Story #27: Naked Counseling. Yes, it’s a thing.
Here is the third post on weight and body image. This story builds on my experience with Interchange Counseling Institute, which I wrote about recently. After several months of counseling and training, you get the amazing opportunity to participate in a Naked Counseling evening.
Since it is completely optional, it is an additional two to three hours after a long day of coaching. At the time, I had never heard of such a thing. Yet I wasn’t turned off by it in the slightest. Quite the opposite, I was intrigued. My interest was piqued and despite being nervous, I was committed to the experience from the beginning.
Here is something else that I could write an entirely separate story about: my family is German and the culture around bodies is very different there. This has shown up in numerous ways throughout my life that have been important in shaping who I am today. However, it hasn’t just been a naked party with daisies and butterflies and shit. My experience in America is that nudity is mostly offensive and not OK. The contrast and the conflict of these two worlds coming together is perhaps another post to be written.
My main point: I was raised in a household that is body-positive and that was neutral and comfortable with nudity. Nudity was not sexualized or demonized. It’s how you were born and it’s how everyone is all the time under their clothes (gasp!) We’ve got the same parts and the more you make it a mystery or damning, the more confused people get. For some cultural history, you can read about the Freikörperkultur (Free Body Culture) in Germany and how it has influenced the country.
Also, this is super random, but the first thing you get when you google Freikörperkultur is this dance video. You’re Welcome.
According to this blog post from 2011, the FKK has been seeing a decline in nudity and its acceptability… to me, this is an example of the conservatism currently sweeping across the world. Personally, I think we would all be better off doing some naked counseling and chilling the hell out.
OK, back to the story. Once our giant conference room had all the windows draped and taped over, we were told how the evening would go down. We would be divided into groups of approximately 8 people. As a group, we would come up with a ritual and process of undressing. This process would be performed in the center of all the other groups (large circle of everyone, one group in the middle performing). The only requirement is that ALL clothes would have to be in the middle of your mini group circle at the end of your ritual. Then the group collects their clothes and returns to the larger circle. Then the next group goes.
Everyone ends up naked standing in a giant circle.
This is a beautiful thing. We then take a full 30 seconds to laugh, squirm, and make all the ridiculous noises and movements to discard nervous energy and awkwardness. Next we get a full 2 minutes of silence to stand around and stare at each other. And while you may be cringing at the thought of this, it might be in my top 10 most amazing experiences (that just came to me, but it feels accurate.) It’s a peaceful and powerful experience to stand safely in a room, naked with others, who are gathered to increase their love and acceptance of each other and themselves.
After the ceremony is over, you split into your groups and go to your corner of the room to do smaller sessions. At this point, people can volunteer or request sessions to be counseled on body image and acceptance. At this point, I became an observer, as there were lots of people interested in getting coached. However, I loved the experience. I have to say that it makes me genuinely happy knowing that a group of this size can come together, get naked, and then do a very focused activity. If everyone is naked, it’s not even a thing anymore. Eventually, it falls away. You are simply present.
I know and understand, and now have witnessed! – how uncomfortable this is for other people. I was giddy with excitement to put it plainly. Again, if everyones doing it, then you all share the experience and it doesn’t have to carry the weight of judgement and sex. However, it clearly is not for everyone. This is something that I love about San Francisco. This is an opportunity that exists here and there are people in the world who do this work if you feel called to transform your perceptions of your body and others. And then there’s always Burning Man.
Yours in nakedness and acceptance, XO ❤ LB