Citation: el forestero. "Riding The Wet Horse: On Onsen Orbital Orgasm: An Experience with Hot and Cold Bathwater (exp72556)". Erowid.org. Sep 6, 2008. erowid.org/exp/72556
Since 2001 I've worked at a retreat center which offers a bathhouse with natural hot and cold spring baths as a primary attraction. The center played an important part in America's history of experimentation with psychedelics in the 60s and 70s during which some residents there made informal studies of the effects of many psychoactive substances and consciousness-altering practices out of a desire to explore human potential for expanded awareness. One example of an experiment some of my colleagues conducted in that era is they stayed under the influence of LSD continually for a month to see what would happen.
Our modern local cultural practice of alternately bathing in hot and cold spring water began at least a decade prior to the era of heavy drug experimentation (and this bathing practice is known to have been a part of Native American culture in the area long ago as well). Since then bathing practices have continued to evolve alongside use of psychedelics and exploration into human potential for altered states of consciousness. While the center's policy since the national crackdown on drugs has been to disallow the use of illegal substances and discourage practices which promote altered states of consciousness which would seem too weird to our upscale, relatively conservative 21st century clientele, some residents of the center continue to privately explore mind-altering substances and practices. Hot and cold spring bathing remains for some of us a symbol of the center's countercultural past and what remains of that era's spirit as well as a practice which can itself be used to promote altered states of consciousness.
The bathhouse is cantilevered above the Pacific Ocean on a cliffside from which there's an amazing view of the deep blue expanse of the sea, steep mountainsides of clayish red earth, and dark green redwood forests. It's a place with a serene, safe atmosphere where people go to relax in communal bathtubs together, chat or enjoy quiet, sunbathe, give and receive massage, listen to the calming sound of waves rolling ashore, watch the sunset set the ocean on fire, and experience the effects of hot and cold baths. Nudity is not only permitted at the bathhouse but is the norm there.
The bathhouse is a multi-story, multi-room structure with seven large bathtubs which can each accommodate a dozen or more people. There are also five small individual bathtubs like the ones people typically have in residences. The hot water used to fill the tubs is piped to the bathhouse from a natural geothermal hot spring which pours out of the cliffside. The water is high enough in sulfur content that those unaccustomed notice it smells like rotten eggs, though locals lose the ability to sense the odor after repeated exposure. The hot water is not chemically altered on its way to the bathhouse faucets. The cold water at the bathhouse is a mixture of water drawn from a forest creek running along the floor of a nearby canyon and a natural cold spring that flows out of a mountainside. Only the minimum level of chlorine required by federal law for a drinking water source is added to the cold water so it tastes and smells very natural. Both water sources are exceptionally free of pollution. People using a tub can regulate the temperature of the water it contains by adding additional water from a hot or cold tap and draining water that's turned lukewarm. A typical temperature range for water as it leaves the hot water tap is 110 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cold water is typically in the 57 to 65 degree range.
A not-uncommon practice among the retreat center's residents is to bathe in a tub filled with hot water for a period of time and then immediately move to a tub filled with cold water. This practice is often called 'taking a cold plunge.' I adopted this practice in late 2001 and have sometimes done it once a day over several consecutive days, though I typically only do it a few times a year. I prefer to set the temperature of the hot and cold baths I use as far to the extreme ends of the temperature range as possible because I find these conditions create the most intensely physically stimulating and pleasurable experiences and have the greatest potential for quickly leading to the high I describe below.
When I want to take a cold plunge, I prepare one of the individual bathtubs by filling it with only cold water. Then I add a large volume of hot water to one of the large tubs while draining away some of the lukewarm water already in it so I have a very hot and a very cold tub side by side. I enter the hot water nude and find it feels very soothing, pleasurable and relaxing. I immerse myself all the way up to my chin and occasionally dunk my entire head underwater. After soaking for just 5 minutes, I feel substantial relief from muscular tension throughout my body and this brings with it feelings of well-being and happiness. As more hot spring water continues to flow in and the temperature in the tub rises over several minutes into the 108 to 115 degree range, I continue soaking until the heat has raised my heart rate from the mid 60s to the low 100s and I notice a vague feeling of stress and discomfort from the demands on my body of coping with its rising temperature. This phase of gradually overheating typically takes 7 to 15 minutes. Times vary primarily because the temperature of incoming hot spring water and the initial temperature of water in the hot tub both vary.
