Comfort Zones

Reading Robert's post ( ) about the "Dark Night of the Soul" brought to mind a time when I felt frustrated and boxed in a similar manner to what he described.
It seemed at the time there was nowhere I could readily enjoy naturism. Not at home, not within reasonable driving distance. Not without taking what felt to me unreasonable risks.
As circumstances permitted I could find a rare moment when it was possible to free hike. This was perhaps once every second or third week, but it required a lot of pieces to fall into place. Work and home commitments, time, location and weather. It felt fantastic when I could get out, but overall this was less than ideal.

Initially I focused on all the factors that prevented me from doing as I wanted. Even needed in terms of stress relieve and relaxation.
First and foremost was my wife's attitude and response to the situation which was at best begrudging and not at all accepting. A close second was time and location. A 2.5 hour drive to a clothing optional resort, or 30 minutes to a remote walking track, which at the right time of the week, was usually deserted.
Work commitments didn't help. It was difficult to create a space in my schedule to get away to either of these places.
All in all I felt I'd taken a wrong turn in my life. I should have stayed single, should have stayed in New Zealand where mere public nudity isn't a criminal offence. I felt very frustrated. It's probably worth noting I didn't feel any of these "easy out's" just noted with any conviction. Rather, I identified these as the bars of my prison.

I think in almost any circumstance where it feels the world is closing in on you, the first place you look is to your exterior. The forces and factors that surround you. "If only this, or only that." How many times do you hear people say that? "If I had more time. If I lived in the country. If I had an accepting spouse."
These are things you think will change your situation, but they won't change you. Not in the way you want.
The first place you need to look is within, especially if you feel trapped by circumstances.

I did an exercise at the beginning of the year to see if living in the countryside would make any difference to our lifestyle. I wrote down all the ways I thought lifestyle might change.
"I'd spend more time outside. I'd do more gardening. I'd have more opportunity to be clothes free."
Realistically if you aren't doing any of those things now, a change of location won't fix it, because you'll be the same person in a different place with a whole new set of challenges. Challenges equate to excuses not to be living exactly how you want.
So the sum total of this experiment was to change myself.

For every benefit of a move I listed, I enacted. More time outside, more time in the garden. So, when the weather permits I always eat breakfast outside in the sunshine.
Interestingly, this has led my wife to spend more time outside. Particularly breakfast and lunch which she rarely if ever did.
Slowly as my own attitude changed, so did my circumstances. More clothes free time at home without an issue. Did my wife have some sudden change of heart? Most certainly she did, but only after I made a change myself. I created a comfort zone where I could be happily clothes free in a manner she found acceptable. With the zone established, it's boundaries have been expanded. My own self imposed boundaries I might add, as my comfort zone has grown.

Perhaps more significant than this was the change that occurred in environment. Not the environment itself mind you, but my comfort zone and attitude towards it.
To date I'd go out of my way to pick times and locations I was almost certain not to encounter anyone else when free hiking. Nine times out of ten this worked. I'd be cautious, feel on guard, but mostly relax and enjoy my walk.
During my commute home last week I thought to myself, "With all the vast tracts of nature reserve around, it's a pity you can't just free hike within it." Some of these parks are frequently used by many people. The chances of bumping into somebody is pretty high. I did a mental tally of locations that weren't frequently used. On the whole, not many aside from those I used at the "right times". Remote and infrequently used.

Cutting to the chase a little, I started realising how uncommon it was to bump into anybody, and on the occasions I did, how uneventful it was. People don't seem to be overly interested in what you're doing. You might strike them as odd, but so long as you're not threatening, or causing a disturbance, they really pay you little attention.
Within my own mind I figured all I really needed was a quick acceptable way to cover if I needed. This would expand my horizons considerably.

With this new found realisation, I set out Saturday afternoon to the track I often use that's about a 10-15 minute drive from home. Rather than tramping along wishing I wasn't caught up in sticky uncomfortable clothes, I got naked as soon as I hit the track proper.
It wasn't more than 5 minutes later that I heard thundering footsteps heading toward me. My main thought was "WTF is that?" It wasn't a kangaroo, but too loud to be a lone jogger.
I made a half hearted attempt at covering up. There wasn't time to do anything convincing so I just stood to one side.
Two teenagers went thundering past me in the direction I'd just came, fishing rods in hand. A quick hello. They had little to no interest in me.
As soon as they passed I carried on my way, and enjoyed the rest of the 2 hour hike incident free.

What I've realised through all of this is that comfort zones within your mind are important places to establish and expand. Within them you can identify and put into perspective your assumptions, reservations and fears. This enables you to take control of them rather than having them control you.

Through my experiences I've learnt that the "darkness", the barriers and limitations you perceive are largely created by yourself. It's your beliefs, fears and assumptions that imprison you. The keys to freedom aren't a change of circumstance, aren't "if only this, or if only that" The keys to freedom are inside you. Change yourself and you change your environment.

As things stand my journey is by no means over. Like a mountain climber that's about half way up an ascent, I can actually see how far I've come. I feel the summit is achievable. The view will be fantastic.
Hopefully by sharing the discoveries I've made so far it will help others with their journey.

