My excitement slipped a notch when I entered the locker room and read the sign, “no clothing allowed in the spa.” What?! I obviously missed the small print on that detail (which was probably a good thing). My body tensed as I silently started cataloging my flaws – a newish scar on my leg, my sagging “parts,” and concern about when (and where!) I last shaved. Reluctantly, I locked my clothes, and the bathing suit I had anticipated wearing, in the locker and wrapped the single complimentary towel tightly around my body.
I was even more surprised by the site inside the smallish spa room itself. Near the Jacuzzis and saunas, behind a waist-high partition, was a row of eight water proof massage tables, each with a nude woman lying atop one, being vigorously scrubbed by her Korean attendant. The scrubbing was alternated with multiple buckets of water being thrown over their naked bodies for rinsing. I was mesmerized by the sight.
Feeling like a fish out of water, and wildly uncomfortable amongst a roomful of women who seemed entirely at ease with their nudity, I went to the steam room, sat down, and turned to practice my embracing skills:
- I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, and guided my attention toward the physical sensations of anxiety and discomfort in my body
- I observed my stream of self-critical thoughts, and gently released them
- I then acknowledged that this was a challenging situation, breathed some more, and radiated self-compassion towards myself.
After a few minutes of practicing in this way, my body relaxed and I became aware of the wider space around me, including (oh yeh!) my beautiful daughter sitting next to me.
Having made that adjustment, the rest of the afternoon was nothing short of blissful. I became surprisingly comfortable and liberated with my nudity and surprised myself by taking several cold dunks. I’m pretty sure I was smiling throughout the entire, amazing nude scrub. And I know I would have only felt a glimmer of the delightful experience if I was still awash in thoughts of body rejection instead of buckets of warm water.
Tara and I left glowing and feeling like jelly. As we drove home, Tara shared how inspiring it was to see older women’s bodies and to witness my rapid transformation from discomfort to glee. I smiled back in admiration of my 22-year-old daughter, proud that I had not only embraced the experience, but also that I had modeled the process for Tara.
The next time you find yourself resisting a situation, try embracing it instead – breathe, observe, and return to gentle presence. Unless you try, you’ll never know what could be on the other side.