Once I feel overheated and unable to comfortably stay in the hot tub any longer I get out and immediately enter the cold tub, immersing myself up to my chin and occasionally dunking my head underwater. The initial 10 to 20 seconds of contact with the cold water are exhilaratingly stimulating. It feels like my skin is burning and the sensation is almost overwhelming. As the cold burn quickly fades, on its heels comes a wave of release that has an intensity and briefness approaching those of orgasm. I lie still and am overtaken by a feeling of comfortable heaviness and deepening relaxation. I begin to notice my heartbeat as a much stronger sensation in my chest than usual and I can feel my heart rate fall rapidly to a lower point than it was at before I entered the hot tub. These initial sensations that accompany entering and adjusting to the cold altogether last about a minute.
I remain in the cold water for 5 to 15 minutes, not feeling particularly cold for the first 5 to 10 minutes as long as I remain fairly still. After about 3 to 7 minutes the feeling that my whole body is beginning to spin creeps into my awareness and gradually gets stronger. It begins as some partial spins which feel like my body is starting to turn in space with a small amount of momentum. Then there is a reset or a jump back to the starting point of the spin without a feeling of a full rotation having been completed, and then another partial spin immediately begins. The spinning sensation amplifies the longer I stay in the cold water, and after 10 to 15 seconds of partial spins, the spinning becomes continuous full rotations.
When I first experienced this in 2001 I feared it so I made a conscious effort to shut the spinning feeling down, physically and psychically turning away from it, and succeeded in doing so with little effort. Later that year I became curious what would happen if I surrendered to this feeling, so I experimented with letting it amplify. The longer I let the spinning feeling continue and accelerate, the more intense the feeling became and the more I had the strong impression I was approaching an edge where a powerful climax of unknown nature would occur, and growing terror accompanied this impression. In addition to being frightened by the intensity of the unfamiliar feeling, I was afraid I would bring on acute cardiovascular problems or pass out and drown if I let it take its course. When I reached the limit of my willingness to experience the spinning sensations, I resisted and stopped them by turning my head and getting up out of the cold tub. Despite my fear, curiosity about what would happen next if I stopped resisting continued to propel me forward in experimenting with the phenomenon.
In late 2001 after having aborted in the middle of my spinning experiences before reaching climax on three occasions earlier that year I finally felt ready to let the spin run its course. I had noticed looking from side to side disrupted the effect so I laid back in my cold tub and looked straight ahead to allow the spin to continue. Although I could see I wasn't actually moving relative to my surroundings, there was an increasingly powerful feeling that my whole body was spinning on its axis in space. When my eyes were open I felt that my environment must be spinning with me, though there was no visual indication of this. When my eyes were closed I felt only I was spinning, and this was accompanied by a vision of actually having this experience in outer space. I accelerated rapidly, tumbling head over feet, awestruck and thrilled by the intensity of the sensations. I was saying 'Oh my God' aloud to myself repeatedly, I thought of the famous line from the book and film 2001 'Oh my God, it's full of stars,' and I felt there was a real parallel between that moment in 2001 and the experience I was having in that both involved encounters with some majestic force beyond human understanding. As I approached the climax I became uncontrollably giddy, my face was consumed by a huge smile, I squeezed my eyes tightly shut against the momentum hurling me around and laughed continually, loving the feeling of being on a naturally-induced rollercoaster ride and about to go over the edge.
The feeling of reaching incredible levels of rotational velocity approached its peak, the sensation climaxed and the spinning gave way suddenly to powerful feelings of release, floating and wobbling, like I was a gigantic bass guitar string that had been plucked firmly by an invisible finger and was vibrating at low frequency and high wavelength. When the wobble settled down after half a minute, with a 'wow, that was amazing!' I got out of the cold tub and back into the hot, and again there was this incredibly stimulating burning sensation on my skin along with a mild feeling of dizziness from the spinning and wobbling and a slight continuing and winding down of the partial spinning sensation. I'd thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and immediately realized I'd discovered a method of achieving a fantastic natural high for myself that felt better than anything I'd experienced when using alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and LSD in the past. The lead up to the climax, the climax itself, and the come-down off the climax were all very pleasurable.
