Wanting What You’ve Got vs. Getting What You Want

I spent a lot of my life wanting a lot of things.

To be successful. To be beautiful. To be applauded for my artistic skill and merit.

And it was so draining.

It was like trying to fill a bucket that had holes drilled in the bottom.

Everything that I wanted in life was “out there” somewhere in the distant future. I was living my life for a “someday” when all my dreams would come to fulfillment. And for goals that only others could give me.

I chose to put myself in uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations in order to attract the possibility of my big wishes coming true.

And then I finally wised up and got brave enough to face all of this. And to dare to reorient my life. Ultimately deciding to leave Los Angeles and the entertainment career I had pursued for so long.

For twenty-some-odd years, I firmly believed that I needed something from outside of myself to give me a sense of completion and worthiness.

I needed the perfect body. Or the perfect job/acting role. I needed the right agent, projects, manager. I needed recognition. I needed a whole lot to manifest in order to make me truly happy and fulfilled. To give my life meaning.

And over the course of many years and a great deal of self-inquiry, I have gradually begun to awaken to the fact that this is incredibly stupid.

Fulfillment, I have begun to find, can happen by simply re-evaluating my priorities.

If I recalibrate my life to focus on: friendship, family, love, community, loving my home, sustainability …. I can be immediately fulfilled. I already have the elements present in my life to make me feel that I’ve succeeded.

If I can tie my selfworth to my level of courage, rather than me attaining symbols of having “made it”… I can be so blissed-out in the present moment.

I have been transmuting the things I really want from being intangible goals (that I can not realistically procure for myself) to things that I already have, that already give me a tremendous return in love.

There are so many days where I simply sit and feel overwhelming gratitude and joy for my life. A feeling of being in the perfect place, at the perfect time, and blessed beyond measure.

I now prioritize time with my fiancé, my best friends, and long walks with my puppy in a city that I think is beautiful.

I relish a well-cooked meal, a well-composed piece of prose, a quiet sunset with a glass of wine on my roof, watching the reflective waves of Lake Michigan dance before me.

I have started to appreciate the wealth of riches already filling my life, rather than looking for “extraordinary” experiences to give my life value.

So often, we get caught up looking for that “brass ring” or that symbol that will finally make all that struggle to have been worthwhile. I am beginning to believe that there is no trophy that can give that. There is no award or status-symbol that will give us contentment and satisfaction. Just look at the rate of depression, suicide, drug abuse and all-around crazy shit that happens to the rich, famous, and quote-un-quote “successful” people.

If we can just see the miraculous in the everyday and the gifts that already abound around us… life can be breathtaking.

So this is my goal for myself and my invitation to my fellow journeyers: Find the things that you think will actually give your life nourishment… and set them as your new status of fulfillment. I think bravery is a good place to focus. The amazing researcher, Brené Brown, sets it as her hallmark of a life being well-lived.

And see, if you look closely, how many of these new goals might already be fully existing in your life.

I’m immensely happier and more content by realizing the tremendous blessings I have already around me. The partner, the friends, the family, the food. The everyday peace of knowing that I’m enough – and that I need nothing from the outside to complete me.

I am enough. Let me repeat that. And I want what I’ve already got. And that’s a pretty amazing place to be.

Because I’m gay…

Earlier today I had a conversation with my mother. God love her, she’s grown so much and has accepted me so infinitely more than she used to –  for being who I am. Tonight, she’s going to go tell off some homophobic friends of hers – defending me – and I love her for it. I’m so proud of how much she’s grown.

And yet, in her description to me of what she intends to say, she said something like this: “God made my son smart. He made him intelligent. He made him kind. He made him talented. He made him creative. He made him loving. Did he (God) throw a wrench into things by making him gay? Sure. But he’s so beautiful despite it.”

What I would like mom to hear is this: I am beautiful because of it.

Think of all the great artists you know. The Michelangelos, the Da Vincis. The fashion designers and editorialists that run magazines. The photographers, the dancers, the painters, the poets. Almost all of them: gay. And by no coincidence.

Being gay makes men more creative. More artistic. We inherit the talents typically ascribed to women for color, design, spatiality, and aesthetics. We appreciate and nourish beauty in a way that straight men typically don’t.

