Dear Curious Readers,
Have you ever been publicly naked? Not in a steam room, sauna, whirlpool, or locker. I mean publicly outside, visibly seen by all.
I know that thought scares people away. Just as looking into the mirror and seeing themselves naked. Grabbing that towel to cover up.
Well, the adventurous spirit that I am… enrolled in a workshop for “Yoga and Creative Writing” with John Robbins and Katchie Ananda. I wanted to sit at the feet of John Robbins and hear his insights on writing. He taught me, “BIC. Butt in the Chair! And PTP. Pen to Paper.” Along with such amazing transparency and love for Michele, his daughter-in-love, not law but love. I wanted to move my body and go deeper into experiences. And I got to through the amazing yoga teacher, Katchie Ananda.
Esalen’s website states, “Cliff-side hot springs have been in ritual and healing use by the Esselen Indians and others for more than 6,000 years. Heated by the molten core of the earth and laden with minerals, the waters of Esalen’s hot springs flow at a rate of 80 gallons per minute and emerge at a temperature of 119 degrees Fahrenheit. These waters possess deeply rejuvenating properties, and the Esalen baths are a place of refuge, reverence, healing, and contemplation.”
But here is the disclaimer: People may be naked or may be wearing a swimsuit.
I didn’t think much about it as I packed my bikini. Venturing there with my enthusiastic nature. As I climbed downhill to the hot springs, people were naked. I walked onto the patio and saw the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, and I discovered naked people everywhere. In individual bathtubs and hot tub settings. I was the only one clothed in a bikini. Awkward to say the least.
How do I handle this situation… this environment? No, I’m not in Europe. I’m in the United States. In California.
Talking to myself… “You can do this. You are a big girl. Didn’t you read the damn disclaimer?!!!”
I entered the hot springs. A naked lady approached me. “Is it too hot?” As she cooled the tub down with the hose. “I just cleaned this one. You came at a good time.” I thought to myself, “I did!?”
As time went by, I was overheated and would sit on the outside of the tub. I thought I need to get to a cooler tub. And there I joined a sweet, young couple. Watching their freedom and playfulness.
I was getting weak. My blood pressure dropped. I stood and told the vivacious couple goodbye. Yet, I saw nothing but black spots. And fell back into the springs. I thought, “Oh no. How can I get out of here? Naked people can’t carry me up the hill.”
I mustered up the courage and exited the hot springs. “I need something to drink. Where is some water? I’m weak.” Barely making it to the bathroom, I put my clothes over my bikini.
Black spots. Black dots. Go away.
Walking up the hill. Watching eager faces walk down the hill. “Will I make it? Will I make it without passing out?”
Thankfully, I made it to the cafeteria. Drank 5 glasses of water and ice tea. Ate some gluten free bread and butter. Anything. Dinner wasn’t served for another hour. I couldn’t move my butt. I sat, and I waited.
Why am I sharing this story? The humor of course. But what about the nakedness?
My lovely roommate shared that the best time to enjoy the hot springs is in the evening. No one can see you. Pitch black. The stars are shining brightly in the dark sky.
But I never made it back to the hot springs.
Nakedness? We are told to cover up. Be modest. We can delight in the nakedness of a baby. But can we delight in the nakedness of an adult? I had to examine myself. What didn’t I like about my body? Scars, defects, cellulite, age. We can all name a variety of hindrances. What really was it about my imperfections? What was I so afraid of? Was it shameful to be naked in front of other individuals? Would they examine me, judge me, scrutinize me, and analyze me? What I discovered is that they didn’t give a shit! It was my ego protecting me, my defenses going up. Examining myself. Judging myself. Scrutinizing myself. Analyzing myself.
A year later, I believe I can enter the hot springs fully naked because of the growth that has taken place in me. Not because my body has physically gotten better or I gotten in better shape. But because my mind has gotten clearer, no longer encumbered by my inner critic and self-limiting beliefs.
Esalen was an enchanting experience of evolution. Stories shared in the workshop. Connecting with others in a powerful way. Meeting new and dear friends along the way.
Could you be naked at Esalen? Can you be naked in your mirror and like what you see?
Naked, oh my… naked, oh yes!
Photo credit: The Esalen Institute. Taken by Amanda Marsalis.