Being naked in front of others … My tour-break trip to the Hot Springs

April 11, 2010


Warning: If you’re uncomfortable exploring a straight man’s thoughts on nudity and penises – and you don’t like to be uncomfortable, stop reading. Some might find this rather “spiritually incorrect”; all the more reason to let it all hang out … so to speak.

On my recent break from the HERE II HERE “Waking Journey” tour (been on the road over 80 days now), I went to the famous “clothing-optional” Harbin Hot Springs in northern California.

I arrived at dusk at Harbin’s front gate, nestled in a deep mountain canyon far from any city. The lush Harbin resort sits between two mountainous, rippling rocky hills carpeted by a beautiful patchwork of green grass and scraggly bush, fig trees, evergreen, and tall pines lining steep ridges cloaked in a misty sky.

I checked in at the front gate as a young rotund couple waited close by. All I could think was, “I’m going to see you both naked later.” I imagined them naked, and I imagined them imagining me naked, too.

Nothing quite prepares you to be completely naked in front of strangers, if that’s not the sort of thing you’re accustomed to.

While I was expecting a grungy hippie camp, Harbin is surprisingly well developed, state-of-the-art even, with dorms, a quaint building of private rooms, a restaurant, cafe, small movie theater, large wooden sun decks that open up to the sky, and other amenities. At the heart of Harbin are the natural spring water pools: two body-temperature heated wading pools where most human bodies congregate like the snow monkeys in the movie “Baraka“; a super-crazy-boil-yourself-for-dinner 114° hot pool; a rib-squeezing cold-plunge pool fed by the canyon’s main mountain stream; and two ambient temperature pools neither heated nor cooled.

While I did bring a bathing suit, I knew I was likely to be the only adult wearing it. So, in the tiny co-ed dressing room (yes, co-ed … meaning men and women undressing into their skin suits together), I hesitated a moment before resigning myself to go without. I had also brought a white bath robe as a backup plan, but quickly decided I didn’t have enough “Hugh Hefner” in my bones to pull that off. So the only thing to do was remove my jeans and boxers, my shirt and my little beanie cap, and mosey outside into the frigid evening … completely butt-naked. For all to see. Nothing to hide behind.

So I did … after going into the bathroom stall to ensure I was … ummmmm … you know … representin’ … in a satisfactory manner. I was about to be naked in front of a bunch of strangers, men and women alike; I had no desire to give an … inaccurate impression … or at least an impression I didn’t want to give.

That’s the cliche, isn’t it.

The #1 thing on this man’s mind, about to be naked in front of others: do I have a nice penis? (curiously, the #2 thing on my mind was, “do I have a nice ass?” I’ve come to understand that’s important to women, as well.)

While I’ve been told by previous lady friends that I have a nice penis (and once by a straight man … long story), the truth is I really don’t know. They could have simply been trying to make me feel good (not so much the straight guy, though), as most seem to intuitively know that the penis is the primary focus of male insecurity.

I’ve not seen many penises in my life. They don’t show them in movies, and men are generally private in locker rooms; it’s also just not cool to look sideways at the bathroom urinal. Even HERE II HERE, 6 men on the road together for months; I don’t think any of us has seen another naked.

It’s simply not acceptable social practice for men to check out each others’ penises, even though I’m convinced all straight guys are secretly fascinated to know what other guys are packing. I was naked in a Key West bar once (also a long story), and I saw a number of men doing their best to check out my penis without looking like they were checking out my penis. Most likely weren’t gay as it wasn’t a gay bar, but simply curious to know what another penis looks like. Because we just don’t know! Our only reference points are porn stars.

I really don’t know how mine measures up … so to speak.

People – especially men – are not generally comfortable being naked in front of each other. Clothing has evolved from a way to keep us safe from the elements to another way to keep us safe from each other. “Hell is in the eyes of the other”, as philosopher Jean Paul Sartre once put it.

Anyway, I’ve seen lots of bananas and cucumbers and carrots. I know what a good banana looks like. I know what a bad banana looks like. I have no idea what a good penis looks like.

So I went the first evening under decent cover of misty darkness. I walked briskly to the warm wading pool and lowered myself as gracefully as I could muster, tripping down only 2 or 3 steps in my nervous haste. There were 4 other nude bathers, seemingly indifferent to my presence …… and the steaming warm waters wrapped themselves around my chilled naked body …… oooooooooh divine!!!

… HEAVEN!!! This was bliss!!! I felt my muscles relax, my brain go mushy, and my thoughts begin to drift away.

