Because of the way we have been conditioned to see things, there is a tendency to assume that the state of being dressed -- especially in the company of friends or strangers -- is the natural and appropriate way for people to be. Many people simply feel this is a sensible, moral and practical approach. What they overlook is the fact that compulsion to wear clothes is a conditioned response, brought about by certain cultural assumptions and biases. Likewise the fear or avoidance of nudity -- one's own or someone else's -- is something that must be learned as well.

But once it's learned it is difficult to unlearn. The barriers that fear sets up in our lives are enormous and self-perpetuating. The very paralyzing quality of feeling apprehensive and anxious about ourselves and our status keeps us from seeing the possibilities which exist beyond this state of mind. Based on our need to defend ourselves against attack, the instinct of fear is a very valuable ally as we face potential dangers, but it can also be a merciless oppresor, keeping us from straying beyond the fortification of our own devising, so that those protective walls become a prison.

Breaking the pattern of fear can be a lifetime effort which few (if any) of us successful achieve. Yet we must continue to do what we can to tear down the walls that separate ourselves from each other and a richer life that we cultivate once we step beyond the confines of our fear. Because fear is often more a product of conditioning -- the accumulated lessons taught to us by those around us and the fallout from numerous negative experiences -- we must go deep within our own minds to really root out this demon. We must face it directly, exposing ourselves to its toxins and risking an even deeper retreat into its dark labyrinthe. This risk, however, is certainly worthwhile in the longrun, for if we perservere we will find a new kind of freedom which would otherwise lie beyond our reach.

Once we conquer or at least subdue our fears we find that we can involve ourselves more fully in life and begin to develop more intimate and long-lasting relationships with other people. And once that process begins, another self-perpetuating dynamic begins to takes its place. If many of our fears are rooted in a need to protect ourselves, the alliances and frindships which we begin to build as fear dissolves make it less and less necessary to adopt this defensive posture. Something else begins to displace our apprehension -- something called love.