Archive for October, 2021

Simplicity

The most obvious is often the most elusive.

Occam’s razor is a hypothesis that suggests we peel or slice away unnecessary things to solve a problem. Largely attributed to the work of the English friar William Ockham around 1300, he said “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity”. Obviously, this recommendation has had little impact on the construction of churches nor on the proliferation of on-line dating services.

Others have also received commendations for promoting simplicity, including Ptolemy around 150 who stated, “We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible.”

Not to be outdone, Isaac Newton while waiting for the apple to fall in the 1600’s said, “We are to admit no more causes of natural things, than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” Duh?

Variations continued unabated until we simplified the idea by stating, “The simplest explanation is usually the best one.”

I was reminded of Friar Occam while working out at the gym today. Ever since my long-time trainer Robert went on medical leave, I’ve placed myself in David’s capable hands. Their approach to training differs; Robert is a “let’s do everything that won’t kill you” kind of guy, while David is more focused on the things that may really be killing you. I find both approaches equally capable of inflicting pain and I occasionally wonder if I’d get the same results laying on my couch watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Since my bout with vertigo, I’ve focused on improving my stability through odd exercises. For example, shlepping 25-pound kettle bells in each hand and marching around the club’s second floor has brought me stares. Occasionally I feel like a delivery boy from Ojai Pizza.

Following Occam’s advice I start with the simplest yet most difficult balancing routine, standing upright with both feet parallel. Eyes closed, I try to maintain that position for 30 seconds with minimum wobble. No big deal, and I congratulate myself for not falling on my face. 

Then I position my left foot directly in front of the right, heel to toe, eyes closed. With wobbling akin to that experienced during the Northridge earthquake, I struggle to maintain the heel to toe position for 30 seconds; I succeed less than half the time. Then I reverse position putting my right foot in front; I succeed without serious injury most of the time.

David and I wonder why I do well with my right foot in front, and poorly when it’s my left foot in the lead. He believes that a tight muscle may be the problem; I believe it’s just the way I’m built. David wins and begins to experiment, hoping to find the offending muscle.

David has memorized the names of every bone and muscle and always impresses me with his ability to point them out. I have no idea if he’s fibbing since I have never progressed beyond knowing the difference between the ankle and the thigh.

Seeking the answer to my deficiencies often includes a series grabs and pokes looking for a “hot spot”, defined as a place that is more painful than the surrounding area. Working on the hot spot with hand massage, or a wooden dowel that looks suspiciously like my mother’s rolling pin, produces even greater pain.

I think pain excites David and amplifies his sadomasochistic leanings. Thankfully, the pain passes, probably because my brain has had enough and has blessedly injected an organic drug directly on the hot spot. Or maybe David just tires of my screams.

Completing the torment, we repeat the heel to toe routine to see if there is improved stability. In an ahamoment we discover a modicum of success. Wild cheering ensues. But it is short-lived when I wonder if I must endure hot spot torture each time I need to maintain my balance.

Which brings us to the “What good is this anyway” routine. A combination of kneeling, stretching and pulley yanking, this procedure screams for a specimen like me. Kneeling my left leg on a foam pad, the right is stretched on the floor behind me. A rope is attached to a pulley whose resistance can be adjusted from Wussto Don’t even think about trying it. My hands hold the rope in front of me and stretch it side to side while maintaining my balance. I think David made the whole thing up for Halloween.

The hardest part of the routine is switching legs. I try to swing my right leg forward and…nothing. My right leg refuses to move to the front of the foam pad. I’m stuck, so I grab my leg like it was a piece of meat hanging on a hook and sling it to the proper position.

We both wonder why I can effortlessly swing my left leg forward while my right leg balks like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum. David thinks it’s because my thigh muscle is too tight, so he once again begins a series of grabbing, squeezing, and rolling actions like those made popular during the Spanish Inquisition.

Completing the effort, we check for improvement. But there is none. My right leg is still stuck. We repeat the process, reversing the actions. No good. Still stuck. I know what’s coming and search for a way out.

