Naked, and Unashamed

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“If we could admit how bad things are, that would be the beginning of something good, of a kind of radical honesty with ourselves. That would inspire a certain compassion for one another because we would understand that we’re all in the same boat, all shipwrecked. To confess the wounded, fractured condition of our lives—that is who we are! And that would be the beginning of wisdom in deconstruction, of something good. If everyone actually believed that, if everybody acted on that, there would be better political processes and better relationships. If people actually believed that they really don’t know in some deep way what is true, we would have more modest and tolerant and humane institutions.”  –  John Caputo

A friend posted that quote yesterday. I responded:

We hide so much. We lie so much. We fear so much. This keeps us away from love.

If we can come to be honest about our heartbreak, about our terror, about the ways in which failure dogs us, or hope makes us feel insecure, if we can come to be honest about our need to feel desired, our quest for recognition, the ways in which we have been hurting, and have hurt others, the ways in which we found laughter and joy, or worked through some pain…we can come to better know ourselves. We can come to better know one another. We can develop true compassion. We can know the world. We can imagine something better than ambition for money or power over others. We can imagine a place where we truly meet one another, truly see one another, where we stop playing status games: baring our necks or lording it over one another. In doing this, we open more fully to the flow of love. We heal.

There have been many things planted in the soil of my life, things that have grown into a person, an adult, a human still figuring out how to more fully love the world.

I have grown through alienation. I have grown through being slapped full force across my face for a failure to swim while scared, or for being thought to have disobeyed, or for… I have grown through being told I was ugly by those who were supposed to love me. I have grown through insecurity. I have grown through listening late at night, not sleeping, not sure if things were safe. I have grown through watching my brothers get beaten. I have grown through deep seated anger, like a heat in my body. I have grown through “are you a boy or a girl?” I have grown through hating and loving in the same heartbeat. I have grown through sickness. I have grown through my working class father’s failed ambitions and through my mother’s fear and inaction. I have grown through chronic physical pain. I have grown through lack of feeling beautiful, through feeling continuously undesired. I have grown through learning to throw a punch. I have grown through heartbreak. I have grown through betrayal. I have grown. 

I also know that all this pain is not the whole of my parts. Those moments are not the only moments. But admitting the pain was part of coming to heal. Admitting anger was part of coming into power. Admitting grief enabled my ability to feel loved.

What lies are we still telling ourselves and each other? What are we hiding, and why? What are we holding outside the stream of love?

Sometimes we still don’t feel safe enough to, as bell hooks so eloquently puts it. “…face one another as we really are, stripped of artifice and pretense, naked and not ashamed.”

Before we can face one another, we need to be able to face ourselves. We need to observe our emotions, actions, thoughts, words, sensations, postures, and actions. We need to look into the mirror of the world and ask: what do I reflect, and what is reflecting me?  At least, that is how it has worked for me.

The darkness can be frightening; it can also be a fecund place for planting something new. 

We can meet on fertile ground, watered by tears and sweat, spit and sex. We can meet on fertile ground, a ground growing with things planted deeply in our darkness, straining toward the light.

Love to you, whoever you are, and whoever you are becoming.

43 Responses to “Naked, and Unashamed”

  1. Simone

    Thank you for your honest, vulnerable and wise words. (hitting a ‘like’-button does not fit for me in this case)

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Thanks, Simone. Blessings to you.

      (Comments are certainly more of a connection than hitting “like” aren’t they?)

      Reply
  2. Miss Maya

    Powerful words on a day of remembrance. I think it is especially important for magical folk to remember and practice holding center and self love, and boy is that tough! To truly face yourself in the mirror…. Thanks for this post. Blessings and Love…M

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Thanks and love back, Miss Maya.

      Holding center, love, and facing the mirror have been key for my work on self, and are key for my work in the world. I just don’t see a way to healing as individuals or collectively unless we can find ways to help each other do this.

      Reply
  3. Ione

    I came into the craft through being physically and emotionally, utterly broken. Like a phoenix in the ashes I raised a tiny beak and have started flapping my downy wing buds. When I eventually fly I will swoop over those who have slain me and do a massive s**t on their heads before heading for the beautiful mountains! This process has liberated me, I had to burn to find my wings. I exercise them in part by doing the devotional dances in your Evolutionary Witchcraft book (which is a constantly sourced, referred back to, underlined and highlighted, treasured tome). I seem to do the dances in ways non-resembling your pictures, in full spirit and volume, with arms and legs flailing and in terrific fun! Thank you for your wonderful book and for the beautiful and candid person you are.
    xx

    Reply
  4. Karina BlackHeart

    ” . . . and as a sign that you are free, you shall be naked in your rites.”
    Thank you for this poignant honesty and for holding the mirror up–both to yourself and the world.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Yes. I often think that the real definition of “skyclad” is a nakedness of heart and soul, standing before God Hirself.

