Ten years ago, my spouse and I converted some basement space into a sauna. We drilled down into the uneven concrete floor and set out two-by-fours in two square shapes. One ended up the “floor plan” for the sauna, the other the sitting area. It took a few weeks to get both spaces into order. We needed a vapor barrier around the sauna room before lining it in cedar; we needed walls in the sitting room to hang pictures and mid-summer head wreathes; we needed a bar to hold up the essential oils and the pitcher of water. Inside the sauna, there is a bucket for water and a ladle, a backrest, some boar-hair brushes, and a 15-minute sand-through-glass timer. A thermometer and hygrometer hang in the top corner.
Sauna record for heat: 168F; humidity: 70%.
In the last decade many, many people have been over to sauna. Some fell in love with the activity, while others couldn’t seem to enjoy the intense heat and humidity.
I have a couple of stalwart companions who have made sauna-ing with me a regular thing. Our conversations are rich. We share a camaraderie of place and life experience. I learn something every time we sit together on the cedar benches.
The greatest perk of this habit is the overall health benefit from toxin flushing, pore opening, and mind relaxing. The second greatest perk is the appreciation for the intimacy and disclosure that invariably follow getting into a small wood-lined box with towel-clad friends.
Last night, we found out that, post-sauna, all of us have been asked what we talked about. Last night, we all shared that this is not a question we’re inclined to provide an answer to.
Like the safe space found with a a lawyer or therapist, I see the converted section of my basement with the same protective eyes.
The first rule of Sauna Club, you don’t talk about Sauna Club.
I both love and hate this rule. I love it because it encourages continuing the proven track record for vulnerability and trust-building. I hate it because there are some genuinely insightful, perhaps even perspective-shifting, discussions that happen in that hot and damp room.
Last night’s Sauna Club was one of extremes: from a deep sadness to riotous laughter. My appreciation for what I heard and learned and felt permitted to share was deepened. As much as I’d like to give full and descriptive details, I can’t.
Because the first rule of Sauna Club, you don’t talk about Sauna Club.
And as a perennial rule follower, I’m not about to start on a trend of lawlessness and risk my version of Fight Club breaking up.