February 5, 2013

How to Be Naked.

True nakedness has nothing to do with sex.

It’s funny that for as many headlines as we have about how to be better in bed or how to have more orgasms, there are shockingly few that encourage us to open up, to risk our hearts, to be truly naked.

I love sex; it’s an amazing part of being alive. It’s a fleeting thing, in the best, melting ice cream cone, passing spring rain shower sort of way. To connect with another human being over pleasure like that is delicious—I’d never argue otherwise. But I know many people who will take off their clothes, and yet are afraid to be naked. There are many people who are willing to connect physically, yet never let anyone truly know them. There are people for whom sex is just one more way to disconnect, instead of becoming intimate in any kind of genuine way.

What happened? Where is this coming from? American culture is so sexually focused—either flaunting it or condemning it—yet there is this crucial ingredient missing.

We’ve stopped talking about what it means to be truly naked with each other.

Anyone can take off her clothes; the harder part is baring your soul.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants.

But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever?

Nah. Too painful.

Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life.”

~  Elizabeth Gilbert

How many people do you trust with your fears and dreams? Do you tell one person about the idea that’s been keeping you up at night? Five? Ten? Everyone has a comfortable number where sexual partners are concerned; some are conservative, some are looking for notches on their belts. Most of us are cautious when it comes to baring our hearts. And with good reason! Not every person we meet deserves to hear our innermost thoughts.

Social media has become a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it could allow us to genuinely connect with each other in a unique way. But more often, it becomes another layer of in-authenticity, one more way to keep ourselves at arm’s length from the world.

There are people in my life, and a few who have come and gone, who I consider soul mates. More than any physical connection or pleasure, I value the space a soul mate provides in my life to be truly seen, and validated, but also challenged.

If we want to know how to be naked with each other, the answer isn’t in the latest “how to have an orgasm” article.

We start with this:

1. We let go of cognitive dissonance.

In short, we let our insides and outsides match. We actively choose to do what we believe in. We participate in life in a way that matches our passions. If I sit here daydreaming of travel or making art and I don’t do it, how am I living an authentic life? Obviously, as adults we must be responsible in our choices, but there is always room to choose the things that bring us joy, to choose things that are meaningful to us. Most of us don’t quit our jobs and move abroad on a whim, but we need to actively participate in following our dreams if they are going to become our realities. How can we expect to connect with people in an intimate way if we aren’t even honest with ourselves?

2. We let go of our scripts.

No more, “How are you?” “I’m fine.” No more complaining about the weather, work or health just to have something to say. Get comfortable with uncomfortable silences and gaps in the conversation. We use our true voice in every setting: whether online or in person. This is not an excuse for constant dumping on other people. Honesty is more than just “telling the truth.” Honesty is a balance of authenticity and integrity. When we talk about the idea of satya, or honesty, there is the caveat that it should be the truth that is “pleasing to hear.” Intentionally hurting someone, even if it feels true for you, is not speaking with integrity. Having a match between our hearts and our words is the goal.

3. We cultivate friendships with people who desire intimacy.

I’m not talking about “friends with benefits.” I’m talking about the ultimate benefit we get from our relationships: truly being known by another person. If we only spend time with people who aren’t interested in taking a deeper look at life, we won’t experience this nakedness. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. Just as not every thought we have needs to be shared with the masses, there are some people in our lives who will never appreciate or reciprocate this kind of sharing. Not every relationship we have is in the deep end of the pool, and that’s okay. If we want to grow, to be challenged, to be known, we do need to dive in and find those who will swim with us there—unafraid…

I’ve always loved the Anais Nin quote:

“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”

It’s true. It resonates with me. I am cautious, at times, in my sharing of myself, but I am not afraid to be naked. I have no fear of the depths, but the idea of an unexamined, inauthentic life spent in the shallows horrifies me. We have a built-in need to be known: not our favorite movies or baseball teams, but our hopes, our dreams and our innermost selves.

So, the sex articles are going to keep coming, here and elsewhere. It’s good…it’s a good thing if we can talk about it in a mindful way and help people explore that area too. Unless we forget what it really means to be naked. If we don’t start revealing what’s inside, there’s no amount of physical intimacy that will satisfy us.

I would gladly trade a lifetime’s worth of meaningless orgasms for one long, genuinely naked conversation.

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