Recently, a buddy of ours, Eric, who we could rightfully call an experience junky said his friend Caroline had gone to a transformational retreat in which she spent the week naked. We’re always tuned in to innovative workshops, but this one was pretty far out of our comfort zone.
Most of us are somewhere on a continuum of self-consciousness about being naked, from mild sheepishness to deep-seated body issues. The most obvious benefit of being naked in front of others is getting over that self-consciousness.
There is another benefit that isn’t as readily evident. Because our bodies are intricately tied to our sense of touch, if we are naked that sense becomes heightened. This makes “sense” when we realize that our skin serves as the intermediary between our inside and the outside world. Although clothing thankfully protects us from external hazards, it also reduces the amount of input we’re getting from our environment.
Although we usually think of touch vis-à-vis the fingers and it is true that they are a great deal more sensitive than some other parts of the body, the whole surface of the body is receiving and interpreting information from the external world. For example, our sense of touch alerts us to heat and cold, texture, pain, pleasure, etc. For the more scientifically-minded you can go to this link for a helpful explanation of the sense of touch.
The overarching experience Eric’s friend reported was that being naked for an extended period of time honed her awareness of the physical world around her. She was better able to pick up on environmental cues because her skin was contributing more immediately to her sense of touch.
We can heighten our own physical awareness even without taking our clothes off. For example, as an exercise, take this moment to attune to what your skin is experiencing. Notice if there are differences between the front and the back of the hand, the arms, the feet and legs, front of the body and back of the body, the head, the face, etc. See if you can stay attuned to the sense of touch while you are in motion. Notice temperature, any movement of air, sensations or pressure on different parts of the body because you are connecting to objects like a chair, and any kind of textures that you feel because of things that your skin is contacting like clothing.
Attuning ourselves more to the relationship between our bodies and their environment, a variation of mindfulness, can help change our relationship with both. It is unlikely that many of us are going to go to a naked retreat. However, if you have the willingness and luxury to be naked for an extended period of time even without having to go on a retreat, then you might experience a more dramatic shift in your perception of your body and in your body’s perceptions of its environment.
Rebecca and Gioia
As above, notice what your skin and body are experiencing. Download and print the outline of a figure, either the male figure or the female figure, (you can also draw your own outline) and use color, line, and shape in and around the figure to capture those sensations. Do this kind of body scan and art response several times in a week and see if/how it changes your awareness of your body. If you’re comfortable, post them here on FB page. We’d love to see them!