interests.

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Fleur Inanna – Italy

The mystery builds with every magical breath that is given, the natural blossoming beyond the “I” is most infinitely bound. My path is like water, a way of nature the determines the feminine flow of awakening within the infinite. To fully become and inhabit the unending expression of nature, appearing over and over out of the unchanging in a temporary expression of beauty, love and play.

Embodiment is not about someone or something being in the body, it is to become entirely embedded within existence, within everything with no divides, inclusive of our physical form but not exclusive. Inclusive of all parts, inner and outer, upper and lower, front and back, inclusive of all other.

When all sense of me becomes embedded within everything I become the material fabric of my very nature and all that is appearing within reality in the moment through me. In this there is a soft natural flow of union propagating outwards from the center of everything, within me, radiating out and folding back on itself.

When the experiencer and the perceiver no longer exist apart, when inner and outer are one, when all halves unite and the womb is empty full; white magic appears within all things, this belongs to the mystery and is where miracles happen.

To move from this, as the naturally appearing expression of union, in total ease and softness of being, complete receptivity of nature rising from within, driven and harnessed, is pure ecstasy. It is here I disappear so entirely into the magical appearance of things, I am so fully gone whilst simultaneously being so fully here.

It is like becoming an infinite weave of union between and within all things; to recognise the origin within me, that pulls in the thunder and rain and strikes my laugh with lightning, all things become cohesive, responsive and moved by such inner marriage including me. The light, the rocks, the water, my body, the camera all worked together to propagate nature’s expression within the moment, the happening effortlessly informing itself in creation of itself, the center of which is arising within me, within all things. This feels like deep ease and totality of flow which inhabits everything, it is like dreaming the dream from deep sleep and rest.

I recognise that sharing this union compels me according to divine proportion; this, my basic offering that is not exclusive to me, but most obviously inherent to me in a way it may not be to someone else; every individuated whole serves a role within nature, we complete each other by design; this is mine. I have a deep sensitivity for beauty within divine proportion and perfection of all things and love, so often the nature of my sharing is intimate with these qualities. I was once called a sensual scientist, I like this name. Such sharing is entirely dependent on my capacity for union in any given moment and the creative capacity belongs entirely to all things, to consciousness itself. I cannot make it happen, I cannot do anything; in fact it is only when all that I am is gone, can what is most true to my nature appear within all things through my body.

This body, this waterfall, this person, these rocks are recognisable to be one but not the same; each part unified within itself and with other. Natural expression appears within me, within you, we inform and change one another in a dance of individuated wholes. The greater the impeccability of union, the greater the creative play between things. So intimately absorbed we become, the impeccability of our union increases its reach so naturally.

Catawba waterfalls, this magical place I deeply love. You opened your medicine to me and mine poured into you. I feel blessed to participate with you in this intimate way. To become you so entirely and direct all that you are in creative dance through the flow of body. In the days leading to this moment you appeared within me over and over, propagating union within the spirit of the water, rocks and elders who guard the sacred river. Yesterday as l lay in the water, all sense of me slipped through a doorway within my own being in the center of my body through the core of my heart, disappearing entirely into, back and within the undivided whole that was my body, my nature, this waterfall, the shaman who remembers, all became one, contained, cohesive, magical appearance within the inner most sanctuary of being. The enhanced beauty and love that our creative play has inspired, in obvious service to the whole radiates me. You are not a thing, nor I, and yet I truly bow to the spirit of uniqueness that you cascade.

Erica, beloved infinite companion. I see you and how you disappeared so entirely into the play, directing my body through nature to fall and twist and turn, to light up, to celebrate, to feel, to cry, to radiate with goddess. I was deeply moved when you asked me to stand, I looked up to the sky filled with rising water, radiating as the majestic sovereignty of land/body ~ creation beyond “I”. I felt you within me, the shared sentiments of all beings who remember the way of infinite water within “the deepest wish for all beings to know they are love, to know this beauty exists within every shape and curve, line and limb, cell and tissue in their beautiful, undivided, differentiated bodies, and come to know this directly through the intimacy between and within all things.”

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Gord – USA

When I heard about the project and then saw some its excellent photography, I was intrigued by it.  After contacting Erica and discussing it with her, I wanted to participate.

For several years, I’ve been working as an artists’ model and pose nude fairly often, yet always indoors.  Plus, I’ve mostly been captured with a brush or pencil, not a camera.  I love the blending of nudity and nature, and that was a major incentive for doing this.  (And at 59 years old, I thought, “Why not?”)

The actual shoot wasn’t work at all, as modeling can often be.  Savoring the warmth of the midday sun, and a light breeze, on my skin made it all the more enjoyable.  It was fun and relaxing, and Erica and I–photographer and subject–meshed.  Afterwards, I realized how open I was.  Not so much as a model, but in what I expressed to Erica, and how candid I was in our interviews before and after the shoot.

