Wednesday, 8 July 2009


So, there are a few things to say about Harbin Hot Springs.

… how beautiful it is to see men dance.

I was too tired to get into dancing on tuesday night so I crouched and watched. Really masculine men were dancing. It struck me because in the UK, male dancing in any kind of free expressive way is kind of gay. Not here. It was just beautiful.

The thing that blew me away was the contact improv that two couples were doing. What a thing to see. Here were people even more in their bodies than me, tumbling over and around each other, playing with their weight and creativity and sillyness and instincts. Beautiful. Beautiful. A joy to behold.

… the thrill I get being naked outdoors.

Enough said.

… Watsu

Harbin Hot Spings has lots of pools of special, hot natural mineral water that's very buoyant and is supposed to have healing properties.

In the lower pools naked people are doing informal watsu – a kind of shiatsu in water – to each other all the time. To get a proper one you walk 25 minutes up the wild hills to the domes – a series of out-of-this-world round white buildings connected in a circle by something that looks a bit like water or tree root. Within the circle of buildings was a pool containing the definition of tranquility the evening I entered. Three naked watsu practitioners held three naked adult babies in their arms, eyes closed, limp and surrendered, their limbs being moved gently through the water, the epitome of trust, vulnerability and tenderness. Lara and I tiptoed round to the grass, and sat whispering until it was my turn. Then she left.
I met my watsu man, a 30-something block of groundedness with broad hairy chest. He prepared me a bit in talking. Are you comfortable to be naked? Are you comfortable for me to be naked? Do you have any intention? No is a fine answer. Anything you don't like, too hard, not comfortable, tell me. Here we go. I removed my clothes and followed him into the warm, buoyant water. He took my wrist, pulled me softly towards him and I was, for the next hour, in his bare hands.

There's nothing to do in that situation but surrender.

I was naked in his naked tender care. I was stretched around, lifted up, twisted, massaged, suspended in stillness, held tight to him, cradled in his arms. It was delicious. As a playful delicious exercise in trust and tenderness between two people, especially if they were lovers, it's hard to beat (short of love making itself).

I'm going to see what the team think about having a pool in our home that we can jump into after hot dancing sessions, laze around in on hot days, and warm up and run playful watsu classes for couples in bathing suits in.

I'm not sure about Watsu as a practitioner / client setup: for me, the lines between massage, sensuality and sexuality were too blurred. Harbin has been running a very successful trade in naked Watsu for something like 30 years and for liberated Californians, it's a total hit. So I'm a stuffy Brit. I think that stuff is for the context of a loving relationship, or something that is on it's way to becoming one.

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