      Reply
  5. Shadoedance

    Thank you. A post like that stems from real inner power. Real inner power is the ability to be vulnerable, to reach out.. The power to know, to will, to dare and to NOT be silent. Such a post stirs something, opens something, creates a space within for the reader that can relate. It promotes acceptance, healing, connection. It empowers us to respond to our past rather than reactions.
    you post is a beacon for connection.It burns away the feeling of guilt, washes away the feelings of shame, that are so prominant in framework of our overculture. Its makes struggle, hardship, pain and hurt permissable in a dehumanizing world that likes to sweep such experiences under the carpet. Wonder why we became this way.
    Love, respect and admiration to you Thorn.

    Reply
      • Thorn

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        I think fear is a great constrictor. Once constricted, we can easily forget our connections to one another and to this earth. Things cascade from there, creating systems of disconnection, leading to so many of the ills we find ourselves living with.

        Reply
  6. Missy

    Thank you for this. I am getting divorced tomorrow, and I think I needed these words. Many blessings upon you and continued peace and harmony.

    Reply
  7. Kim McDonald

    Once again, synchronicity. Yesterday I was in downtown Charleston, which has horrible sidewalks. Because of my CP, I fell twice, hurting my back. I was so angry at myself and my disability, I felt my body betrayed me.
    Later, after I calmed down, I realized how much I walk around in denial. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to overcompensate, to prove I wasn’t disabled. To make sure no one felt uncomfortable around me. In doing so I denied my own humanity. The past few years I have struggled with being confronted with my physical issues as I get older. I realize yesterday was a literal kick in the pants. Two people stepped out of their comfort zones to help me, but because I was too embarrassed, I didn’t acknowledge them like I should have. I robbed them, and myself, of a rare moment of honest connection and communication.
    It is through our frailties, our handicaps, and our faults that we become human.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Kim,

      Thanks for talking about this.

      One thing you wrote makes me think of something I thought of this morning: after I’d been smacked at full force for dog paddling instead of swimming to the floating platform in the lake, another adult on the platform smiled at me in sympathy, I’m sure trying to offer some comfort and kindness. I looked away because I was ashamed.

      I wonder what the psychology behind this is? You felt embarrassed and didn’t want to accept help. I felt ashamed. Neither of us was at fault. Shame and embarrassment at perceived weakness is another thing that needs deep healing, both in individuals and culturally. Wow, do countries and cultures not like to appear weak. But needing help is part of being human. So how can we grow as a culture if we can’t admit to needing help. And people who need help are too often seen as parasites. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

      Reply
    • Cathie Rayes

      Oh Kim, my heart is aching for you, with you. I struggle so hard with disability also, and with my own denial and overcompensation. Your comment really spoke to me.

      May you be blessed with healing in all the ways you need it, and may the universe be kind and bless you also with healing in all the ways you want it!

      Reply
  8. Cathie Rayes

    Thorn, my heart is so full and I don’t have the words to articulate what I feel right now, but yes, embarrassment and shame are huge pieces of this puzzle for me… they were smacked into me when I was still a toddler.

    Your definition of skyclad made me smile. I cannot bring myself to actually physically be naked in ritual–not even alone in a closed room–because of the embarrassment and shame I have always felt about my body… but yanno what, by your definition I am always skyclad anyway, and it comforts me to think that I have done that much, come that far.

    Isn’t it odd? I can show you or anyone my soul, lay it bare before the entire internet (and often I have done just that!)… but taking off my clothes is an act requiring huge courage. Shouldn’t it logically be the other way round, shouldn’t our souls be more vulnerable than our bodies? But if there is something in you which needs the comfort or healing or knowledge or inspiration that I can share, I will do so even if what I share is deeply personal and painful and leaves me achingly vulnerable. My soul can bear your scrutiny even when my body cannot. So very odd.

    Reply
    • Kim McDonald

      Cathie and Thorn, Thank you.
      Cathie, it has taken me years to be comfortable with my own body and I still struggle. Especially in the Summer wearing things that may show my surgical scar. But I wear them anyway! I had wonderful parents who raised me to be strong, independant and focused on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t do. However, in the rest of the world, I did feel as if I were a novelty or someone who made others uncomfortable. I often used humor, at my own expense, to gain acceptance. I have always had a “I’ll show you,” mentality. This has been a good thing, because it pushed me to do risk and overcome challenges, but it did come out of a feeling of having to prove my worth as a person.
      Thorn, I don’t think the culture will change until persons with disabilities become more visable and vocal in all areas. Religion is a big issue too. My disability is a big factor in why I found Paganism. I was raised Catholic and have had several instances of Christians from different denominations telling me I needed to be healed, that I was possessed by the Devil, that my leg was possessed by the Devil (!) and that if I only believed hard enough I could be healed. How can we be accepted if we are told our own Creator doesn’t accept us?
      I choose to view my disability as a loaded gift. It makes me face my own humanity and has helped me to be able to recognize and be sensitive to suffering in others.
      Thorn, I think I’m going to have to start my own blog! You keep inspiring me with great ideas!

