I opened my eyes to see a naked man staring at me.
I’d been soaking in the summer sun on one of my favourite stretches of beach. I love the privacy of tucking myself into a discreet spot in the sand dunes where sea grasses obscure me from the view of the occasional beach walker.
But obviously not from this guy!
There he was lurking on a high sand dune not more than 10 meters away. I was furious. I was the only person lying on the beach for as far as I could see, and there he was right next to me. I’d intentionally walked that far down so that I could sunbake naked. I seethed with rage at the brazen intrusion. I started putting my clothes on with the intention of confronting him. But seeing me suddenly gathering my things, he also put his clothes on quick smart and set off down the beach. I quickly followed close behind. I can’t remember who started running first but my blood was boiling and I was determined to catch him. Eventually though, it became apparent that he was going to outrun me. I put all my effort into one last sprint but he was beyond me. I screamed out and swore at him as a final retaliation. I continued to follow for a long time and kept my eyes lasered on him, but with the growing distance he secured his escape by fading into the crowd of people at the more populated end of the beach.
Surprisingly, I calmed down quite quickly and actually ended up giving thanks for the realisation, and new found determination, to work on my fitness so that I couldn’t be outrun like that again. And then with further reflection, I hit upon a deeper realisation.
I began objectively asking myself what had actually happened. Did this experience actually warrant the outrage and suffering I had taken from it? Sure, the guy had blatantly stalked me a long way down the beach and had probably had a wank but what of it? Did I really need to react? He hadn’t touched me. He hadn’t spoken to me. All that had really happened was that he’d encroached on my space in a disturbing way. And yet a hell of a lot of emotion had surfaced in me in response. Not unwarranted of course, but I began to appreciate the opportunity to rewrite the situation. He could be a sexual predator all he liked but I didn’t have to buy into it. I could deny him and ignore it.
I’m not the first person to experience sexual harassment on that beach. The police visit with reasonable regularity because it’s known that shady characters sometimes linger in the bushes. I wasn’t about to surrender my innocent beach pleasures though so I knew it would likely happen to me again at some point.
And so I decided to take it on as a warrior challenge. A passionate dedication to face something deeply challenging in order to compel my own personal growth.
I am blessed to live close to the ocean. I am particularly blessed that the northern section of my beach is often so deserted that I can even stroll along it completely naked sometimes. It’s an incredible luxury and I’m often tearfully grateful for the freedom of it. Skinny dipping and laying naked in the sun has long been one of my favourite sensual pleasures. It can be such wonderful medicine for getting me out of my head and deeply into my body. I’ve been so spoilt that I’m often quite put out when I find myself in other crowded swimming situations where I’m obliged to cover up.
I always walk north on this beach because at the southernly end there’s a section designated to clothing optional bathing. I don’t like the vibe. Inevitably, when I’ve ventured onto beaches like that, I’ve been disturbed by naked men approaching with the most tedious inquiries like, “Do you know the time?”. It infuriates me. Somehow they assume that nakedness is an open invitation and a sign of sexual availability. Ultimately they’ve always been harmless but I so resent the intrusion.
And so I walk north. It’s not legal to be naked outside the designated southern section but I figure if I’m discreet about it no one will be offended.
I felt sure that the pervy guy got a large measure of his satisfaction from getting a strong reaction from me. He was so audacious in the way he’d stood so closely exposed in plain sight. He could have easily tucked down and hidden himself behind the dunes and trees where I mightn’t have noticed him at all. But no. He wanted to disturb me.
And so, if I saw him again, I committed that I wouldn’t even acknowledge his presence, let alone yell or make chase.
I was determined to purify and rewrite the experience in order to transcend it completely. But via yielding, not via combat or control. If there is a battle to be had then it’s with my inner feelings rather than my outer experience. I’ve certainly imagined setting up a trap to get this guy apprehended but in doing that I submit myself to playing by his rules of intimidation. Seeking to feel better by taking back control still keeps me at the mercy of my unfelt emotions. Though there would likely be some satisfaction in seeing the guy caught, it would do very little to truly liberate me.
