My period was already a day late when I signed up for the naked meditation. Class was scheduled for Saturday — five days away. On Thursday, I began to spot. I went to the website for the Young Naturists and Nudists America to see what the organizers of the event suggested: a Diva Cup, a silicone-based container purported to be more discrete than a tampon. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but the list of items I feel comfortable putting inside of my body is not very long, and something with the word “Diva” in the title is certainly not on it. The website also condoned underwear, but (no pun intended!) I didn’t want to half-ass the experience, so I decided to just tough it out with a tampon.
Thursday’s spotting turned out to be a false alarm. I didn’t spot at all on Friday or Saturday. Thirty minutes prior to the meditation, I stood in front of my bedroom mirror naked, tampon in hand, debating its fate. I put it in, and then took it out a minute later. I looked at the clock. The event was starting in 20 minutes. Thanks to my natural tendency to obsess about things of little to no importance, Aunt Flow wasn’t going to be the only one who was late. I threw on clothes and ran to the L train.
I exited at First Avenue and jogged over piles of snow to the Alphabet City Sanctuary on East Sixth street between Avenues B and C. I was five minutes late, out of breath, and looking like what I hoped to be the better part of a hot mess, which is usually how I show up to things.
A clothed man was sitting outside the door with a list of names. His, he told me, was Jordan Blum, one of the co-founders of YNA. Upon entering the studio, I was greeted by a completely nude, adorable 24-year-old named Felicity Jones, who I discovered to be another co-founder of YNA, and a third-generation naturist. The next day, after a quick Google search, I learned that Felicity has taken part in several naked art performances around the city: a weeklong game of strip poker in the window of an art gallery; a body painting event in Times Square; and a project called “Ocularpation: Wall Street,” in which she was arrested for walking an imaginary dog down Wall Street while topless.
A cute female journalist reporting for Playboy arrived at the same time as I. While we waited for the others to turn up, we got naked and made small chat with Felicity and Jordan. Fifteen minutes later, attendance was still paltry. Without a hint of irritation, Jordan told me that the majority of the group often shows up late. Everything about him was calming and I appreciated his positive energy.
In the middle of the large room was a circle made out of folded blankets. I put my towel on a blanket and took a seat. In the middle of the circle was a tapestry covered in crystals, carnations, crayons, and index cards. Sarah Eve, the vegan chef who would be leading our meditation, had prepared a table full of chocolate treats for the occasion. She was also one of only two girls wearing bottoms. I pondered if they had been confronted with my menstrual dilemma too.
We started around 7:20 p.m., but people continued to trickle in for another half an hour. In total, there were between 20 and 25 individuals, the median age of which was near 30. There were a few couples, and half of the circle knew each other from previous nudist events. One man, whose birthday it happened to be, had driven down from Binghamton, NY solely to attend the meditation.
Sarah opened the ceremony by summoning the four corners and passing around a large wooden maraca — a talking stick, so to speak. When given the maraca, we were supposed to say our name and call upon those to whom we wanted to send love, or whose energy we wanted in the room. I called upon my best friend who passed away a few years ago, and my abuela, which in hindsight was kind of a weird choice.
The young shaman then had everyone take a crayon and an index card, and said we were going to write a love letter to ourselves. We were told to open it with “Dear,” followed by a self-appointed pet name. I instantly thought of a nickname given to me by an ex-boyfriend, then tried to erase it from my memory. Instead I wrote down my actual name. I’ve noticed that couples tend to rarely say each other’s names to one another, so I find it sexy when it does happen. Had I known that an hour later, we would be trading index cards, I might have chosen something else.
The next line started with, “I really love you for your,” and we had to finish it with a quality about ourselves that we’d like to be appreciated. I scribbled, “curiosity.” The following sentence began with, “I love on Sundays when we…” I wrote, “take mushrooms.” The third line was, “Please remember to never stop…” I filled in, “caring.” We were then supposed to sign it with a pet name that would describe our ideal partner. I left the closing signature blank. We folded the cards and threw them back on the blanket.