I ask for a five-minute sabbatical so we can do some research without all the grabbing and squeezing. I look at the position of my left leg on the foam pad; it’s about three inches from the edge of the pad. Then I look at the right leg. The right leg is about six inches from the edge. Armed with this knowledge, I move my right leg three inches. I have an aha moment when it swings effortlessly to its proper position.

Three inches. What could be simpler?

Ockham would be proud of me.

Esalen

The young woman slipped past me as she entered the hot tub, her shapely right hip nearly grazing my shoulder.

The water was warm as she immersed her naked body and took a seat opposite me. I lowered my eyes and quickly glanced at her breasts hoping she wouldn’t notice, even though I was sure she was fully aware of my interest.

Esalen was founded in 1962 by two Stanford graduates who focused on alternative methods of exploring human potential including experiential sessions involving encounter groups, sensory awakening, gestalt awareness training, and related disciplines.

Named after an Indian tribe that inhabited the area, Esalen was sometimes described as “a hippie place where people go to smoke pot and get naked.” Pot smoking and other playtime drugs are now forbidden, but nakedness is encouraged as an option in the communal tubs warmed by natural hot springs.

Jackie speaks glowingly about Esalen, a place that she has often visited. My interest heightened; we booked a weekend that included a workshop whose description was a bit murky. I didn’t worry about the description since my primary motivation was to see the Esalen grounds situated on a hillside overlooking the Pacific. And maybe naked women.

Five hours from Ojai, the last hour is a beautiful stretch of Highway 1 running along the ocean. Only two lanes, the road can be intimidating as it commands one’s complete attention while negotiating the blind curves that slow your progress. Jackie drove like a pro while I enjoyed being a wide-eyed passenger.

We arrived at the center, checked in and found our cottage. One bedroom, a living room and bath, it had an ocean view from the patio that made the half-day trip worthwhile. With two hours to spare before dinner, we stripped and put on the complimentary robes for a ten-minute walk to the hot tubs.

I’ve had one other experience with nude bathing about two years ago at Ecotopia Hot Springs near Ojai. No tubs there, we had to settle for a comfortable rock surface in a watery stream. Shedding my towel and scanning the bathers, I was convinced that they were evaluating my penis which made me somewhat shy and inadequate until I slowly relaxed and went with the flow.

I’m convinced that evaluating private parts, much like dogs sniffing one another, is part of the nude bathing experience that never fully dissipates for both males and females. Ecotopia has been closed due to the drought or we might have made more visits.

A classier version of Ecotopia, Esalen offers several fashionable tubs accommodating just one or as many as six people. Selecting a tub involves a quick survey of the current occupants. I look for a nice mix of males and females, a good mix of ages and preferably no one wearing a bathing suit.

Most people immerse themselves in the hot water up to their shoulders. But there is no guarantee of anonymity since the water is crystal clear. Multiple conversations are common in the same tub, names are sometimes shared, and stories told that might otherwise be withheld if it were not for the nudity and communality.

The water temperature varies and is regulated by an ancient wooden plug inserted in a spout through which fresh hot water can enter the tub. Tub residents are careful to poll the other bathers before removing the plug or replacing it in the spout. Newcomers like me steer clear of the plug, allowing more seasoned bathers to wrestle with its occasional fickleness.

I tend to avoid long term immersion in warm water and usually finish my bath while others remain more durable. So it was only twenty minutes into my freshman reverie that I slowly exited the tub on all fours, careful to avoid a nasty spill that could have been chalked up to my vertigo or my advancing age. I made it safely, though without grace.

I searched for my colored towel among the others lying on the perimeter of the tub but quickly realized that I had forgotten which color was mine. Deciding that a fresh towel was needed, I marched uncovered to the spa entryway and walked up the steps to the opening.

I found myself surrounded by about a dozen bathers who were either leaving or coming to the tubs. All of them fully clothed. I initially felt out of place and on display. After what seemed like an eternity, I adjusted to my situation, straightened up, acted normal even though naked, asked for a towel, and walked back down the steps to the dressing area.

I decided to do it again tomorrow.


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