I think that’s what I’ll take with me the most from this experience. Not what I revealed of myself, but about myself.  Shakespeare wrote “to thine own self be true” (as we all should), and I was–embodied.

 

 

 

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David – USA

[A short excerpt of a draft play titled “The Model” adapted to fit my experience with Erica and the Embody Project]

The stage is fully lit. Four artists (Erica, Skip, Tebbe, and Mark) with art pads are standing behind easels. Center stage a low rectangular platform is lit by a solitary directional lamp. Seated on the edge of the platform is a single model, David, in a blue robe exchanging pleasantries with the artists. He asks if everyone is ready to begin. They all nod and David rises and stands on the small stage. He casually kicks off his flip flops and comfortably slips out of his robe, dropping it to the side. David begins a series of short one minute gestures effortlessly moving from the first to the next, ticking off the seconds in his head, until ten poses have been completed. As agreed, he places a stool and sits for his first of three ten minute poses. As he remains still all the action and conversation takes place among the artists intently sketching. The lights grow dim on the model as the tranquility of the scene is broken by Mark.

Mark: “I’m very impressed. David is a great model”

Erica: “What do you mean? How do you define a great model?”

Mark: “Well, it’s a model that doesn’t shrink back when they’re nude, comfortable in their own skin. A model who shies away has to be constantly directed. That’s distracting. David seems very comfortable and more importantly confident in what he is doing. He holds great poses and provides a wonderful sense of energy in his stillness.

Erica: “Yes, I can see that. He does appear to be very good. (To Skip) How important is it to draw all different shapes and sizes?

Skip: We as artists appreciate using different types. (Chuckles) We can’t always use a Christie Brinkley. The world is made up of all kinds.

Tebbe: (With a sly grin) Yeah, but having her up there for one night wouldn’t be a bad thing. But seriously, I love using all types in my work. It makes for very interesting art.

Lights go down on the artists and up on David as he puts on his robe and addresses the audience with his monologue.

David: I can pose all day and never think twice about being nude. Go figure. I have saggy breasts, a gut (no six pack, more like a keg). My butt is huge. I’ve got cellulite, blemishes, a prominent mole on my nose, and crooked teeth. But just look at them (points to the artists drawing). I’m sure their perceptions are much different than mine. You heard Mark. I imagine they see circles, triangles, squares, lines, and contrasts, even negative space. I know they appreciate my modeling. But from my perspective there’s definitely no “negative space” in this package.

But the artists that see those qualities pass no judgement other than my abilities to hold a pose and to project energy in a static stance. It’s a comforting feeling to be viewed as an aesthetic object of beauty. Much different than the feeling I get when I’m at the beach. My level of comfort greatly wanes. Are people staring? Are they laughing? If truth be told probably not many are truly looking my way – completely opposite the intense focus I get in the studio. But should I really care? I think it’s sad that I can’t view myself in the same way the artist does. How liberating would that be?

But I judge myself. Passing a mirror out of the shower I view myself as not “The Model” on the platform but as David, with love handles, uneven eyes, double chin and jowls. Why can’t I see myself as the artist does – someone who is appreciated for what he gives and provides – inspiration and excellence? Isn’t that who I really am?

The lights go up once again on the artists as David steps up on the platform, slips off his robe as before, and positions himself for the next pose.

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Dennis – USA

I AM A MIRACLE!

“If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”—Unknown

I was broken.  All my life I was bullied, held back, mocked and belittled to the brink of suicide, for a variety of reasons.

I saw my soulmate Lisa die seven years ago.  “Lili” (pronounced like lily) was my lover and best friend.  I have not had a significant other since, not even a date in years.   I became a mother to my five children and the tribulation exhausted me.  I let the wacky, funny Dennis get sickened to the brink of death from being overwhelmed.  Worse, others literally cheered when my dreams failed.

I would not wish the hell that has been my life on my enemies.  They are not worthy of the burden.

The burden is I am a miracle.  We all are.  The miracle is we are embodied to rescue others.

I started going to nude beaches and resorts a year after Lili died trying to find myself, confronting inadequacies I had (mainly being a “grower not a shower”).  I never prayed to God nude until I was at Haulover Beach (near Miami).  The sunrise was incredible, symbolic of His grace renewing every morning.  From there, I found that modeling for life drawing classes was great therapy and I helped others do the same.

Ironically, Lili loved to walk around nude all the time, I was the coward.  I regretted lacking courage to ask her to go on a naturist adventure.  Now we will not until we are both on the other side of eternity.  I asked for a waterfall shoot before I remembered I often dreamed of joining her in Heaven at a waterfall. Was Lili sending a message?  I know she longs for me to join her there.

