There’s nothing worse than incongruity. In Psychology, it’s called “cognitive dissonance.” It means saying or doing one thing, while feeling another. The reason we all experience this, and some of us acutely, is that the world is full of critics, and harsh judgement. So we shy away, or avoid, avoid, avoid-for as long as possible. All the while sacrificing our authentic selves, and our profound personal messages. Profound, because our souls are speaking, but we have not been listening. How much time is wasted fighting the true self?
I didn’t come out as a lesbian until I was 33 years old. By that time, I’d dated men, then women, then men again, in a confused effort to rid myself of this disease of the mind-and it was exactly that: dis-ease. I was ill at ease with myself as a straight person. I couldn’t possibly have what I really wanted, because it would make the religious people in my life uncomfortable. So I put off coming out for decades. But the first and most important coming out was to myself. I had to face the ugly truth: I was different, maybe really different, maybe even strange. I wasn’t like anyone in my family; there was no one like me. I didn’t have any friends who were gay, and growing up I didn’t known even a single gay person. When I did finally come out, my parents told me I was going to Hell for feeling my feelings, and distanced themselves from me. It felt like me against the world, a feeling I’ve come to know every well. When you feel like this-when you have been told that different is wrong, or strange-or worse, that it is a mortal sin, you go into hiding. You retreat from the truth, skulking about in the cave of your own mind, mentally living the life you so desperately want to live; fantasy becomes the air you breath. Until the fateful day when the air in the cave becomes rancid and you hate the smell of yourself, and the sunshine is just outside, beckoning. Finally you step out, legs trembling, into the light. Having been inside the cave for so long, saying the words for the first time is like speaking a foreign language. You shudder, looking down at your feet as you declare: “I am gay.” Once the cat’s out of the bag, life is never the same. You cannot take back an admission like that-it is life altering, forevermore. From that day on, life is split into halves-a before, and an after. It’s a wonder that anyone ever comes out at all; rejection for who you are can be so painful, and in some cases, deadly. Yet though it kills us, we can’t say no to who we were meant to be. We are driven to embrace our unique selves, despite our best role-playing; a self so beautiful it hurts.
Then there are those of us who are not just different, but truly, remarkably odd-and these souls usually come out more than once. For these conformity-busting individuals, revelations about themselves strike again and again like lightning throughout the span of their lives-and they are forced to face their oddness over and over again. I know-because I am one of these individuals. There are the freaks, and then there are the super-freaks, and I am of the latter persuasion. But regardless of what kind of freak you are, what we are all really being asked to face is not our darkness, but our own light. Like the story of beauty and the beast, the shadow self is the beast which continues to roar despite our very best efforts to conceal it. In truth, our shadow is not howling because it is a beast; it is howling only to get our attention. This shadow is your beauty-the radiant soul; the true self. As soon as you face it, it transforms-from a beastly monstrous idea of wrongdoing into resplendent individuality. Onlookers may not understand, they may not agree, they may even call it hideous and turn away, only because they themselves are still lurking in the shadows, being chased by their own beasts. You can be sure when there is persecution involved or judgmentalism, there are unheard beasts about. Even when you face your true self, it’s temping to listen to the nonsense talk; the programs running out of the mouths of people you once trusted, people you were told to respect. Programs which have been running their minds since childhood, and by familiarity seem decent and right… except, they aren’t the right fit for you. When you’ve outgrown the old clothes, there’s only one thing to do, and that’s to walk naked.
Have you ever been to a nude beach? You should before you die, really-you should. Not because it’s so great (I hated it), but that’s why you should do it at least once. It will show you how very uncomfortable, even painful it is to walk naked in front of other people. And even though there are all sorts of bodies there, it’s difficult not to notice that you’re too fat or too busty, too white or too puny, or too… eager:). What you notice right away are your own imperfections; they’re as glaring as your Wintery-white skin. And you can’t help but notice the other nudies, and how imperfect they are, too. Suddenly you’re swimming in a sea of imperfections, because there no clothes for anyone to hide behind. There is just you in your birthday suit, and the awkward thing is, strangers in their birthday suits are talking to you! I confess-I didn’t know where to look. If I looked away, I was being rude, but when I looked directly at them, my eyeballs kept wandering down to their… birthday suit. As hard as I tried, my eyes embarrassed me by darting to the forbidden zones for a sneak peek. What is wrong with my eyes?! But as the day wore on, I started loosening up a bit (okay, I admit it… one puff of a marijuana cigarette that Larry the beach manager offered to my girlfriend and I really helped a lot). So there we were, giggling raucously, stuck to our beach towels like someone had superglued us, taking in the view. We watched the nude volleyball game (that was a hoot), and by the time the afternoon sun was starting to retreat, Larry’s weed had worn off, and we were suddenly… naked again. We scurried fast to the car, our clothes wadded up like fig leafs in front of us, the magic of our innocence fading fast, the spell broken. What I learned that day (and why I think everyone should experience it) is that being our naked selves isn’t an easy feat. It took a lot of guts to get that far out of our comfort zones so we could experience something different. Being at the nude beach showed me how comfortable humans are hiding behind something. It also showed me how once the barriers were removed, everybody was just as imperfect as I was. And maybe that’s the point of being naked-whether it’s at the nude beach, or during intimacy, or when you’re coming out to a cruel world: to step out of the perfectionist programming so you can finally be wholly yourself… for a day, for an hour, or in the case of minorities, for a whole lifetime.
You’ll be asked to shed society’s programming from here on out, so you better get used to the feeling of walking naked. There’s something afoot in the spiritual world which is beginning to strip all our excuses away, something good, but a powerful, nerve-wracking force demanding that we accept one another as we are-warts and all. Something big is happening in the world: people are waking up. As their spiritual eyes are opened, they see they were clothed in lies; lies intended to keep us separate from one another. Once awake, the soul sheds its clothes and demands tolerance and decency for all humans-regardless of color, sexual orientation, or gender orientation: ALL humans. Because when the clothes come off, we find our sameness; amazingly, we really all are one. Our parts may be different, our skin may be different, but we are all children of the same universe, and this universe is made of love.
Only the bravest of the brave will strip, layer after egoic layer, until their true self is exposed. And while it’s scary stuff, stark vulnerability with one another is the only element that can save our dying planet. You, my naked friend, are made of love. I am made of love… WE are made of love. Walk naked with me, and maybe one day we will all be free.
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Devi Nina Bingham