Almost seven years after that initial experimentation, the same progression from the thrilling spinning to the intense climax, the release, wobbling, and the subsequent peaceful floating feeling continues to be my typical experience of cold plunging. Sometimes I don't go through much of a partial spin phase, and the spinning becomes continuous almost immediately after it starts. It typically takes 20 to 45 seconds from the time when partial spins begin to progress to the climax, and when the partial spin phase is nearly non-existent the entire progression from start to climax may be as short as 20 seconds. When I don't climax within the usual 45 second time frame I can always tell it's because I didn't stay long enough in the hot tub to get significantly overheated before I got into the cold, and a climax will not come no matter how long I stay in the cold unless I first return to the hot water.
I've become aware of five things that promote initiation and acceleration of the spinning sensation and my progression to a climax:
1. Having the water temperature in the hot tub be as hot as tolerable and having the cold tub be as cold as tolerable.
2. Going back and forth between the hot and cold tubs repeatedly.
3. Staying in both the hot and cold tubs as long as it feels comfortable to do so.
4. Keeping my eyes closed, relaxing my body and mind, and not moving much while in the cold tub.
5. Having already climaxed once in a cold plunging session within the previous few minutes.
The feelings of spinning, accelerating, approaching the climax, and going over the edge have become familiar now that I've experienced them numerous times, and since I've found them to be harmless they're no longer sources of terror but rather consistently bring feelings of euphoria and intense release followed by peacefulness and a melting sensation. I find these feelings to be similar to feelings that arise during and after sexual orgasm, and I find them to additionally have a magical quality because of the physics-defying spinning, wobbling and floating sensations and the visions of being in outer space which often accompany the feelings.
There is sometimes an oddly hollow, cold and nauseous feeling all the way down my throat to my stomach after a spinning session, particularly if I repeat the process of spinning to climax several times or stay in the cold tub to the limits of my tolerance for the discomfort caused by the cold, say 15 to 20 minutes or until I start shivering.
Some other people I spoke with who've tried hot+cold tub plunges have described similar spinning and giddy feelings to those I experience though I haven't heard anyone else describe a climax.
I am a very physically fit and active male and did this cold plunging practice throughout my early and mid-thirties. This activity would probably be contraindicated for people with cardiovascular problems, people who have had strokes or heart attacks, those who have high blood pressure, and so on because it causes strong short-term changes in the activity of the cardiovascular system including fast elevation and subsequent depression of the heart rate.
It's possible for some people to stay as guests or resident workers at retreat centers where they could experiment with hot and cold tubbing, but this is often very expensive and therefore inaccessible to most people. While there are relatively few other places in America where one can conveniently have a cold and hot bathtub prepared side by side, there are spas in many urban areas which offer this attraction at a fraction of the cost of going to an upscale retreat center. Sento and onsen, places with either normal city water or geothermal hot spring water baths as well as cold tubs, are very common in many parts of Japan and are often quite inexpensive to access compared to spas in America (if you're already in Japan).
I find cold plunging to be a very fun, exciting and pleasant natural way to get high that has the benefits of being inexpensive (under some circumstances), legal, brief, easy to consistently induce, without lasting side-effects, non-addictive, and not harmful as far as I can tell. I am typically left feeling moderately fatigued, very mildly dizzy, and wishing to sleep after cold plunging to climax, and these feelings typically last for several hours. The minor inconvenience of these short-term side-effects and their poor fit with my lifestyle are the primary reasons I do the practice infrequently. I continue to engage in it occasionally to enjoy the euphoria it brings. With cold plunging, instead of feeling I'm riding on a rollercoaster, I am the rollercoaster.
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Some of the activities described are dangerous and/or illegal and none are recommended by Erowid Center.