There were many beach visits where I was completely undisturbed but, sure enough, I soon got my chance. Again I was bursting with fury but I did as little as possible to reveal it. I was determined to deny him the pleasure of getting a reaction. To placate myself, as I fumed inside, I harboured a fantasy of retribution where the police apprehended him. Maybe they cuffed him naked and then reprimanded him with a public spanking.
I longed to at least glare angerly at him in defiance but still I managed to keep all my turmoil inside and carried on as if he were invisible. I wasn’t going to let him determine my reality. I was going to force him into mine.
After the first incident, of course I could have taken logical precautions like wearing my bikini or choosing to swim where there were more people around, but if I did that then I’d be totally buying into his reality. In that reality women can be sexually bullied and I’m determined not to surrender myself one bit to that.
My ideal reality is one where there is such naturalness with the body that all beaches are clothing optional. A reality where we are completely safe to dress or undress as we choose because there is no such thing as perverted sexual energy that compromises the innocence of nakedness. That’s what I want and so I’m commanding that for myself by acting as if it’s completely true already.
In commanding it I have to claim it fully. And in order to claim it fully I must extinguish every reaction I have to anything that runs counter to it. And so I force myself to feel what this guy stirs in me rather than react against it. Feel what is, rather than change my circumstances so that the feelings go away. Feel angry instead of shouting about it. Feel vulnerable instead of seeking to protect myself by reporting him. Feel powerless rather than changing my routine.
I’m choosing to stay open to his invasion so that I can surface and wash out every wounded aspect I carry unknowingly. I’ve turned him into my ally. Every time he triggers me, he assists me in feeling something yucky about sexuality that’s been buried beneath my conscious awareness.
Maybe some repressed feeling of sexual compromise as a child.
Very likely some disturbance from disconnected, alcohol fuelled sexual exploits in my 20s.
Quite possibly some sexual distress absorbed from the collective consciousness of humanity.
Whatever the origins of my emotional reaction to this lecherous guy, I know that once I’ve dredged it all, then I’ll no longer attract or be affected by this kind of behaviour from anyone. Once my inner self is in complete alignment with the sexual freedom my mind aspires to, then that reality will prevail. I will only be able to attract experiences that compliment my ideal.
There are different lessons for people at different times. For some it would be perfectly appropriate to deal with this by seeking to take back control via more logical measures, rather than the inner feeling state. But I’d instinctively worked through some external elements first when I chased the guy and I’d yelled at him. Even though there was no satisfaction in catching him, it had felt very therapeutic to scream. There have been plenty of situations in the past when I didn’t find my voice to express my outrage. It felt great to curse at this guy at the top of my lungs. Having done that though, it then felt more productive to delve inside myself to find more enduring safety.
Recently I read the story of the Peace Pilgrim, a woman who some recognised as being enlightened. She describes a scene that illustrates my aspiration perfectly. In the 1950’s she gave up all her possessions and set about walking all over the USA. Her 28 year pilgrimage was a demonstration of her implicit faith in God. She had no money and relied solely on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter. One night she found herself invited into the car of a rough looking man when she was in need of some shelter and sleep. Upon waking some time later, she saw him sitting awake beside her looking puzzled. Eventually he confessed that he had intended to harm her but something in her trusting demeanour had made it impossible for him. Her reality of love and peace was anchored so strongly and permeated her surroundings so completely, that he simply could not impose upon it. Her embodied faith overpowered his disturbance. Her reality prevailed.
That’s what I’m forging in myself with this challenge.
Not to say it’s been easy. This experience has made me hyper alert, and often I’ve been suspicious of every man walking alone on that beach. But this week I felt some significant progress.
Usually I can feel sleazy energy. Lying with my eyes closed and a t-shirt over my face to protect me from the sun, I’d usually be able to feel someone’s sordid gaze upon me from afar. I’d feel the disturbance without necessarily having to see it. But the other day I was almost completely oblivious to another culprit. It wasn’t until I was almost getting up to leave the beach that I noticed. And I genuinely felt pretty relaxed about it. I was actually a bit confused. It felt strange. Once again there was a naked man who’d positioned himself disturbingly close on an otherwise empty stretch of beach. The situation was virtually unchanged from the other experiences but I felt so much calmer. I was confounded because I felt so strangely unperturbed. It was as if the guy were almost an after thought. My mind was confused while my body was at ease.
It was unusual.
And just like that – I’m changing my reality.