Think of all the authors, psychologists, musicians, social leaders who have been gay. Who have an unusually high level of empathy and understanding of the human plight. Who can be sympathetic, connected, and emotionally aware in a way straight men usually aren’t. Again, we inherit the traditional gift set of women to foster community, understanding, and caring in ways that aren’t traditionally associated with manhood.

We can be kind, considerate, beautiful and artistic in ways that we probably wouldn’t had we been born straight.

Being gay is such a gift. Because of it, I will always know what it means to be an outsider. To be different. To have to understand and relate to the world in a different way than my peers.

It means that I know how it feels to be outcast, to be maligned, to be unable to attain homogeny with everyone else. I will always be able to empathize with the underdog, to see the stranger’s point of view, to weep with the downtrodden.

It means that I’m more non-violent and peace seeking than a straight man would ever be. It means that I’m more emotionally aware and expressive than a straight man would ever be. It means that I am more connected with beauty in the natural world – seeking harmony – than my heterosexual counterparts will have a natural aptitude for.

I live neither in the world of women nor the world of men. But I glean glimpses from both. I live in the divide and love and laugh freely from that space in between.

I have been given the gifts of both sexes and am more beautiful and powerful because of it.

This is not to say that heterosexual men can’t be emotional, kind, creative, or artistic. But think of the ways we typically describe manhood: those words are not near the first that come to mind.

So, mom, if you can hear this. I’m not special in your eyes despite being gay. I’m wonderful because of it. And I wouldn’t change the way I was made for all the wealth in the world.

Why should it matter who I love? Whether I love a man or a woman – all that matters is that there is love between us. It does not matter.

All that does – is how kindly we live, how much we love, and how easily we let go of things that were never meant for us in the first place. All that matters is how much courage we live life with.

I love you so, mom. Thanks for sticking up for your son.

With love, Kaelan 🙂

On the Precipice of Thirty

In just a little over an hour, I will turn thirty.

Three decades. End of my twenties. The beginning of the second third of my life.

As these occasions occur, I think it’s helpful to look back and reflect on how we’ve changed, where we’ve come from, and how we’ve grown.

Ten years ago today, I was living in Los Angeles. I had just completed my sophomore year at Northwestern University and was pursuing an internship at Warner Brother’s Studios, while simultaneously practicing skydiving on the side. I had begun to develop an interest in yoga and adventure travel – and wanted to cultivate a connection to more types of extraordinary events in my daily life.

I identified as straight – had never been kissed – and went to Methodist church once or twice a month. I very much planned on being a successful director/actor combo. I pushed myself to my physical limits, burned the candle from all ends, and preached that sleep was for the weak.

Ten years later – much has changed.

I got my thrill for the unusual sated by living in an ashram for nearly seven years and meditating in an Eastern tradition. While I no longer go to church, my connection to spirituality has increased thirty-fold. I meditate twice daily, practice yoga, and no longer jump out of airplanes.

I have been kissed many times now – have come to accept my orientation as queer – and am marrying the most amazing man that I’ve ever met in just a few months.

I spent much of that decade as vegetarian – and am now not. I gave up the relentless muscle building regimes that I attempted in my teens and early twenties – and have adopted a vantage of body positivity, health, and acceptance of being whatever I am. I strive for downtime, friend time, and excellent work/life balance.

I worked in the Chicago theatre scene continuously before moving to Los Angeles …where I realized that if I were being true to my spirit, the ethos of the entertainment industry ran crosswise to my desires, ethics, and code of conduct. I surrendered a long-held dream of being a movie-star in favor of a life filled with loved ones, community, and trust.

These have been some big changes over the past ten years or so. In reflection, I can say with certainty that I am a much better man and fellow human-being for the experiences and the growth I’ve shared.

I’m far happier, healthier, open, stable, loving, accepting, uncritical, peaceful, and genuinely kind than I was when on the brink of age twenty.

I really feel that I’ve eked out a tremendous amount of maturity and growth from this time.

I wonder what I shall say ten years from now? How will I have spent my thirties? I hope the growth and satisfaction increase exponentially from here onwards.

I once met a man who shared with me his philosophy of life. He divided his life up into thirds. He said that he viewed the first thirty years to be for study of one’s self and the world. The next thirty years are for work and changing the world for the better. The final thirty years are to simply enjoy. Live it up, share love, and enjoy the life/family you’ve cultivated.

