Introducing someone to a sauna experience is always unique. In my experience, individuals come in the warmth holding a combination of myths, expectations, and fears. There is little reality, yet, to shape their grip. Facts often hide until the experience is well underway. Most think they are open, yet their actions tell a very different story.
Occasionally an exception walks into the sauna. There are certain signals that I recognize. The first one is a quiet openness to whatever is going to unfold. It is very clear that s/he has no idea what is coming. It is also clear that they are willing to experience the unknown. Other indicators include an acute willingness to listen. Every suggestion is digested and an in an experimental way, embraced. The initial phase gives way to the second, and the truth reveals itself. Without any words, you know if s/he will be coming back.
In the past few years, several have embraced the wonder that is found in a sauna. As I read an old story, I found myself reliving my first experience. I was one of the characters, and “there were still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck with Paul—among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.” (Acts 17.34) They come, even when I am not here, to indulge and enjoy the sauna.
Given the small numbers those that regularly repeat, I have wondered about the “why” so few. My observations so far include the following.
Access makes a big difference. When getting to, or spending time in a sauna is difficult, most decide it is not worth the effort.
Experience changes one’s perception. The initial experience is rarely the one that lasts. Knowing what to do and when opens one to more.
Sharing the process with others is always better than going it alone. Saunas are about community.
I love the sauna experience. I hope others are able to experience what I have. I want to share. In remembering my first steps, I also remember that embracing always takes two.