The photo shoot was actually quite scary, with slippery rocks, loose soil, etc.  But it was all worth it.  I deliberately brought a few lilies for the shoot, to symbolize Lili will always be with me.  I was asked to pose for a few shots with water hitting on or behind my head.  I didn’t think about it at the time, but it is a perfect symbol of eternal love, wondrous cleansing love that will never end.

Modeling and going to nudist resorts, I start to see the real me, a peek from time to time, but then a crisis scares him away.

But I found me.  I was here all along…

Clothes divide us, label us.  Perceptions about “perfection” truly enslave us.  Imperfect and hypocritical bullies make us hide who we really are by telling us what we “ought to be.”

I am tired of hiding.  People I love need the real me.

Do not let my appearance fool you.  Eyes have been trained to lie for too long.  What does your spirit say?

I am a damn good friend and a damn good lover.  I am a damn good father and a damn good mother.  I am a minister, a writer, and a comedian.  I am sensitive and stubborn.   I am a diva and I am worth all the drama.  I am highly intelligent and can be greatly naive.  I am a hero to my children.  I am immortal and I am flawed.  But I have found my balance in confidence.

What a fool I was to curse God.  My deliverance was not an accomplishment I sought to achieve.  It was an epiphany that I am a miracle.

And there is no such thing as an ugly miracle!

Let them mock.  Let them be liars.  It is their coping mechanism, so let them be.  They are the real cowards anyway.

I know the truth.  I know I am sexy.  I know I am wonderful.  Real beauty comes from your spirit.

The wacky, funny Dennis is alive!  I will never die even when my body does.

This is the Dennis that Lisa was hoping for!  My precious Lili will rejoice when I am no longer lonely.  My tribulation is over, this miracle is on my next adventure…

And this miracle is going to help others kick the world’s ass with a smile on my face…let’s go!

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Zelle – USA

Who Will See Me? Who Will be Seen?

When I accepted the invitation to be photographed for the Embody Project it felt right and natural. Being naked is something that comes easily to me. I am not an exhibitionist; I am simply most comfortable when I am in my skin. I live many hours of my day and night without clothes on, unless of course when I am cold, and I reach for some socks. When I am naked, there is nothing to hide.

 

Strangely enough, being seen was a part of the Embody Project that I didn’t anticipate. It sounds funny to say that I didn’t expect to be exposing my form when I said yes to being photographed and interviewed for a project being published online. I’m an intelligent and aware person. Why did it not sink in until now that being in full view is a key aspect of the project? I had an abstract notion that my likeness and words would be digitally published and preserved, and on display for others to see when I said yes. I considered being seen in my nakedness by business colleagues or heaven forbid, by my mom, my siblings, or anyone from my quiet hometown.

 

When I participated in the interview and photoshoot all trepidation melted away. As I took off my clothes, I felt more in tune with my body than with my clothes on. I felt the natural essence of me as I exposed my skin to the air and to the relatively unknown person in front of me. I easily and quickly slipped into being fully myself, fully a human being. It extended the world where I feel fully at home.

 

Erica showed curiosity about who I am without needing me to be anything more than who I was. She wanted all of me to flourish, to be embodied and shared. To be fully seen by someone who I have only known a short time is a new experience for me.

 

Cultivating Curiosity

Fortunately I have lived with my wife, Keegan, who fully sees me and who has continued to uncover more of who I am for the last seventeen years. I am extremely grateful to be with the person I love, who totally embraces who I am.

 

Keegan calls herself a zelle-thropologist; she is an anthropologist of Zelle. Her on-going curiosity about me, even after all these years, makes be bubble up inside with joy. In Keegan wanting to know all facets of me, I am able to express me as me, with no filters. I give her that same gift.

 

In experiencing the other wanting to know more from a place of embracing, each of us feels free to share. And as more nuances and intricacies are revealed, the desire to discover more of the person grows. We engage like sculptors who don’t fully know what is hidden within a once jagged rock. We are consensually, gently exposing ourselves and each other, not in a raw or harsh way, but loving, curious and soft.

 

By discovering the beauty of form in motion, we are providing a release from a self-made fortress of seemingly impenetrable granite. We dance and reveal as we engage knowing and being known, participating in an unveiling of essence through the discovery of detail. We emerge, knowing each other fully embodied.

 

We cultivate what Keegan and I call Collaborative Awareness, where we see each other, and are seen, in an upward spiral of knowing and being known. It includes self awareness within each of us, but moves into co-created mindfulness and discovery between us. That’s what happens in relationship as we truly see the essence of ourselves and one another through the lens of curiosity rather than judgment.