I like this outlook on life. As I enter into this middle third, I’m ready to use the skills I’ve developed to make the world around me as positive as it can be.

I’ve spent many years now in meditation and self study. I’ve been learning great depths about myself and the experience of coming to terms with one’s true nature. I’ve been accepting the scary bits, the fears, the darkness. I’ve been expanding the beauty, the brightness, the joy.

I’m ready to use this next decade to continue to grow – and to do my small part in making the world around me a better place to be.

So, here’s to thirty, Everybody!! Mozel Tov!

By Kaelan Strouse

Experiencing Our Shadow – and Not Running from the Darkside

Sometimes I hear it.

Like a cellar door creeping open, but only from a distant room.  Like the “schlop” of a tentacled beast mounting the stairs, “slurping” past the door frame, to “slush” its way into the kitchen.  The noise of the monsters of my subconscious creeping out of my basement, ready to engage me.

The thoughts that are so dark and horrible, I generally think they don’t exist within me.

But they do.  And most of the time they stay hidden – and I hardly believe they’re even still in there.

But when they do emerge, I have two choices:

1 – I can grab the broom, shuffle them back down the corridor, down the stairs, and lock/bolt/chain/padlock the basement door so they can never resurface.

2 – gently reach out my hand – and ask why are they there.

When I do the later of the two choices… sometimes the monster’s tentacles fall away, and what is left is a little, eight-year old boy with round glasses and scared eyes.  A boy who’s classmates just tormented him for the umpteenth time that day… and he is all alone, scared, and crying.

That monster was me in an earlier time.

Sometimes it’s a nineteen-year old college junior, so afraid of the world and jealous of his peers’ spontaneity and apparent freedom.  Wishing he could be as uninhibited and open as them: going to parties, laughing, going on dates.  Instead, he’s hiding out in his dorm and pretending that he didn’t want to go out tonight anyways.  He always has way too much work to do.  And he’s terrified to imagine what it might be like to kiss another person.

Sometimes he’s that twenty-four year old, young man – flexing in front the gym mirror, trying to puff out his chest to look more like the models in the fashion books and in the auditions he is forcing himself to go to.   He’s chugging a third protein shake for the morning, with a vat of fat-free yogurt in his bag, and five-thousand more high-protein calories awaiting him later that the day.  All the while, he is pretending that he really doesn’t care all that much about how he looks.

All the trauma, pain, anguish, and denial that I never faced earlier in my life, grows into monsters in my subconscious that I must face… one by one.  And even though they are terrifying to behold, I can either continue to run from these bad feelings, or I can finally listen to them and see what they’re here to teach me.

I feel like deep imbalances can occur when we overly-identify with our bright side and deny our shadow.

We all have our shadow sides.  We all have those dark feelings and thoughts that seemingly emerge randomly.  Thoughts to which we say: “That’s not me!  I’m a good person!  I don’t think those kinds of things.”

But those thoughts ARE us.  And we DO think them.  And it’s okay.

Last week, I had a bunch of feelings pop up about feeling unsuccessful, unattractive, and untalented.

And that’s okay.

Most of my time – I genuinely don’t feel those things.  But by rejecting those contrary thoughts when they arise, I am limiting the healing that can happen in my mind and spirit.

There are times where little, baby Kaelan pops up, needs a desperate hug, and to be told that everything is going to be okay.

And if I just try to shove him back down into the basement again, it’ll just reaffirm his feelings of abandonment, to which I will eventually have to atone.

So I am really striving to let my dark thoughts and feelings surface.  But I neither cling to them – nor worship them.

But I do say to my current-day self: “Huh.  How interesting.  How interesting that part of you feels this way.  And it’s quite alright for you to feel that way.  Keep experiencing it – and let it pass when it’s done.  It’s just another bit of information – another experience to process.”

I feel like deep imbalances can occur when we overly-identify with our bright side and deny our shadow.

For then, we deny the full experience of living.  We deny the important learning that happens through the process of “Death” – when we continuously demand experiences only of “Rebirth.”  Everything in life is cyclical.  Everything in life flows round.  We have to be willing to admit and to stand witness to our Darkside, as well as our Light.

To deny the Netherworld is to ultimately deny the World Up Above.

And just as when water can not flow, so too our emotions and awareness can stagnate.  Fester.  Turn rotten.

