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January 12, 2006


I had been wanting to have a Watsu since I was at Kalani Honua in Hawaii in early 2004. While there, I sat for an hour and a half on the other side of the pool and witnessed an enormous emotional release from a woman who had just had a Watsu; she sobbed the whole time. After that I wanted to experience Watsu but they wouldn't let me go in the water because I was suffering from shingles on the side of my body: it came up on the first day I was there and lasted for the week. And yet it was one of the best weeks of my life.

This time I went to the place where Watsu was born: Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California. Harbin is a really amazing place; I could feel a very deep nurturing energy there. It's clothing optional and is designed in a very beautiful and artistic way. The hottest tub is about 120 degrees farenheight, which is extremely hot: I could only last in there for a few minutes; it's in a tall shamanic room with stained glass lead lights and incredibly well crafted steel work. The light and dark grey steel rails around the tub are as intricate and beautiful as if carved from wood, with various creatures depicted on them. The naturally heated geothermic water enters the tub from the mouth of a steel fish swimming down the wall, in a steel sea.

The main tub is cool enough that you can stay in there indefinitely and there is a good sized cold plunge tank facing a statue of Kwan Yin. I found myself feeling very great devotion to Kwan Yin when I got into the cold plunge tank, as I breathed into the freezing water. I noticed that many other people were also sinking into the water, with their hands together over their hearts, looking at the statue. I felt that Kwan Yin was healing me, and it seems that I am becoming increasingly familiar with the Goddess.

The people at Harbin are so varied and sweet: There was a pregnant woman being floated gently by her husband, the serenity on her face cherished by the onlookers. In the hottest tub, a youthful looking old bigfoot character with a full head and face of hair huffed loudly and then sank himself to lie on his front at the bottom of the pool. Later on, I saw him ginning and pulling a thumbs-up at a buddy. He caught me smiling at him and he proceeded to dry his hair like a dog would.

The name Watsu comes from the combination of the words water and shiatsu. It's a floating massage on the surface of the water. There is an advanced version of this called WaterDance that involves being massaged under water. Usually you don't go under water on your first try but my provider, Shantam, commented as soon as she met me that I was a fish.

The womb-like cradling and rocking in water brought me straight back to feeling like a little baby. She gently pulled me around in the water, massaging parts of my body. The part I liked the most was being pulled along with the back of my head on her shoulder; my ear to her ear, while she breathed deeply with me and helped me to vocalize my pain. As she pulled me along, floating in the water and cradled in her arms, she rubbed my chest; I love my heart to be touched compassionately, it is one of my favorite things.

She watched my breath and as I began to breathe out, she would sink me under the surface of the water. After a short period of exhalation, I stopped breathing and stayed in that state for what seemed like minutes while, with my body surrendered, she moved me under water like a fish. Each time I came up from the water, it seemed as if I was being reborn; there often followed an emotional release of some kind: anger, sadness, loneliness, joy, or pure love. I was surprised every time about how I was not gasping for air when I came up: I would let the water run out of my mouth, like amniotic fluid, and then I would start to breath shallowly, starting with a small exhale.

While being massaged, I sometimes get an erection, which I am usually somewhat embarrassed about, though the embarrassment lessens each time. It was a really good experience for me to have an erection in that pool, with my eyes closed in front of all those people and to feel totally comfortable with it, to know that it was okay and natural and that it would pass appropriately. Why are we so embarrassed of our bodies? Why are we so embarrassed of nature?

There were also some really cool moves that she performed with me: one of them was to turn me totally upside down with my head just short of the pool-bottom; I was facing away from her and she put her calves in front of my shoulders. Then she did a stretch on my whole back — I could see a beautiful purple disk in front of my inner vision while she was doing that.

While under water I entered her body and experienced pulling my totally relaxed body along. It was so beautiful: she seemed to be responding directly and immediately to how I wanted my body to move. Or perhaps it was that we both wanted to do the same thing; I couldn't figure it out, so I gave up.

I had an hour and a half session with her, which for $95 is really good value for money and much cheaper than the Fairmont Sonoma spa which I recently went to.

I felt so much gratitude to Shantam and Kwan Yin for this amazing healing experience. I spent several hours going through the hot-cold cycle and worshiping her afterwards, before drying off naked on one of the sun decks.

While sitting naked, meditating on the sun deck, I overheard a conversation nearby; a woman who lives at Harbin was talking about the teepee that she lives in: Inside the teepee is a tent and she actually lives in the tent. But you see it's no ordinary tent inside a teepee, it has an electricity supply which she uses for the heater and the computer.

It's such a wild life. I love it. I love it all.

H2Om — Liquid Bodywork with Shantam: www.h2om.com

Watsu is a registered trademark of Harold Dull

"... [I] wanted to let you know that working (dancing is definitely better than 'working') with you was a gift. This is why I do this work. I get to love fearlessly and shamelessly in this deep place of ever Presence and recognition of our Essence with whomever is willing to go there. Thank you for your willingness. May you shine in your heart through any uncertainty, bless the past as it's brought you here today and served its purpose and carry ever on into your own astonishing Radiance." — Shantam


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