As I explained here, I’m just got back from Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California, where I was on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts after AstroTwin Ophira Edut told me that the stars had big stuff in store for me. At her suggestion, I decided to go on retreat on April 3, when six planets aligned into my house of endings -- a once-in-a-lifetime astrological event. My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to learn the life lesson I’m supposed to learn so I don’t have to carry into the next 12 years, the baggage from the last 12.
Ophi charged me with viewing the retreat as a sort of rebirth, and when she said that, I knew I had to schedule a session of Watsu (water Shiatsu, a type of bodywork that takes place in a pool of warm water, which was born at Harbin Hot Springs). I’ve had two Watsu sessions before, so I know how profoundly emotional these sessions can be. And I know how maternal, womb-like, and birth-ish it can feel.
My intuition told me it would be just the thing. So I did it. And oh, baby…was my gut spot on.
First, let me explain so you understand the breadth of what I was signing myself up for. I first did Watsu five years ago, right in the midst of my Perfect Storm. I was newly postpartum with a freshly-healed C-section scar. My beloved father had just passed away. And on a lark, without a clue what I was signing up for, I decided to go to a spa and try Watsu.
I wound up puking.
You see, I have a tendency to get motion sick, and Watsu is a lot of swirling and twirling and spinning in the water with your eyes closed. (Although I loved the warm, loving embrace of it all, my inner ear was NOT a fan.) So I was a bit scarred the first time around. I wound up sobbing between dry heaves.
I waited four more years to try Watsu again, when I was at Harbin and a friend recommended I do a session with Nico (which I wrote about here). This time, I had a wonderful and profound experience that helped me heal lingering wounds from losing my father.
So this time, I went in eyes wide open -- but even so, Watsu is a stretch for me.
First off, you’re naked in a hot pool with a naked stranger (at least, that’s how it’s done at Harbin). And that naked stranger is holding you in a way that even your lover probably doesn’t hold you -- cradled like a baby while your legs stay buoyant from little floaties strapped on your ankles. So this stranger is twisting and turning you while stretching your back so your breasts bob up and down and your hoo-ha opens and closes like a water lily. Your cheek will brush against chest hair. Your bodies are so close that you start breathing in synchrony. Most people just haven’t been rocked since they were children, and the whole experience brings up any Mommy/Daddy issues you’ve ever had -- good and bad.
So, as you can imagine, shit comes up.
Then there’s the whole issue of water. As I wrote about here, I’ve always had an irrational fear of the water, especially for a girl who was lifeguard certified at 12 and grew up in California and Florida. Even though I live by the ocean, I rarely swim in it, and when I do, I never go underwater.
But Nico offers in his Watsu the addition of something called “WaterDance,” which requires going underwater and letting someone else be responsible for when you can take your next breath. So for someone with a phobia about being underwater, being dunked while your eyes are closed, and then being spun around until you have no clue which way is up is not only disorienting, it’s kind of terrifying.
Plus, the whole thing feels exceedingly vulnerable. Your body is at the mercy of someone else. And you’re exposed in every possible way. And the whole thing fails to flow if you’re stiff at all. You have to relax every single muscle or it really doesn’t work. So it’s a profound lesson in surrender.
All around, it’s a stretch.
But I had done this before and learned that something profound happens when you let the WaterDance happen. It’s truly a dance between your faith and your fear, and as I described here, my faith and my fear have been battling it out lately. So I figured I’d let them have at it on this astrologically important day.
So here’s how it went down.
I got naked. Nico refreshed me on how the WaterDance would work. (When the Watsu part was done, he would slip a nose plug on me, then he would tap me three times when it was time for me to hold my breath to go under, but we wouldn’t speak.) And then Nico cradled me in his arms, while I started to pray.
Please, God. Let this help me release all my shit. Let me ditch all the baggage I’ve been carrying for the past 12 years so I can enter the next 12 with a clean slate. Will you help me stop fighting and start trusting so I can just let go?
And as I prayed, my body tried to release, but I was still holding issues in my tissues. I focused on my breath. In….Out….In…Out…
And slowly, my muscles began to let go as Nico rocked me close to his chest and the constant chatter in my mind slowed down. As he snuggled me close in one dolphin move, I felt the tears come as I thought, “Daddy!” -- and then realized that no, this wasn’t my father, returned from the dead. This was just a kind man, holding me tenderly in his body-working arms.
At least, in the water, nobody can see your tears.
And then it was time for the WaterDance. I felt myself tighten, but Nico was sensitive and patient, and he waited until my breathing regulated again to give me the three taps that signaled it was time to go under.
The first time wasn’t so bad. If I stopped holding my muscles so tight, I could float underwater like a limp piece of seaweed, bobbing with the tide. The next one was easy too -- lovely, even. He held me by my feet so my head swayed around underwater like I was an anemone.
But then, a few moves later, he wrapped me in a fetal ball, dunked me underwater, and spun me like a pair of socks in the rinse cycle. I felt disoriented, and I tried to open my eyes so I could see which was up, but that just made me feel more lost, so I squeezed my eyes together again, as the fear within me started to rise. I had felt this way before, as a young child, riding the waves in the ocean, when my boogie board flew out from under me. I had been bounced around by the waves, underwater, disoriented. I had breathed in salt water through my nose until my whole face stung. When I finally washed up on shore, sputtering and gasping, my mother held me close and told me it would all be okay. But it wasn’t. And I stayed away from the ocean for a year after that.
