Month: December 2015

6. Breitenbush: The Simple Wellworn Rocking Horse Heirloom

 Distance to Complete Relaxation: 4 out of 5 spigots

Distance to complete relaxation: 4/5 spigots

When you’re on an heirloom rocking horse the craftsmanship is undeniable, stands alone, and is as much of a Gesamtkunstwerk as any mobile operating system might aspire to be. When you want to replace your mobile addiction with rustic simplicity, it couldn’t hurt to have a subtle logic conducting the unplugging. Breitenbush accounts for all the details through what is clearly decades of commune homesteading. They know its not just about the baths. That’s why once you’ve paid your entry fee, despite all a full agenda of meals, yoga and piano performances, there is no one to pay, and no commerce in which to be engaged. Unburdened from consumer choice, you become aware of the water in which you were a fish.

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Food

“What should we get for lunch?” is not a question you have to concern yourself with (or breakfast and dinner for that matter). At Breitenbush they serve a nutritious buffet a few notches above co-op slop. It’s not foodie-good, but simple and vegetarian and vegan. You’d have to be pretty picky not be delighted with every visit to the dining hall, and because of that Breitenbush has engineered another decision out of your day.

Family Friendly

Breitenbush is child-positive without being Disneyland. The beauty of the balance they strike is that it’s not pandering to children, nor are they unwelcome bathing pariahs. For instance in front of the main hall there is a grassy field with hula-hoops laying about. In the library there are children’s books and games. But if Breitenbush were to only have monkey bars and Dr. Seuss available in corners, they wouldn’t have achieved what they did. It is the very fact that they eschew the default boundary between child/adult things that makes Breitenbush feel more than child-accommodating, but family-friendly.

Library and Activities

During a bathing excursion, the fact is that sometimes you can’t always be in the water. Breitenbush recognizes this and has you covered in a choice of group or individual “activities”. Our favourite amenity was the dedicated library room. Harbin too had this (RIP) but the shelves and chairs had more pretense imbued in their interior design. The medium-sized collection was good enough to produce a current Economist, a few nat-geos, and some paperbacks, which perfectly fit unwinding the mind after dinner. Exiting the library you can find a sign-board which will alert you to the organized going-ons. When we were there this included a yoga class in the evening, and a stargazing session. But more over, our most enjoyable time came when a cheerful staff member sat down at the upright piano in the hallway. Appreciating live piano on an impromptu spur was a resetting mindshift as enjoyable as the wet ones on offer.

The Baths
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But what about the actual baths? There are many, and each designed to be a backdrop more than a centerpiece. They baths are separated into two areas, upper and lower. The upper baths are a sophisticated smooth rock each for about 10 people, and overlook the river. They feel as if they were crafted by someone who also throws ceramic pots. And you’ll probably find a potter of the sort in there. The lower and older set are tiled and arranged in ascending heat order topping out at about 44⁰C. The vibe here is more a utilitarian, pore-cleansing hot-cold dip-cycling. The sauna is a steamy wooden cabin of precise woodworking, which is everything a sauna needs to be and nothing more. By paring down options in baths and bath extravagance, Breitenbush reduces your cognitive load in yet another dimension.

Unburdened.

The essence of Breitenbush is that it is complete and minimal without being spartan. Enjoy choicelessness and live off the simple offerings. Eat but don’t fuss over eating, smile and twirl a hula-hoop with those around you, read what’s on the shelf. Let the baths get out the way, so the reasons that you’re there can be focused on: to warm your muscles, to be outside and quiet, to metabolise your life-events with a close friend, or to meet a new one.

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Iceland and Denmark Itinerary

We’ve got another bathing trip on dock and this time we’re seeking refuge from the cold in geothermal Nordic waters. Here’s where we might be heading:

Iceland:

  • Northern Lights hunting
  • Fontana Geothermal baths CAN DO ON GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR
  • reykjavik roasters coffee
  • Public pools, Laugardalslaug I’ve heard is good
  • Golden Circle self tour, Thingvellir, Strokkur Geysir, Gulfoss
  • Vik: Reynisfjara Beach (black sand, basalt rock columns, difficult to visit during high tide, went the morning)
  • Skogafoss: our favorite waterfall where we witnessed a double rainbow
  • Jokulsarlon: Glacier Lagoon AND don’t forget to go to the black sand beach where you can see all the pretty ice formations

And lastly, we have a cartographic enigma depicting an unnamed hotpot near Hveragerði. Apparently it is landmarked and sweetened by its adjacency also to a lovely tea shop. With a treasure map in hand, the adventure begins…

Treasure Map of a small hotpot.

5. Oakland Floats: The Unbathing

 Distance to Complete Relaxation: 4 out of 5 spigots

Distance to complete relaxation: 4/5 spigots

One question Max likes asking children is, “What is the lowest you can jump?” It’s an unusual question because while our physical culture can be obsessed with finding out maximum energy expenditure, we rarely explore the minimum edge. A floatation tank asks, “what is the least amount of effort you can put into living at this moment?

Go to the deprivation tanks. Remove your clothes. Rinse yourself clean. Silence sound with waxed ear plugs. Slide into the salt suspension. Close the door and shut out the light.

Senses withdraw. These are the optimal conditions for meditating.  The high is the same as you would get from any kind of meditative practice—the inner experience isn’t unique.  You’re still watching a monkey brain leap around, but rather than even having the ability to fiddle with your clothing or adjust the way that you’re sitting in order to take yourself out of that discomfort, your body simply feels suspended. The largest shift you can make to your environment is to choose to have your hands above your head or at your sides.

The novelty of sensory deprivation tanks is that by limiting all your options, you’re left with a greater degree of mental spaciousness. Perhaps this is what it’s like to be in the womb. The entirety of the world is just two things: dark and liquid.

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After 75 minutes, you aren’t born anew, but some inner mentality has been refreshed. New-age synth-chimes fade into the utero-tainer. Your muscles activate, only slightly, to push the door open. Once neglected retinas will increase their light absorption, infinetly-fold. Standing is really hard. Harder than you’ve ever experienced standing to be, at least since you were a peri-embryonic ten-month-old. Collapsing on the sinky couch in the lobby, you grab a mandarin.  The distinct citrus oils ionize into the air.  The first taste post soak is the tart juice running down your throat.

Most bathing is an indulgence of the senses, but deprivation tanks flip the paradigm. Oakland floats is basically an inoffensive unplace which gets out of the way of the experience—the unbathing.