I’m continuing to discover that by trudging through both the muck and also the sunshine that we are then able to achieve wholeness.

So, while I am all for positive self-talk, I think it’s equally valid and important to realize that other voices exist within us… and we must listen to them.  They don’t need to become our closest friends nor the voices playing on repeat in our heads… but they must be heard.

Because poor, little, fourteen-year-old Kaelan has spent enough time hiding in the closet – and shoved in the basement.

It’s time to let the light shine in.

BLESSINGS for Everyone!

I recently had a conversation with a friend.  She – unlike my parents who have said something like this to me for years – was finally able to get through to me an idea that I have never before been able to truly take in.

It’s about comparison.

She pointed out to me how much of my life I spend evaluating others – and by extension, myself.  This person is highly attractive – this person not so much.  This person is successful – this person is less than.  This person is talented – this person is a want-to-be.

And, more or less the same, to me too.

I’m attractive – or not.  I’m successful – or not.  I’m talented – or not.

And over the years, throughout my spiritual quest, I have managed to consciously manipulate this pattern so I believe: “Well, that person may be rich, but that doesn’t give them happiness.  That person may be homeless – but they could still be able to find contentment.  That person may have killer abs, but does that really make him sleep better at night in the arms of a person who loves him unendingly?”

I would and do remind myself that nothing in this world guarantees joy – and in the end, we will loose everything physical and tangible to age, decay, and time.

So I’d say: “Yeah – they’re hot… but so what?!”

But what my friend pointed so eloquently out to me is this:

I’m living in a contestant state of “better than.”  Even if I’m reminding myself that their gifts may be temporary and lacking deep satisfaction, I’m still evaluating.

This mindset is one of lack.  One of insufficiency.

There’s only so much beauty – and it’s a competition.  There’s only so much success – and it’s a competition. Or, even, there’s only so much enlightenment – and it’s also a competition.

Instead of just blessing them and feeling grateful for them, and myself, wherever they/we are.

When I see someone with many riches: I bless them.  When I see someone lacking: I bless them.

I bless everyone.  And love them.  And thank the heavens for their gifts.  Love them for what they have.

And let go of the last shards of envy I still carry with me.

It’s so easy to build up a self-perception by one’s many attributes.  To define one’s self by one’s successes and failures.  Best features and ugly distractors.

Instead of just being thankful.  Instead of just being grateful.  FOR EVERYTHING.

So this is my new goal:  Just be deeply grateful.

Celebrate others’ gifts because they’re worth celebrating.  Instead of measuring myself up to them, just say: Bless them.

Love them.

Send them light and happiness and joy from the heart of the universe.

I’m not sure this’ll be easy – but I think it’ll be heartily worthwhile.

I want to find this non-dualistic, this non-better-than outlook.

I want to embrace the beauty of all.  The grace of all.  The light in all.

It’s going to be a monumental mind-shift.  And I invite you to join me on this journey.  See if we can both reprogram our minds to just see what light there is in others.  And not decipher who burns the brighter.

To just let life be as it is – and give thanks.

This is my opportunity to grow.

Care to join?

Sometimes You Love People for the Person They Could Have Been

I have an old friend. We were friends in high school.

I remember him as being so poignantly alive – so full of character and spirit. He inspired me and wowed me – and I really think a deep part of me truly loved him.

After high school we went our separate ways, as people tend to do. And then a Christmas or so we reconnected….

And I was appalled. He was so constricted. So tight. So not full of life, or truth, or passion, or all the things I remember him as being.

He was bloated, and blind to reality, and slowly suffocating from his own fears.

I knew another man. And this one I definitely loved. He was the first man I ever fell hard for.

The kind of passion that made me cry when I got within half a mile of his apartment – even two years later – because I was so deeply affected by him.

He was smart, and kind, and spiritual. He was clever and caring. He was a beautiful man, inside and out.

And I saw his potential. I saw what he could grow into being.

But he wasn’t ready to embrace that part of himself. He was not ready to face his truth.

He’d rather hide, and escape, and not confront the reality of life’s most challenging – and often growth filled – moments.

In both of these instances – I cared for these men because who they had the capacity to become – and not who they actually are/were.

And this is so hard to acknowledge and accept.

For those of us who have the capacity to see the potential within another human being (and I believe there is a lot of us), it’s very easy to get caught up in assessing them as the person they might become.