What if that was what was happening?
The next time I went under, my breath ran out when I was halfway through the move. My lungs ached. I didn’t think I had one second of air left. What was happening? Where was the surface? I started to panic. I almost threw my arms and legs out and pushed myself up. But I didn’t. I managed to hold my breath the five or ten seconds more until Nico brought me to the surface, where I gasped.
He cradled me. I cried. My rapid, shallow breathing slowed back down. And after a few more breaths, I went under again, this time, less long. I was able to face the rising fear. I told my Inner Gremlin that I could trust Nico. He wouldn’t let me get hurt. I know the fear is there to protect me. It’s meant to keep me from drowning. But this time, like most times, the fear is just being a beast. I’m not in danger.
I send the Gremlin to time out.
Then the Gremlin came back, when I found myself underwater again -- this time, even longer after I had run out of air. With no air left in my lungs, I faced The Gremlin and shouted, “Get out of here, you filthy devil. Stop walking through my mind with your dirty feet.” And just like that, Nico lifted me up, and I gasped once again, while he held me so close I could feel his chest hair tickle my lips.
By this time I was weeping, and I was mad at that damn Gremlin. I was determined to show that Gremlin who was in charge. And with every move, I surrendered more. I let go. I danced. I felt the fear and let it happen anyway. I trusted.
And then the WaterDance was over, and I felt warm loving arms around me, and my body was wrapped in a ball, while a scratchy beard pressed against my cheek. And I was being rocked, when suddenly, I had a vision that I was being held in the arms of Jesus Christ. And I felt so safe, and so loved, and so completely nurtured. And then a hand was over my heart, as I was floated once more. Safe. Weightless. Effortless. Ease.
“It doesn’t have to be hard,” echoed through me. “It can be this easy.”
And then my feet were touching the floor of the pool and my back was up against the side. And hands were over my cheeks and then over my eyes, and the sunlight that had been streaming through my closed eyes suddenly went dark. And everything was still and quiet. And then Jesus gently lifted His hands off of my face, until only His fingertips were left. And I started crying again.
“No! Don’t leave me! I’m not ready.”
But the hands were gone. The strong arms were gone. I was all by myself in the corner of the pool, tears streaming down my wet cheeks.
And a voice within me said, “You are never alone. Abide in me. I am always here, even when you can’t feel me.”
And then the pool was still and silent, and after a few choked sobs, I opened my eyes, and the pool was empty.
Then, a few moments later, Nico appeared, and whispered, “Do you need to talk about what just happened? I know I left you under a little too long a few times there. But that was all part of the plan. If you need to talk, I’m here.”
But I shook my head, and he once more held me in his arms as we embraced in the pool, and then, looking remarkably like Jesus with his dark Mediterranean skin and long beard, Nico disappeared.
His words rung in my ears as I sat in meditation for a while.
I know I left you under a little too long a few times there. But that was all part of the plan.
Is that what’s been happening? Has God been intentionally leaving me gasping, scared, afraid I’ll run out of air?
Abide in me.
Is this what this whole thing is all about? Am I supposed to be surrendering even more? Going to the dark place and then trusting, instead of freaking out? Is this all part of the plan?
Is this what I’m supposed to learn so I don’t have to keep learning the same lessons over the next 12 years?
Trust me and surrender. Even when you feel scared and breathless, you will be okay, Lissa.
By golly, I think that’s it.
So Nico is gone now, and I am drying myself off. But something feels different.
I have to ask myself -- why was I so close to freaking out when I was under that water, feeling disoriented? I mean, I knew Nico wouldn’t let me get hurt. I know the pool was only four feet deep and I could always come up for air. Why was I so uncomfortable, even when I knew I was safe?
It’s like my life lately. I have great faith -- in God, in myself, in a Divine Plan grander than anything I could ever conjure up. So why do I start doubting and feeling afraid when I feel like I’m running out of air? Why can’t I just trust that when I start to feel short of breath, a breath of fresh air will infuse my lungs, and everything will work out right?
Is it lack of faith? No. I don’t think so.
I think I second guess where I am on the path. After all, when I’m on the right path, things usually go smoothly. It feels almost effortless. So when things get rocky, I start to wonder if I’m missing Signs from the Universe -- or if, in fact, the rocky part means I’m supposed to shift in a different direction.
I don’t doubt the Master Plan. I doubt myself.
Yet, what if challenging doesn’t mean wrong? What if, as Nico suggested, I know I left you under a little too long a few times there. But that was all part of the plan.
What if I’m being tested? What if it’s SUPPOSED to be this way so I can stand true to what I know is right? Because I know I am on the right path. And I know I will be safe and nurtured and loved, no matter what, if only I surrender.
Will it last, this sense of Divine connection and surrender? I don’t know. But I’m going to hold my breath, go under, and do what I can to just have faith and let go.
What about you? Between your faith and your fear, who is winning?
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Woman coach, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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