After 30 minutes or so, as I slowly mustered up enough courage to leave the safety of water cover, I brought myself to the sauna … I sat there naked on my towel in this tiny sauna, and at one point me and my male pride were quickly surrounded by 5 naked women. Although a few of them were even attractive, a sense of decency and respect (I have 3 sisters and 2 mothers) prevented me from paying any obvious attention. But I was fascinated by the experience. And of course the balancing moment came when I found myself alone in a small pool with 4 other naked men. Life always seeks balance.

Let me say this now: I’m amazed at the variety of penis. Of course I looked. I quickly discovered, because I pay attention, that whenever two people walked past each other, invariably all eyes darted to the crotch region for a quick peak. Men and women alike. We are so fascinated by what is otherwise forbidden to see!!!

Without going into detail, I would say just as there is a healthy variety of human heads, shaped by hair, ears and all, it would seem there are as many varieties of penis. I was amazed to see such different shapes, lengths, colors … and even ‘hair styles’. And it must be said that a penis will look different from one moment to the next, depending on a variety of factors.

In my case, I found over the course of my 8 hours or so of cumulative naked time during my stay, there were moments I believed I was “representing” well. At such moments I walked around proud, intending for all to be witness to the glory of my father’s legacy; I would hold my towel high, walk a long, slow stride, my shoulders back and chest out. I was the envy of my own imagination. And then there were other moments (as upon exiting the hot pool), that I figured I ought to towel off thoroughly before venturing any further … you know, rest a moment to let things equalize. Momentarily concerned, I would mentally call out, “psssst … what are you doing down there!? Don’t make me smack you around!! Look alive!! …… but not too alive.” I did smack it around once, trying to rouse it from apparent heat shock, afraid of what others might think. A goatee’d Chinese man in the hot pool noticed me doing so, and that didn’t help things.

But it was all just fantastic. Being naked in front of others … no clothing or identity stories to hide behind. If you haven’t been naked in front of anyone recently … do it ASAP. Get your partner, grab a friend, perhaps a neighbor or even your mother … sit them down in your living room and just remove your clothes. If that seems a bit extreme or you can’t find any non-creepy, willing voyeurs, then just go walk around a gym locker room confidently in your birthday suit … I promise you, once the intense discomfort subsides, you’ll feel remarkably liberated.

As I romped about naked and free, I practiced mastering my breath in the cold plunge’s bitterly cold water. As the seconds passed, the numbingly cold water would wrap itself ever more tightly around my rib cage, forming a tingly crystalline armor all around my body. Then, I would hop out and cut through the crisp mountain air, naked as a hairless albino gorilla in the mist, towards the hot pool, my body buzzing blissfully, anesthetized to any discomfort … and quickly inject myself into the scathing hot pool, shattering that cold crystalline armor into millions of prickly pieces splintering into every cell of my being. It was amazing!!!!!!!!!

If I sat still, without moving, I could calmly bare the 114° human stew for a few moments after the armor shattered. But when someone crept past me in the water, stirring up thick currents that stabbed at me without remorse, I would quickly scurry up the ladder naked and weeping, the hair on my buns boiled clean off.

I imagined the ancient people of Pompei buried alive in hot lava. And I wept for them.

On my last day, I had a “watsu” massage (water shiatsu) by a furry Israeli man in a heated spring pool, and we were both naked (he said it would be better for the massage; I accepted that). I would have preferred a woman’s energy, but a man was available at the time I wanted it, so I took it.

You see, I went through my sexual identity crisis years ago, and I know I’m deeply heterosexual. I don’t have the issues most men (especially homophobes) have who haven’t ever allowed themselves to question their sexuality. I’m available for bliss however it may come, even if it comes at the hands of a male massage therapist naked in a pool.

I don’t get much rest on the tour. The demands I put on my brain and body to execute a 6-month tour successfully are incredible. And sometimes it overwhelms me; or I simply indulge in the comforting thought that how it all goes is not really up to me, anyway.

Bathing naked in mother earth’s healing, fiery wellsprings, disconnecting from the story of a “tour”, was the perfect experience.

I find that because I truly love managing HERE II HERE, the “break experience” is so much richer than when I used to break from a work I had no passion for. I would spend a solid part of those breaks either detoxifying my mind of the drudgery or dreading my return to it. Doing something that truly fulfills allows me to soar directly into joy during a break, because I know what’s waiting for me after I’m done goofing off … is essentially just more goofing off that I actually get paid for.