And this is why so many of us stay in unhealthy relationships.

Or forgive abusive friends.

Or endure hostile relatives.

We know – deep down – they are capable of so much more.

But the truth we must learn to acknowledge is this:

They Are Not These People.

These individuals are only so good as the person they are in this moment. They, in actuality and totality, are not just these gems buried inside.

And I can’t love someone for who they might be.

This is why I keep that high school friend at a distance and don’t reach out to him very often. While I love the memory of the boy he was and the man he might have grown into, I cannot abide the man he currently is.

Similarly, I cannot hope that my first real love will come round, face his fears, and acknowledge the capacity to learn and grow that lies between us.

I cannot love him for that – because that is not where he currently is in his psyche.

So – I delete his number from my phone. And I wish my old friend a happy birthday – and that is all.

I send out a prayer and blessings to the universe – thanking them for the light and inspiration that they brought to my life – and wishing them well on their journeys.

And I stay grateful for having the capacity to see beneath the surface – and to see another’s deeper truth.

And keep reminding myself to not get caught up in what another might eventually achieve.

Because they are just not there now.

Namaste.

Letting Go of Needing to Be Extraordinary

I remember in high school being quite taken with the not-quite-so-authentic-or-inspired lyrics of Avril Lavigne:

“I want to know that I

Have been to the extreme

So knock me off my feet

Come on now give it to me

Anything to make me feel alive

Is it enough to love?

Is it enough to breath?

Somebody rip my heart out

And leave me here to bleed

Is it enough to die?

Somebody save my life

I’d rather be anything but ordinary please”

Like I said, not entirely the most inspired bit of song writing ever penned to paper… but it encapsulated a desire that was beginning to pressurize in my chest; a desire to do great and extraordinary things in my life.

An excerpt taken from my daily journal around this same teenage-time reveals my own, modest ambitions towards achieving greatness:

Sept 16, 2002

Life Goals:

  • President of the United States
  • Prime Minister of Britain
  • Be knighted
  • Win at least two Academy Awards for Best Director an Actor
  • Win a Tony Award for Best Actor
  • Win a Nobel Peace Prize

…the list went on from there with at least fifteen more items of a similar nature.  Although I am relatively confident that my fourteen-year-old self was cognizant enough to realize that  A) Several of the items in that list would be tactically impossible due to different laws and regulations, such as nationality; B) Would take multiple life times to fulfill, if at all; and C) Would require substantially different skill-sets and life orientations – and yet, I am not so certain I was fully aware of the unfeasibility of such.

The craving within me to achieve something “Great” was profound beyond measure.  I recollect lying on a heap of crumpled comforter, on the floor of my parent’s master bedroom at sixteen, having my first-ever legitimate panic attack due to the fact that should have already attained something publicly noteworthy and profound in my already advancing years of age.

Long story short: I was a nut-job, hellbent for glory, and totally disconnected with any deep sense of self-worth.

I wanted the profoundly extra-ordinary to manifest in my life and convince me that I was merely good enough.

Sound like a current President we all have the misfortune to be currently acquainted with?

At that time in my life, I really did not have a lot going on to teach me my inherent worth.  I had few (if any) real friendships, I was scared of most everyone I encountered, I was bullied horrendously, I was totally disconnected from my sexuality, and so repressed that I considered myself “broken” because I could not feel what other normal teenagers felt.  I felt really worthless.

And I wanted something glorious beyond measure to tell me I had worth – because I could not find it in myself.

And so, going to college shortly thereafter, I decided to become a professional actor – because assuredly Hollywood and the thundering applause of a raucous crowed would give me that fulfillment.  And, if it wouldn’t be tangibly possible to attain all of those checkpoints on my high school to-do list, at least onscreen I could play a President, King, Physicist and Astronaut and achieve some feeling of that attainment.

Well, life, as she has a way of doing, has kicked me in the gut and pulled the rug out from underneath me, knocking me down, enough times since that point that I began to question that longing.  Why did I want to be a movie star?  What was I afraid of in starting to date other people (something I did not attempt until I was twenty-five years of age)?

Long story cut very short: I eventually started to develop sincere self worth.  I started to learn my “size.”  Learn to know what I had to genuinely offer and what was mere aggrandizement.  I started to genuinely connect to who I truly was, what I wanted, and what I had to give.

