You know the greatest first obstacle in talking about naked meditation is not the naked part – it is the meditation part. You wouldn’t believe the number of Christians that believe that meditation is still a purely an eastern religious practice. Meditation is actually one of those things that seems to span all religious movements regardless of what is believed. All meditation practice basically centers on one idea — you must quiet and empty your mind, heart and spirit and just be. Meditation is about focus of the person to set everything aside and dwell on…well that greatly depends on the religious belief at that point. Most practitioners of Christian meditation would say that the purpose is to empty the mind in order to fill it either by revelation from God either by listening to what He might have to say or by meditation on a Bible verse or passage to better understand its spiritual meaning. Some believe that meditation can be used to see visions from God and help understand dreams.
In my opinion there are two basic types of meditation – formal and informal.
Informal meditation is one that is done on the fly and I will say it is probably the most common. As I mentioned in both of the previous posts in this series, we often find ourselves in this informal meditative state by simply doing the normal things of life that cause us to relax or be in a relaxing environment. Were taking a relaxing bath and letting our mind drift and we find ourselves in a state where we can hear from God. One of the ways to get more out of them is to not rush the times when they happen and learn from them as much as we can. Having a spiritual journal that we record what we hear or come to understand also helps because it causes us to truly reflect later on what God is trying to teach us in these moments.
Formal meditation is when we actually set aside a time for meditation on purpose. There is a structure to it and a seriousness of purpose to meditate. Usually there is a designated place for meditation but that is not always possible but usually one thing is certain that the person will on purpose enter into a meditative state by choice not by accident. There is also usually some sort of focus – a mantra (prayer repeated), a candle or some other visual focus. The person usually tries to keep their body still and control their breathing. All of this requires a person to dedicate a time and place of meditation and that can be the most difficult part of formal meditation. Unless you are willing to make it a regular discipline of your life you are not going to get as much out of it.
Being physically naked can help with both types of meditation. Based on practitioners’ testimonies, being nude has a way of ‘super charging’ the meditative experience. I can speak from personal experience that this has been the case in both my informal and formal times of meditation. In large part what you get out of naked meditation greatly depends on your attitude about being naked. If you are constantly nervous about being in the raw and doing that looking over the shoulder thing hoping no one will see you, you are not going to get much out of it. If you are more relaxed and calm by being naked, then it may do wonders to increase the receptivity and overall experience. You average non-nudist Christian is going to feel as nervous about this, if not more so, than having sex with a spouse and trying to find a place of privacy. (As an aside: isn’t interesting that will indeed work very hard to get a place of privacy to make love to our spouse where we are naked, but dismiss the possibility of being naked for spiritual growth purposes?) This brings us to other spiritual disciplines that accompany meditation: solitude and silence.
Solitude is about being alone with God. It is the withdraw from other relationship and community to be alone with God. Jesus practiced this every morning. In his case he probably had to find a new place every day because he traveled so much in his ministry, but for us we often could make a place of solitude. I would have to say though that the adventure of finding a place of solitude while on the road has often been a spiritual discipline in and of itself. Most people have a fear of this and it really does not have much about being lonely as it is about being alone with God. God’s presence does frighten us as humans and in some ways it should. Actually this issue goes back to the Garden of Eden from a theological point of view (Hey, this a theology pub you expected psychology or something?) . When Adam and Eve sinned they hid themselves because of God’s presence because they were naked (read vulnerable). Their vulnerability before they sinned actually served them to build a relationship with God and each other. Sin causes the change. It is ultimately the perception of sin that causes us to feel uncomfortable in God’s presence. God’s presence only causes terror type fear when we have genuinely done something wrong or we think we have because of what we believe about sin. More on this in a minute.
Silence. In our world silence should have a price tag but the truth is we do fill our life with noise. Mostly this is to cover the feelings of being alone and we have a seeming fear of quiet. I am fairly sure we fear quiet because we might hear our own thoughts or even better the thoughts of God. We might even have to deal with those problems we have been holding on to in our minds or we might even have to think about our problems in constructive ways in order to deal with them. Meditation, particularly formal meditation, calls us to silence so that we can truly hear more than sound waves. Finding a place that is both alone and quiet to meditate is probably the greatest challenge in the western world but once it is achieved it allows another possibility – alone, quiet and nude before God.
Meditation calls us to set aside our guards and open up our minds and spirits to transformation by communion with God. I believe this communion is enhanced by nakedness. I believe it is no accident that mankind started out naked and unashamed and walked with God in the cool of the day. God’s presence was enough to sustain them from shame. We western Christians often speak that Jesus has washed all our sins away and that when God looks at us he sees Christ and not us and our sinfulness, but the proof of that would be that all the consequences of sin would be reversed as well. Two of those consequences of sin were 1) to be ashamed of being naked and 2) to have to wear clothes. If Christ has done the above, why is it that these two things still remain as consequences of sin? Why are Christians still told they need to be ashamed of their nakedness of body and cover up to be modest? The more I live, I am coming to understand they are imposed on us by a religious culture that seeks to control people by controlling their sexuality and related behavior.
Want to test how you really feel about Christ’s forgiveness of your sins? Find a solitary place that is quiet, strip off your clothes and meditate in His presence. How you feel about being naked will be a direct reflection of what you really feel about your sins and Christ’s work in your life. You will either feel shame because you think what you are doing is sinful (it’s not) and thus you will really show yourself that you don’t believe Christ’s grace covers everything and you be like Adam and Eve will attempt some fig leaf cover up. Or you will understand that you are ‘clothed’ in righteousness of Christ and therefore have no shame before God because your sins are forgiven and gone. It is a question of whether you truly see yourself from God’s perspective in these matters and being naked in his presence will demonstrate the reality of what you really honestly believe.
At this point, my issue with understanding nudity in relationship to the spiritual disciplines is one of definition. I can see for instance that nudity can be a focus for meditation as it cause one to really engage the task of meditation much like a candle’s flame. I can also see it can be like a catalyst to meditation in that in can heighten sensitivity to spiritual things and spiritual understandings. The striping down process, moving from being clothed to being naked can add in what some call ‘down centering’ or ‘finding the center’ as it can be very symbolic of casting off your cares and burdens of the world to embrace true openness before God. The real question I still have is: Does nudity itself constitute a spiritual discipline of its own separate from the others? Can nudity stand on its own as spiritual discipline that brings growth without the others? I am hoping as we explore the other disciplines we may find the answer to these questions starting with meditation’s twin sister – prayer.
Next: Naked Prayer