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  • This was an amazing piece of literary expression all wrapped up in fun, truth, and… well…. more truth! I LOVE truth so much and it is even better when you read, see, feel someone else do it! Thank you for your awesome way of writing about your first "naked in front of others" journey 🙂 I might tell you about my own some day if our paths cross again!! LOL 😉

    • This is an excellent post from Bryan, elevated and enhanced by not being confined by the subject matter of nudity but also the sense of adventure and exploration of the surroundings, the customs and personal space, as well as the visceral sensations and sheer contrasts of the hot and cold, all coming together to form a highly immersive experience.

  • Warning: If you're uncomfortable exploring a woman's thoughts on nudity and penises – and you don't like to be uncomfortable, stop reading. Some might find this rather "un-lady-like", and all the more reason to let it all hang out … so to speak.Bry,Thanks for sharing your very own personal "Waking Journey." First, I would have no idea if you have a "nice penis" as I've only seen four in my 53 (next month) years in this incarnation. Actually, let me take that back. I've really only seen one. The others were just "shots in the dark." (pun intended) The owner of the one I know very personally has told me many times that his is more than nice. I've seen that one over and over and over and over (did I say over?) again the last 35 years, so I guess I'm a lucky lady. (?)That penis and I considered a mini getaway to either Harbin or Dr. Wilkon's which is nearby I'm told a couple of times. Harbin is now out as we had no idea it was clothing optional. We would definitely choose to remain clothed which would make us stick out like big fat sore thumbs I'm sure. Oh, wait, that would be if we were naked and only one of us would. Again, from what I've been told, it would surely stand out in a crowd. (?)That being said, I, too love the honesty and humor. Sometimes we on this path of enLightenment are afraid to show our Human-ness. I find living that boring to tell you the truth.It's all about Love, Light, Laughter, as well as our Human-ness, All-ness, One-ness and in this case We-nis. :-)Lastly? As Elaine Benes of The Seinfeld Show said, "I don't know how you guys walk with those things."

  • I think Harbin is one of the best places to experience communal nudity. The fear of nakedness is very American. When I first came here 20 odd years ago, I couldn't understand why people would opt to keep their swimsuits on when using a beach shower. Now, sadly, it feels like the norm to me, to the point that a recent client I had from Switzerland (I'm a massage therapist) thought it was the funniest thing that it's verboten to see a client naked during a massage. Now, about the nude bar in Key West – that does sound weird…

  • Thanks for this interesting personal perspective. I especially liked the pictures. (wonder how the other monkeys would react if you made one wear a bathing suit). Sorry I missed HIIH in Sebastopol. I hope you'll come back to N CA soon. Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa would be a great venue!

  • .Humans and all our human-ness are beautiful and that is definitely something HereiiHere teaches through their courageous Music, BEing and HERE-ness* SO happy that you are a true extension of that willingness to BE You and Explore yourself bravely!Blessings 🙂

  • LOL. I'm so glad I insisted that you go there. You got everything from the experience that I did the first time that I went. Here's some great news – It just keeps getting better! And if you liked that then the next step in total body and spiritual bliss (and I'm am NOT kidding about this) is to take the Human Awareness Institute (HAI) Level 1 workshop up there at Harbin some weekend (they offer it once a month). Man, are you in for a treat! In fact most of the folks that will be at the house concert are from the HAI community. You are all gonna LOVE each other.

  • IN Greece and Rome of long ago men would hang out in baths naked. It was no big deal. In fact in all the reading I've done it seemed to be healthy. It was a kind of male bonding. They did not seem to be concerned about if a person was gay or not. They did not think that way. But in our modern world of America, men freak out at the thought of being seen naked by other men. The greater fear is if a man just happens to look over a see the penis of another man, then he is worried that someone will think he is gay. It's crazy, it's bondage. I think it is just apart of the male nature to want to see what the penis of another men looks like. I have come to believe that it is just apart of the male ego. It's no big deal. It's probably healthy in a man kind of way. So we all just need to chill man.

  • We were in a hot tub naked and enjoying being tickled by I think it was little cartoon characters that were making love to us. Anyway a guy with tight suit on with jeans that were very tight around his hip. Started yelling at us b/c we were naked. We had a right to be naked and this ugly guy was yelling saying “You all are crazy dummies..” We just giggle and watch this man pitch one big fit. Then one lady said come on in show your fit on us . Well this guy left slamming door shut. We just laugh and were very happy.

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