Steam rises like a ghost, floating over the water towards my naked body. The water is still, hot; my body temperature rises, skin reddens. I take a deep breath, inhale the steam. Exhale slowly: relax. I focus my conscious intent on this hot water cleansing my body, spirit, soul. The smoky steam makes its ascent, white tendrils dancing around each other just above the surface of the water. My body, submerged to the neck, floats weightless in the deep blue-tiled pool. I sit in the quiet stillness until I am so hot I can no longer take it.
I stand up, sit on the edge of the pool and swing my legs over onto the floor. Standing up, I feel light-headed, as though I might faint. I walk to the brown wooden door, push it open and walk outside into the cool San Francisco air. The stone steps are hard under my soft hot feet. I walk quickly to the cold pool, hold onto the railings, and step hurriedly down the steps into the freezing cold water. I must do this swiftly, or I won’t do it at all. I submerge my entire body into the water. My skin pricks and comes alive. I gasp in and force myself to breathe slowly: inhale, exhale. Slow, deep breaths. I stay in the icy water, immersed to the neck, until my body gets used to the chill. Then I get out, walk indoors, and slip soundlessly into the hot tub.
When my cold body hits the hot water, it tingles all over. My body feels pepperminty. I sit, watching the steam slowly skulk over the surface of the water, allowing my consciousness to flow with the steam. I quiet my mind and allow body sensations to take over.
I repeat the process over and over: hot, cold. Hot cold. My body is cleansed, I feel new. After about an hour of the hot/cold treatment, I wash my body in the shower, soaping up with natural Castile peppermint soap, walk into the main room and lie down on a cot. I sigh, close my eyes, and drift off into a comfortable place, somewhere between consciousness and sleep.