17 thoughts on “Comfort Zones”

  1. I wonder if after so frequently seeing the very worse in people, police just get accustomed to assuming the worse. Having known a couple of paramedics, I have observed they generally tend to take on a different mindset to everyone else. Out of necessity they become very desensitised to horrific injuries. They almost take on a macabre perspective of life. What's more, having been threatened, stabbed, jabbed and all manner of other threats to their personal safety, they assume a wariness about people in general. They keep their good nature of course. Just beneath this however is a wariness and alertness.
    I imagine this is the case with police.

    Where none of this make sense is breast feeding. In Australia I believe the right to breast feed in public is protected by law. That anyone would take issue with a woman breast feeding is beyond believe. As a society we seriously need to examine where we've found ourselves if this most basic and fundamentally maternal practise is not permitted nor accepted.

  2. Over the last year or so there have been reports on the British Naturism (BN) forum of people arrested for walking nude in fairly remote areas (well as remote as you can get in the UK!). All have been male and on their own. The arrests stemmed from a single complaint, sometimes by an off duty police officer. Much stress, aggravation and expense were caused and usually the cases were thrown out of court, some continue. Similar cases have resulted from people, male and female, being nude in their garden or in the street, very few result in conviction. This clearly shows a mis-match between the attitude of the police, the prosecutors, the courts and general public acceptance. A few years ago I walked nude with the Singles Outdoor Club (SOC) in the UK and we had no trouble at all, even if we came across people. (Since then I think there has been one unfortunate clash with a complainer but with no arrests.) To most, nudity is no big deal as shown by the WNBR and the people we passed with a smile on country walks.

    As well as fighting the wounding effects of up-bringing, one has to contend with the risk of meeting a vociferous prude and being plunged into very serious trouble. It does not really matter if it is thrown out of court, the aggravation is a sufficient deterrent. This leaves me (us!) with a dilemma, accept the status-quo and remain in hiding nourishing an increasing discontent or get out there and take the risk. Being very careful to avoid any conflict with the law, I would not consider for one moment going on a free-hike alone but this is a great shame as in the UK it is not illegal. All it takes is a few irrational people to make life very difficult.

    This affects one’s peace of mind but as Shane pointed out, some of the problem is within us beforehand. If I discover that person X is nude tolerant, they would have been that way before I discovered it so the secrecy previously maintained was my fault, not theirs.

    So should I take the risk and free-hike alone? For me, no. Should I be a lot more assertive in promoting social nudity? Very definitely, there are no real down-sides to that. Should I take part in group public nudity such as the WNBR, CO days at public gardens etc.? Oh yes, there is no risk of prude inspired police action and they are great fun but the best of all is to be open with friends and neighbours and to have them accept me as I would like to be, without clothes. That helps me more with the internal struggles forced on me by up-bringing and society.

    • I think you've explained the attitudes to public nudity here in the UK well.

      The WNBR and clothing optional events at public gardens certainly seem to have gained a wider acceptance for us to be nude in public. The same with SOC's activities. The 'authorities' actions and attitudes seem to be unrepresentative of that of the wider public, reflecting more how "a vociferous prude" may perceive nudity. The court cases which have been thrown out seem to have had an unusually high number of 'off-duty police' as the main complainants!

      I love freehiking, I have done this with friends and on my own. I hate the feeling of always needing to be very alert to the potential presence nearby of others, possible encounters with 'off-duty police'. There have been surprise encounters with other people around sharp bends in the track, both when with others and on my own, but never any hostile reaction. Sometimes its just been a passing hello, at other times we have stopped to chat and our choice of nudity has always been covered. As yet without anything unnecessary resulting, usually some admiration for our courage to be free, but the possibility of a stressful encounter is always in mind. However, the benefits gained from nude hiking are what keeps it an activity I like to pursue.

      I'm not a 'radical' nudist, but I feel that the positivity and acceptance about our nudity reflected from meeting textiles, can help a little in opening up the chance to be nude in nature for others too.As you say, being nude is not illegal here after all.

  3. Well done Shane. I know just what you mean about the barriers and limitations you perceive being largely created by yourself.
    Since I decided to be a lot more assertive about being naturist/nudist/naktiv I have made some surprising discoveries. I was quite wrong about other people’s reactions, most are as you say, not bothered. Some are even quite encouraging, perhaps using me as a proxy for their unfulfilled wish to join in. For years I kept it all secret, now I can stand in full view of my neighbour and chat about everyday things, my nude state accepted completely. To me that is worth a thousand visits to a CO location. My neighbour of course was always accepting of nudity, it was my attitude (or at least assumptions) that was the problem. I am still working on it:-
    Here in the UK there have been some arrests of people doing what you describe, almost all are throw out of court but only after a lot of stress and expense. It only takes one person to cause grief, so take care but have fun on your walks.

    • Thanks Howard. It's probably legal ramifications that are first and foremost in my mind so I doubt I'll completely throw caution to the wind.
      A thought that I did have in this regard is that these locations are relatively remote. On that basis I think police attendance if someone did complain would be pretty unlikely. I've reported a few incidents such as criminal damage, lost property and the like. I've gotten the impression that unless a complaint involved harm to live and limb, as in aggregated attack or what have you, the police don't seem all that interested. I can understand this given their workload and the amount of paperwork involved. I think here unless you were trying to sexually assault someone, or conduct yourself naked in a busy public space, any complaint would be fairly low priority. I hope 🙂

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