if I am a fish
why this climbing of mountains?
let me dive deeper
I wrote this haiku at a point of transition in my life, a point when I felt able to take on the responsibility of owning my deeper nature. I heard the sirens' song and decided to slip off the ship. We all have a deeper nature, or as the aborigines have called it, a song-line.
When we are truly singing along with that song, experiences become beautiful overtones and we can create a melodious underwater life. In mythology, water has been associated with the unconscious. A warm-water pool has been for me the portal to my unconscious or to dreamtime.
Water covers more than 70 percent of our planet and constitutes about the same percentage of our bodies. This parallel is significant to me; it hints at how intricately I am connected with my surroundings. Each cell in my body like a microcosm of the earth and both dependent for life upon water.
Whether on land or in water, our cells are immersed in this constantly moving and vibrating fluid. Reconnecting with water through aquatic bodywork (immersion and passive movement in warm water) helps me to think differently about myself and my relationship to this water-dependent world.
My water journey began at a natural hot springs resort in northern California. The springs at Harbin were once a place of healing for indigenous Indians and some of the present residents say their spirits guard the spot. For several years, I devoted myself to training in various aquatic bodywork modalities.
More than anything, I was following a path of self-discovery. I found myself drawing on shamanism, dreamwork and art/ creativity, and moving away from didactic therapeutics. A biological scientist by training, this prompted a radical shift in my thinking and approach to life.
The movements and sensations experienced during bodywork in water allow me to open to the messages of my unconscious; it is a moving meditation. The experience can resemble a shamanic journey*. I often have the sense of leaving "this world" reality to enter "other world" while in a state of ecstasy.
The body is a vehicle, a means of transportation. With eyes closed and ears immersed beneath the water's surface I enter a world of heightened sensory awareness. All around me the water presses in so imperceptibly that I am not just immersed in it, but saturated with it.
The boundaries between me and the outside world dissolve and, in this blending, I have the opportunity of surrendering, of dying to my old self. Arnold Mindell's description of the dreambody hovering somewhere between body sensation and mythical visualization comes close to what I experience in the water.
There is much scope, I believe, for both scientific research and creative expression in the experience of aquatic bodywork. Perhaps through such studies we can reflect back to water the life-giving properties it so freely lends to us.
In attempting to write about my experiences in the water, and the connections it has encouraged me to make, I hope to inspire you to make your own journeys of exploration. The medium Taoists used to guide humans into relationship with nature might again become more than a substance to merely bathe in or drink.
I've begun to call my own practice Aquapoetics - an aquatic art form designed to encourage creative inspiration and individual transformation. It draws on Watsu (water shiatsu) and its derivatives, and focuses on encouraging each person to dance the body poetic, to listen to their own body's poetry.
Aquapoetics is not so much about technique (there are many wonderful moves to learn from the various modalities - click here for more) but rather an approach to practice that can be used with any technique. Each person brings their own poetry to a practice, an indefinable quality that can nevertheless be developed.
This is the song-line of our aquatic nature!
* For more on shamanic aspects, see my article, 'Dancing in Healing Waters' Shamans Drum Magazine (issue 62, 2002, pp. 17-27).
This work by Sara Firman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.