      Reply
      • Simone

        Thank you Cathie, Thorn and Kim for this discussion.
        There is so much acknowledgement in what you say and feel that I do not know where to start to join in. The overcompensation, “I’ll show you”, not accepting help or kindness, the strong soul and weak body, culture and believe. I have already done a lot and am still working on it.
        Love and laughter,
        Simone

        Reply
        • Cathie Rayes

          Hello Simone! I had that same hesitance, not knowing where to start, but then once I decided to answer just one little thing–just one little thing–I discovered I had a lot to say. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to begin…. or to delete if we don’t like what we said!

          Reply
  9. Isabelle

    Once you have forgiven yourself, once you have forgiven others, what do you stand on? There is so much void without this internal struggle, how do you begin to fill it with something else?

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Isabelle,

      The most basic practice I teach is Center and Circumference. I teach it to people of all levels, and come back to it daily.

      We have a center. A place of stillness at our core. We can take a breath and drop our attention there on a breath. We take another breath, into that still center. We exhale that out to the edges of our aura. This defines our circumference. We have a core, and we know where our boundary is, and what space we occupy.

      We can fill that space with whatever we choose. Today.

      And our feet are always on this blessed earth.

      Start simple. Return to simple.

      Reply
      • Sea Serpent

        Thorn, would you say this center is the same as a place where you feel safe?

        I just had an epiphany that it is, but I wanted to confirm it with you first=).

        Reply
  10. Sif

    Thorn, as always, you manage to capture the human condition so poignantly and poetically. I think “I have grown” may be my new mantra. Thank you for everything.

    Reply
  11. seeley

    i’m so glad i recently finally looked up your work and found this blog, Thorn. feeling the power in what everyone expresses here. for comrades living with chronic pain and disabilities, if you’re in the sf bay area, i encourage you to check out the performance and film event coming up in oakland this Oct. 11 and 12. i’ve been lucky to be involved with the project http://sinsinvalid.org/ and highly recommend looking up more info and tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/444189. though not a paganism shared by all participants, spirituality undergirds this work of cultural expression. thanks to everyone who keeps choosing to share some naked human vulnerability, and trusting in the love available through that.

    Reply
  12. Beth

    This hit home for me in ways I cannot even begin to express. I long for spiritual practice but avoid it,deny it, squelch it as best I can. I ask myself can you really be this angry at something you claim not to believe in? I wonder when will I be ready? Will I ever be ready? Can I let go? Can I be honest, vulnerable, compassionate whole? Will it ever be safe?

    Reply
    • Thorn

      You always have yourself. That is where your commitment starts. You have a center and a circumference. Getting in touch with those is both the beginning and the thing to come back to every day, all day.
      (see instructions in my answer to Isabelle)

      Beyond that, asking for help from those around you is also a good thing.

      It sounds like you are ready now. All we have to do is take the next step – we don’t have to know what the whole journey will look like.

      Reply
      • Cathie Rayes

        Amazing what happens when you ask for guidance. *smiling* Okay, I will take the next step and worry about the whole journey. Thank you.

        Thank you also for the link to Staff of Asclepius.

        Reply
  13. Dee

    Thank you. Holding space for honesty and love is a struggle, but it helps to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  14. kerstin

    I am so grateful I had the chance to start to learn from you and that i can keep on following your wise and beautiful ways and words…

    Reply
  15. Sea Serpent

    Thorn, as always thank you for your uncanny gift for posting things that mirror what I’m experiencing in my life.

    This struck a chord in me in so many ways I don’t know where to begin. Shame and the fear of revealing vulnerability and my true self has been a big part of me ever since I was a little kid. Nowhere do I feel this more acutely than at career networking events. I went to one last night, where they did a great presentation about gaming. Everyone there was cool and nice, but all I wanted to do was run away since I felt shy and didn’t know anyone there. I grew up believing that if you show any vulnerability, you’ll be beaten to a pulp if not crushed. Certain experiences I had that were related to abuse confirmed this. It is so easy to be cynical and assume that’s the way life is. Which can be true, but perhaps we can remind ourselves that’s not all there is in life. If I remember this, I don’t have to live in fear and feel life is nothing but gloom and doom.

    I am also going to adopt your phrase “I have grown…” I also love your quote on how darkness can frightening, but it can also be a place where new ways of living can gestate. I love the idea that darkness may be scary, but it is not always evil and totally agree with it.

    Reply
  16. Swan

    Thank you. I love the ways you get right to the heart of it. I am blessed by your clarity.
    With so much love,

    Swan

    Reply

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