Into the Mystic at Harbin Hot Springs

“Let your soul and spirit fly,
Into the Mystic.”

Van Morrison

I had a great early birthday gift this weekend. My birthday is actually today! But on Friday afternoon, my wife brought me up to Harbin Hot Springs for a nice overnight getaway.

Part of my gift was that she watched Ella Saturday morning so that I could get up and be in the soaking pools early. On Saturday, I was in the water at 5:30am. I love getting into the pools early: There are very few people, it is totally quiet, still dark, the hot water is at its hottest and the cold plunge at its most frigid.

If you’ve never been to Harbin, one of the draws, for me at least, is the temperature of the hot pool. They keep it between 112 – 115 which is quite hot for a soaking pool. Saturday morning, the pool was as hot as I’ve ever felt it, painfully so the first time I got in.

One of the reasons I love going to Harbin is because I quite often have an experience that seems to touch on the transcendent. I’m sure there is some scientific explanation, based on the intense extremes of temperature that I’m subjecting my body to as I go from hot to cold. But it’s nice to imagine that these moments are some kind of awakening.

I usually feel the experience approaching after about three rounds of hot-cold. It begins as a tingle in my head and a heightened awareness of the beating of my heart. At that point I go and sit on one of the meditation benches near the cold plunge. I’m never sure if it will happen, but if I am in the right mind-set and sufficiently open to the experience, it begins.

At first it is a gentle feeling as if my body is being pushed back and down, almost as if I’m on an amusement park ride that picking up speed. Soon there comes a point when I have to consciously decide if I want to go with the experience or cut it off.

As the “ride” picks up speed it becomes distinctly uncomfortable. No, that’s not the right way to describe it. It becomes intense enough that if I allow my mind to jump in it will definitely shut off the experience. You know that “whoa” feeling that lasts for a second when you’re driving and you go over a big bump. Take that feeling and multiply it by about 50 and imagine it not stopping. That’s the way it feels at the transition point, the point where I have to choose.

The first few times this feeling came, I was not able to get past that transition point. It was too uncomfortable, too intensely unknown for my mind to let go.

But after about perhaps three or four visits during which the experience began, I was able to get out of the way and let the ride take over. And since then it’s just been getting more and more interesting!

When I am successful at getting through that moment of choice, the discomfort passes and the ride speeds up even more. And then it gets really fun! It’s like I’m just falling backwards, where to, I have no idea. But it definitely does not matter.

I keep thinking that there may be some destination I’m supposed to arrive at or some information or insight that I’m supposed to get. But so far, that hasn’t happened. After a few minutes, usually just 2-3, the ride starts to slow down and I find myself sitting on the bench with a feeling of true joy and peace. Sometimes I can’t help but break out in a big smile, the feeling is so delicious.

It usually takes me a while to get up. My body feels heavy, as if it’s weighted down to the bench. When I do get up, I’m definitely a bit wobbly on my feet. Holding onto the railings as I walk down the steps is a must.

There’s a part of me that really wants to know what this is experience is. My mind wants to label it and categorize it, understand it and know what to do with it.

But the wiser part of me knows to just let it be, to just enjoy it and be grateful for the experience.

What a wonderful birthday gift! Thank you!

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      3 Responses to “Into the Mystic at Harbin Hot Springs”

      1. Evolving Times » Why My Blog Headlines Suck And How I Can Improve Them on December 29th, 2006 7:50 am

        […] And most of my headlines lack good keywords/tags: Into the Mystic at Harbin Hot Springs (actually, there were at least 4 visitors to the site that used “Harbin Hot Springs” in their search) Caution: Singing Driver Or Tears of Joy Ahead (again there were a couple of searches on Caution Singing Driver). I guess you never know what people are going to use in their searches. […]

      2. Evolving Times on August 9th, 2007 10:04 am

        […] wife and I managed to sneak away for a quick overnight retreat at Harbin Hot Springs last week. As I walked along the path, heading for my Watsu session I stopped on a bridge and […]

      3. Bay Area Photographer, Amanda B. on May 15th, 2009 9:55 am

        Thank you for the info. Harbin is on my list of places to see this summer. ~Amanda

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