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Spiritual Practices

Skinny Dipping as a Spiritual Practice

Pexels/Neemias Seara

A skinny dipping experience can not only be incredibly sensual, but it can also be undeniably spiritual.

As a young child, I engaged in skinny dipping with my hippie-dippie parents. Later as their alcoholism overtook their idealism, I found myself retreating into a more conventional suburban existence replete with a more modest dress code. I continued to connect to nature but in a more controlled fashion.

Moving to Portland, Oregon, afforded me the opportunity to engage in deep dives into health and wellness afforded by the natural wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. As part of this reconnection, I revisited some of my childhood pursuits. This included connected with other like-minded souls, who found pleasure connecting with nature au natural.

Like me, these individuals enjoyed the freedom of being naked in nature and the experience of skinny dipping. For example, when Cliff lived in Aruba as a young child, he would frequently take off his swim trunks when chest-deep in water. “I loved the feeling of the ocean swirling past my crotch—felt very open and freeing, even though I didn’t associate that with sex at the time.”

Some, like Marilee, discovered the joy of the skinny dipping experience later in life. In her case, she went with a platonic friend to a natural hot springs. While she started out with her suit on, eventually she opted for no suit, and was delighted by this new experience.

It was amazing! I loved the feel of the hot water all over my body, I loved feeling the water move, flow, and ripple about me. It was sensual, connecting, grounding, and so calming. I knew after this experience that was how I would experience water, especially hot water, anytime I could do that.

Those who consider themselves naturalists like Thor do not equate nudity with sexuality. As he grew up with the Swedish cultural traditions, he developed a more enlightened sensibility about nudity from an early age. Even as a young child, the feeling of the air and the sun drying his skin off after a dip was sensual and very relaxing. He reflects, “We grew up in Wisconsin and spent our summers in Door County in a little tiny log cabin. Our family’s mourning routine would consist of a cold naked dip in Lake Michigan complete with a floating bar of Swedish soap.” Thor went to a sauna for the first time when he was five. In Sweden where saunas are very popular, they are almost always done in the nude and without sexual segregation. “Being naked has always just seemed natural to me,” he adds.

[Also read: “Forest Bathing in My Own Backyard.”]

When Marilee gets naked in nature in a mountain river or a natural hot springs, she likes to first spend some time sitting with her intention. She describes her ritual for connecting her body with nature: “I may smudge the area depending on the intent. I spend time allowing the water to flow, I meditate, and then breathe, then there is a peace within me that is indescribable and a sense of joy that fills me. I feel connected to all that is. It is empowering and peaceful all at once.”

Her partner, James, concurs. “The shape of the rocks, the way the water flows, the way the breeze blows may elicit sensual, sexual, and spiritual connections,” he observes.

When you first go to a nude beach or another clothing-optional spot, you will soon see that clothing is not the norm.“You are less obvious and blend in much better if you are not wearing clothes,” Marilee observes. Also, even though almost everyone is naked, there’s usually a social norm or written guidelines discouraging gawking and sexual overtures.

When possible, for your first skinny dipping experience go with an experienced person who is comfortable with their nudity.

Dave offers these suggestions for how to ease into the skinny dipping experience for the first time:

Maybe for the first half-hour, sit or lie on a beach blanket with your friend. Especially if you are set back from the water a bit, you are unlikely to have any social interactions with strangers. Your blanket is your safe space, especially if it is away from the walking paths.

At first, wear a swimsuit, breathe deeply, and relax. Observe how others are paying attention to you or not as they walk by. Then shed another piece, like a top. See if you notice a difference in everyone else's behavior in observing you—you probably won't.

Close your eyes and just feel how it is to be in your body with sunlight hitting you. When you feel comfortable, shed that last piece of clothing. Try to keep your eyes closed for a minute or two. Then open your eyes and look around? Is the whole world staring at you? Probably not. Continue to sit there naked and observe. Hopefully, you’ll realize that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

After a while, hopefully you feel comfortable enough to walk down to the water and get in. Then retreat to the safety of your beach blanket.

Next try a quick walk along the beach. When you are up and walking about, it is much more common to engage with strangers via a quick hello. Once you can get to that point, the whole world opens up and you can engage with people at a whole new level.

When we encounter each other skin to skin, we have the opportunity to connect with each other sans artificial things like clothing, which often serve as indicators of our class, political affiliation, and other markers that serve to divide not unite us.

Read more about finding spiritual healing in nature: “Ecotherapy: Nature Is Good Medicine.”