A large step in that process for me was discovering meditation.  I truly credit it for giving me my life back.  It taught me to start removing the layers of facade I had unintentionally fabricated, to uncover my truest self beneath.

And – it simultaneously connected me with the mystical – the ethereal – and the divine.

I moved into a meditation ashram right after college – where I learned that I was “special.”   I had unique karma to encounter this practice.  I was blessed.  And that I had a chance to go beyond what normal humans experienced – and live a life that was truly “extraordinary.”

Wait… Sound familiar?  … somehow I traded one dream of self-aggrandizement for another.

In hind sight, I do see there was a dangerous mentality to the tradition I entered.  A promise of specialness. A guarantee of life being more than normal humans (outside the practice) could understand.  And that gave me purpose and a feeling of divine grace.

And then, as all false-idols must, my sacred imaginings shattered to the ground.  The leaders that promised this mystical and otherworldly ideal were revealed to be more human than they presented themselves to be.

And I ended up parting ways from that tradition – heartbroken and distraught.  But still much more alive and authentically myself than I encountered it, thanks to the still-excellent teachings I received.

But in wake of that leaving, I once again have found that craving inside me to be “extraordinary” resurfacing.

Now, I no longer want to be a movie star, or famous, or a figure of social importance.  I actually now desire the simple things: a loving home, a gracious partner, good food, sturdy friendships.

IMG_0478

But there’s part of me that wants something so much more – something that I am now beginning to call a connection to the divine.  My experiences in the ashram started to illuminate some glimpses of that for me.

And if I am totally honest with myself – that longing for something more than what we associate “normal” to be – is indeed a spiritual longing.

A desire to return to a state of pure-bliss, pure-awareness, pure-truth that the ancient rishis and “seers” have articulated existing within each and every one of us.

That the longing for the “Extraordinary” is nothing more than a longing to return home – to my Soul.

Spiritual traditions across the globe have articulated that the Earth is just one place conscious beings reside – and that there are other places that we might be more akin to.  That we are “spirits having a physical experience.”

My question is now for myself: how can I truly appreciate and relish the ordinary – while striving for the extraordinary within me – and not through outer glorification?

How can I cultivate the magic, love, light, and prosperity I feel in glimpses in my meditation in the rest of my waking life?

How can I live a life fully empowered, aware, enheartened, and steadfast?

How can I live in truth?

These are my current questions.  Questions to which I am unsure there are solid answers.

What do you think?  Please share your insights and inspirations below!

Namaste,  Kaelan 🙂

Sharing a Piece of Love

Recently, it was Valentine’s Day.

This year – I decided to go all out.

I wrote and performed a song for my beautiful partner, and made a music video to go along with it.  Our nicknames for each other are “Panda” and “Monkey” …and this is our story… even down to how we met on OKCupid.

I hope you enjoy this little piece of love that I’m sharing with the world.  Peace to all!


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/204227024″>You and Me (the Monkey and the Panda Song)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user31740900″>Kaelan Strouse</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Getting Naked

I’m ready to get naked.  How about you?

Shed my fears, my inhibitions, my shame.

I’m beginning to realize how much shame each of us carries.  Shame of our bodies.  Shame of our desires.  Shame of our needs.

Shame is like a pack of rank, moldy critters scurrying around in the dark crevasses of our subconscious.

Shame causes us pain; shame causes suffering; shame causes us misfortune.

More over, shame keeps us from our truest and most authentic selves.   If we are ashamed of parts of who we are, how can we ever love ourselves in our totality?  Can we learn to accept the beautiful and the terrifying parts of ourselves as one holistic unit?  Can we love our love-handles, our proclivities, our relationships to food?

For if we cannot accept all part of ourselves, including the scary bits, how can we ever love another human being in their entirety?

These are the questions that have been running through my mind as of late.

Like many Americans, I grew up in a very sex and body negative environment.  I grew up in a society where bodies should be covered at all times.  Affection generally isn’t publicly displayed between couples – even in the home space.  I notice that I have never really watched my parents kiss romantically or even spontaneously hold hands.

In gyms, we dress as quickly as possible, dancing behind towels to keep our bodies hidden from our peers.  On social media apps, we only share the most carefully curated, filtered, and photoshopped versions of ourselves to present the most flattering images of our white-washed lives.

