Surrendering to Healing…In the Arms of a Stranger

By Bristol Baughan

I spent most of my life thinking that being tough, requiring little sleep, working 24/7 and being unemotional were bad-ass signs of being evolved. Until, of course, that way of thinking stopped working and my will and ambition-flavored energy dried up. I have had to dig deep through a ton of layers of conditioning to re-frame the idea of nurturing as fundamental to thriving.

It is pretty incredible how “nurturing” ourselves as adults, as opposed to nurturing someone else or a child, is considered self-indulgent or selfish, as we grow older. Watsu massage was one of the first experiences I had on my healing journey that helped me experience the value of self-nurturing. The third episode of 30 DAYS OF INTENT, on The Chopra Well, surprises Natalie and Iman with their own Watsu sessions, and it was my hope that Natalie and Iman would have a similar experience as I did. All they were told was to bring a swimsuit, nothing more.

Watsu massage was created by Harold Dull in 1980 when he brought his Zen Shiatsu practice into warm water for the purpose of connecting to the breath, stretching the body, relieving pressure from the spine and moving energy through the body. Watsu practitioners describe it as an opportunity to experience a deep state of relaxation and weightlessness, a state where the mind quiets and one can experience the true nature of their soul. Whoa.

My first experience with Watsu Massage was in Ubud, Bali. I had never heard of it and this guy was recommended and totally hot. I was on a mission to heal my heart so why not give it a go? I set an appointment one afternoon and met him at his villa just outside of town. The place was simple and light, two stories and clean. The masseur led me inside and upstairs to a room with a mattress on the floor. Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea? I’m sure this guy is a professional and all but you never know…

I tried to sniff out any funny business and was only met with a loving and openhearted smile. I remained fully clothed and lay on the mattress. Darshana told me this form of massage was more like a dance so to just lay back and relax. It took me a few minutes to stop making up stories about what could happen to me in this vulnerable position and slowly I started to relax, to surrender. Watsu Massage is like dancing; you are stretched and massaged both at the same time. We danced like this for 45 minutes and a heavy rain began to fall outside the window. I felt completely relaxed and in a total state of trust with this man who just a little while earlier I had deemed suspicious.

As the rain fell and he slowly whirled me around to finally rest my head on his shoulder, we were in the most precious and loving embrace, and my heart burst open. Tears fell down my face and he just held me, so lovingly, so presently. When I learned that there was a form of Watsu practiced underwater, I knew it could possibly have a deeply transformative effect not only for people with disabilities or physical challenges but for anyone! To be able to fully surrender and trust another human being and become as vulnerable as a child…what a gift.

A serious theme that keeps coming forward in all forms of healing and spiritual awakening work I’ve run into is returning to the innocence of being a child.  I have encountered a number of processes that have allowed me to get underneath all the layers of conditioning to experience, if just for a moment, a young place of wonder and trust. It is from this place, I find, I am able to be a little more gentle with myself and others and allow whatever healing that can be done to be done without my willing it so.

The looks on both Natalie and Iman’s faces at the end of this episode should say it all.  From my experience, healing is like dating, try to reserve judgment and just see what resonates for you and what doesn’t. And if something gets you all worked up, observe that too!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss Thursday’s episode where Natalie and Iman get a taste of healing horse therapy.


Bristol Baughan is the Supervising Producer and Director of The Chopra Well’s show, 30 DAYS OF INTENT. Her background is in documentary film and creating content that moves people to engage with the world. She spent the last four years traveling around the world learning from many spiritual teachers, from Tibetan Monks to Tantric Yoga teachers. While working on 30 DAYS OF INTENT Bristol also completed a master’s degree program in Spiritual Psychology.