Everyone was given a crystal. We lay down, crystals clutched and eyes closed, while Sarah played a drum and led us into the meditation. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was starting to get stomach pains. I was planning to see SKATERS play a party directly after the meditation, so I contemplated where I could grab a quick bite in between events. I decided on a Clif bar from a bodega. Then I thought about where I could get some Adderall. I haven’t taken the ADHD medication since I was a teenager, but the mere fact that I was thinking about it during a meditation is proof that I might benefit from it. I tuned back into Sarah as she was telling us to imagine a waterfall. She said to visualize washing away all of the negative things we don’t want in our lives. I couldn’t stop picturing the scene in Sahara where Brooke Shields bathes in a waterfall while wearing a white tank top. It’s one of my favorite movie clips.
When the meditation ended, we all sat back up and opened our eyes. Sarah passed around the maraca for everyone to share the visions they experienced. A beautiful bohemian girl, with an impressively toned body, spoke of being visited by prehistoric animals. A heavyset girl with big breasts made mention of the ocean and her fear of drowning. I assumed people would be confused by my mental picture of protein bars, Adderall, and Brooke Shields, so when the talking stick reached me, I opted to stay quiet.
The room was so warm I was sweating. The heat was relaxing and triggered a feeling of detoxification similar to the way a sauna does, but a lot less intense. I looked around at everyone. As someone who loves the naked body in every form, it was remarkable to see so many different types in an enclosed space. From petite to full-figured, there was just about every shape and size imaginable and it was a struggle not to stare. Through the window, I noticed a man in his apartment and realized that if I could see him, he could see me. He was probably used to spotting naked people in that room, and everyone in that room was probably used to being spotted naked. I didn’t mind.
Our next meditation was a partner session. You could sit back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder, or go on a solo journey. I opted the latter. In this trance, Sarah led us to conjuring our spirit guides, energy of with whom we can imagine conversing. We were instructed to think of someone in our lives who needed help, and to seek advice from our guide to relay the message back to them. I thought about an ex-lover of mine who recently had something traumatic happen to him and is understandably having a hard time recovering from it.
I thought about difficult transitions, and how challenging it can be for humans to move on from the way our lives once were, or who we used to be. When the shift is sudden and unexpected, learning how to evolve from the experience can be even more perplexing. I thought about how this feeling of loss presents itself multiple times throughout life, though always in different forms. I believe the only way humans can heal is to try and accept that the past is gone, to learn from it, and to embrace where we are. I thought about how exceptionally hard that is to do, and how important it is to make sure that the people we surround ourselves with are with us for the right reasons.
When the meditation was over, we passed around the talking stick again. This time, when the maraca came to me, I wanted to share, but I don’t like speaking in front of large groups. Without saying a word, I shook the maraca and passed it to the person next to me. Two sets of people who paired up claimed they had similar experiences as their partner. In one set, both people had visions of forests. The other unit spoke amongst themselves and decided not to share with everyone else what they had seen.
We were then encouraged to sample the organic, vegan treats and to socialize, but only after singing “Happy Birthday” — in our birthday suits — to the man who had driven down from upstate. I loaded up with gourmet desserts and mingled. The reporter from Playboy and I spoke to a banker about an ex-girlfriend of his who was against the nudist community. I chatted with the aforementioned bohemian girl, who ended up inviting me to her full moon ceremony.
After half an hour of socializing, we all held hands while Sarah voiced a closing prayer. We were then told to take a carnation from the tapestry, along with someone else’s love letter. The index card I picked up read: “Dear Musky, I love you for your kindness. On Sunday that we just relaxe [sic]. Please remember to never stop being yourself. Love, the great guy.” I couldn’t imagine what the person who got mine must have thought. I said goodbye to everyone and hopped in a cab downtown. For the rest of the night, I admired the stylish outfits of surrounding partygoers and not once did I think about my female reproductive system. The next day, I started my period.
Related: That Time I Tried Naked Yoga