And this is so gross and unfortunate.

Our messy parts are beautiful.  Our unrefined and unglamorous angels make us human and relatable.  If our minds and bodies are born to act and look a certain way – these qualities should be celebrated.

This shame in regards to sexuality is as logical to me as a shame of walking.  Imagine a society where it’s shameful to walk.  Feet are to be subjugated.  We must only roll on wheels from destination to destination.  Do not use your feet for their designed purpose.  How dare you highlight the fact that you even possess feet.

Why are we like this with other parts of our bodies and psyches?  Perhaps its partially due to our Puritanical heritage as Americans.

The Ancient Greeks used clothing to highlight the natural lines of the body.  They didn’t cover areas for modesty – but utilized accoutrement-ization to highlight their best assets.

Why is there so much shame in our culture for exposing a breast – even when feeding an infant?  Or a bulge in a man’s pants?  Why have we become so sterile?  Europe certainly isn’t this way.

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I have recently begun to realize how much shame I carry regarding my own sexuality.  Although I came out as a gay man several years ago, much of me has still felt dirty for admitting that I actually like sex. Now, I’m discovering how “vanilla” my relationship to sex has been.  I realize that in my mind I’ve been holding biases: like believing that someone can want or like sex too much.  Or that one should only have it in certain ways.  Or that it is acceptable only in certain contexts and relationships.  That we shouldn’t be horny.  Or be raunchy.  Or express …all those desires you buried inside that you might actually, really want.

And this means that I’ve not been been expressing my truest version of me.   If we deny our deepest impulses, if we deny our bodies’ innate truths, we are living inauthentic lives.

In Jungian psychology, they have a concept called “The Shadow Self.”  We have the normal, socially appropriate self that walks around everyday.  But hidden behind that is The Shadow Self.  It’s comprised of all the things that titillate you, inspire you, excite you – but your conscious mind feels is forbidden.  Maybe that drag queen caught your eye – and maybe you feel angry that you want to look.  Maybe that extra dessert lures you fantastically – but you can only think about your already too significant waistline.  Maybe that person in the blue jeans, of a different gender than you are usually attracted, entices you – and you suddenly feel unexplainable frustration towards them.

These forbidden desires exist within all of us.  And they have to be resolved.  As long as they seem interesting and yet impossible – they will pull on our subconscious, and we will build shame around our unacceptable impulses.

Instead, if they can be healthfully acknowledged and expressed, they can be integrated into one’s regular self.

And it’s not that, suddenly, you will find yourself every Thursday night at the local drag bar, kicking up your spangled heals (although, that might be possible – and that’s totally okay – if it is); but it by opening up to your fear and shame, you might heal a very deep trauma in your psyche, perhaps keeping your from deeply integrating your masculine and feminine qualities.  That forbidden curiosity might be a symptom of some deeper issue that needs addressing and bringing back into wholeness.

Shame causes disease – it’s been proven by healers and health psychologists again and again.  And there’s so much that American society says to feel shamed about.  Our weight, our food, our bodies, our desires, our partners.

So this season, I’m blowing the lid off my basement of creepy, shameful creatures.  I’m letting my full shadow self dissolve into the light.  I am healing – and allowing myself to accept all aspects of this beautiful and contradictory human experience.  And this takes guts and bravery – and a willingness to accept that not everyone will understand it.  Others may question or judge me for my choices.

But if there is any source of inspiration to counter that judgement, it is this:

“This above all: to thine own self be true

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou cans’t not then be false to any man.”

As Shakespeare said it like no one else ever could – when we are truer to our actual, authentic selves, we become truer citizens, lovers, brothers, sisters, parents, children, friends, and human beings overall.

If I can fully love and accept every aspect of who I am – I can thereby accept all other walks of life.  If I can hold no judgement or blame of myself – I can accept all others openly and with compassion.

So long as I resent my deepest self – I will resent others too.  This is the truth – and the crux of the issue with shame.

I’m moving further towards the light – shedding my inhibitions (and my clothes) – and asking you to join me.

Please share in the comments section below how you are working to share your “Naked Truth” – your most vital, uninhibited, and joyous celebration of your truest feelings and desires.

Learning to love ourselves for who and what we are – free of shame.

Love and peace to you all!

Namaste, Kaelan  #nakedtruth