Bathed in Beauty
The next morning, we split into smaller groups to begin our meditation and asana practice. Vinyasa instructor Shiva Rea started the day by setting up an altar to a variety of deities and spiritual teachers. The room, with floor-to-ceiling walls looking out on the sea, was wonderfully inspiring. As Rea lit incense and a small kirtan band readied their instruments to accompany the dance-flow practice, Rea asked that each of us find our guru. She didn't necessarily mean a person: It could be any of the objects she had placed on the altar, or if we liked, it could be nature itself. I chose the ocean and turned my mat toward the fog just beginning to clear over the waves.
It was indeed an invigorating practice, one that began with our letting go of our inhibitions to dance and sway to the harmonium's music. I moved from one pose to another using, as Rea suggested, the sound of the waves as my guide. And at the end, Rea announced that we would do our Savasana (Corpse Pose) in the hot springs.
A day earlier, I would have excused myself and sneaked back to my room to do Savasana alone and in peace. But Esalen and our heart-opening practice had already begun to work their magic on me. And so, with my focus turned inward, I calmly made my way to the changing room in silence with the others, folded my clothes in a neat stack, and then took a deep breath. When I came out, a group of five people waved me over to join their tub. They instructed me to lie in the water, back slightly arched in Savasana, while they held my head and legs. I closed my eyes and surrendered.
Floating there, bare-bottomed and bare-chested in front of all those unfamiliar bodies, I somehow found the trust to let go and lose myself in the experience. It wasn't until someone squeezed my big toes that I came up, swept my wet hair to the side, and saw these perfect strangers smiling kindly at me. And then all I could do was look deep into their eyes.
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