 

Together, asking questions, deeply listening, we uncover more to love. The act of simultaneously seeing and being seen, fully embodied, is the deepest form of love I know.

 

Being a Fully Embodied Human

Living a fully embodied life is exhilarating, exciting, terrifying and tantalizing. I know the deep joys of being seen and known. Yet, why do I still want to shy away from sharing all of me with others, fully embodied, fully free? That word shy is interesting. I was often described as shy or quiet as a child. I even tiptoed around my home so as not to be noticed. I prided myself in my skills of stealth and my ability to blend in. “Oh, he’s such nice boy,” people would say. That was all the attention I was interested in, because I believed that by hiding me, I could keep the full human being covered, cloaked and safe. Unknowingly, I continued my tiptoeing ways into adulthood. That is, until Keegan asked me, “Why are you tiptoeing? I was incredulous. There was no reason to tiptoe, and I said as much. “Do I really do that?”

 

I soon discovered that subconsciously I still believed I had a reason to tiptoe and that Keegan was right. I fled to my tiptoes if I felt bad about myself and wanted to hide, I would walk on my tiptoes so as to not to be noticed. Thankfully, I have someone who is curious about me and how I show up in the world. I now have someone who was not only curious about me, but wanted the full primal, emotional, strong, dazzling, silly and unconventional me to be present with her, always. Because she sees me, and continues to see all of me, I almost never tiptoe anymore.

 

Having experienced the Embody Project, I have realized that I want to grow the places where others see me as the full human being that I am.

 

So I am conducting an experiment.

 

I want to expand and share the inner me, to the magnitude with which I shared the outer me during the photoshoot, with everyone I meet. The next five people I see I will think of how it feels to be deeply at home in my nakedness. I will remember how my skin feels when I am naked and fully embodied, and I will practice being one with the person who is right in front of me. After each encounter, I will reflect on what I felt, how it went, and what I’m feeling. After the first five, I will decide whether I want to try sharing the whole of who I am with another five people. I believe I will, but that’s the nature of an experiment. It’s something to try and reflect, and try again, to see what feels right and full to me.

 

I am here in this human body, on this planet, at this time, with these people, and in these situations to love and be loved. What better way to love and be loved than to be a fully embodied, seeing and seen human being? Would you like to be seen too?

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Rex – USA

Liminal Space

 

I live in between
(  )
between here and there
between now  and then
between me and you
between exposed and covered

I live in between
(  )
in the liminal space where there is dying and birthing…. where the water becomes ice and ice, water…. where the wound hurts and  heals….

I live in between
(  )
spaces of calm and agitation
spaces of power and weakness
spaces of presence and scatter
spaces of growth and decay
spaces of open and closed
spaces of vulnerability  and protected

I live in between
(  )
for I know that the greater my liminality
……. the greater my potential.
for I sense that the liminal space
…….. is an infinite space.
for I feel my psyche’s liminality
……..in dim awareness of the unexplored.

Liminal <adjective> 1.) of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a  process.  2.)
occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

 

The topic of liminality speaks loudly in my  Embody Project process.  Yet, it did not arise amongst initial thoughts of the journey of my own embodiment.  It arose during the course of my interview on the land that was soon to be the site for my photo shoot.   Your stories of embodiment, my stories of embodiment – these are so rich and important.   And when I found myself pondering common attributes of my own stories…. this topic arose – the role and significance of liminal experience.

I chose my Embody Project site pre-meditatively for its open spaces and vistas that remind me of the vastness of both our inner and outer universes.   Open space has its own deep psychic meaning for me and provided inner connection and resourcing for the shoot.   Alas, synchronicity was at work as always!  My awareness landed initially upon the physical boundary before my eyes and the sense that I was standing in a space of transition.  On one side of the waters was a modern mecca of civilization (San Francisco).  Rotate around 180 degrees and the scene changes primarily to one of nature – the hills and coastline of Marin County.  My being felt a sense that boundaries (both physical and psychic) were being cradled in the vast open space of that site.

Eye contact between Erica and I frequently brought me to awareness of the major psychic component in that cradle.  Sometimes, we sat silent in mutual spaces of presence and admiration.  At other times… I observed the inner dance of my psyche in and around polarities tied to the meanings my mind and soul were making of the shoot, of the Embody Project, and of the woman sitting beside me.  Many of those polarities inspired the poem above.  A dance at the edges of vulnerability….. a dance with relaxing versus gripping….  a dance inside the growing pains of a new sense of trust….  a dance with the unknowns and vagaries of human connection….  a dance with authenticity and nakedness.

And Breath…..  the transition begins…   the clothes drop away…..  my skin feels the space….. images captured on camera’s retina….  an awaiting world in need of deep authentic stories…. The dance of the liminal is in full swing.