On my first visit to Esalen I wrote about the ‘clothing optional’ baths, so I won’t belabor that topic, especially since I’ve long gotten over it and it seems as natural as breathing to me now. I’ll strip off my clothes in a heartbeat if it means I get to soak in those baths.
So one evening on my last retreat, I stripped down as usual in the changing room of the bath house. As is my habit, I take my underwear off along with my yoga pants and hang them both on a hook next to my top. Then, I shower and have a nice long soak in the hot spring waters.
Later, I got out of the baths, showered, and headed back into the changing room. I put on my top and searched around for my yoga pants (with underwear inside), but they were nowhere to be found. I was dumbfounded. I searched everywhere and thought to myself–who in the world would take my pants? I plopped down on the bench and felt utterly lost–bereft of underwear, pants, and of any clue of what to do. How was I going to get to some pants? It was nearly a quarter mile to my room, and I would have to go through some populated areas. The baths may be clothing optional, but only the baths…a dripping person wrapped in a towel would attract some attention. My mind went into overdrive and I imagined myself walking to my room with a towel wrapped around my lower half and having it fall to the ground in front of a table of unsuspecting diners noshing on their second serving of kale salad. That said, wrapping myself in a towel was out of the question.
As I sat there wondering what to do, a lovely couple from my yoga class came into the room. I looked at them with what was probably a look of both hope and confusion and explained what happened. To their credit, they didn’t abandon me with useless advice about wrapping a towel around myself. Instead, the husband left to get a pair of his wife’s pants from their room so I could borrow her pants to get back to my own room. Surely, there is a special place in heaven for these people. On his way to their room, he had the brilliant idea of checking the towel bin at the top of the trail that leads to the baths. There they were, with my underwear still tucked inside, probably mistaken for someone’s towel in the darkness, or perhaps grabbed along with their towel by mistake.
The same lovely couple are at this retreat, so we’ve had a few opportunities to look back at this experience and laugh.
So if one could derive morals from that story, I suppose they would be: 1) when at a clothing-optional bath, do not hang your pants on the towel hooks so they can be swiped along with a wet towel. 2) if you ever come across a poor, dripping soul in search of pants, think of lending them yours. It’s good karma.