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  • Jim Gilkeson

The Magic Table: Reflections on Energy Healing in the Ocean

Diane and I just arrived back from Italy, where Diane was invited to teach two classes for therapists from her series "Trust in Touch." Classes were held at Sasseta Alta in Tuscany, a retreat center like none I have ever seen: locally sourced good food, good wine and fantastic people (not all locally sourced)! Sasseta is also a beautiful workshop site, including many of the courses of Watsu Italia, the preeminent organization for aquatic bodywork in Italy.

As luck would have it, I was also asked to teach a short workshop and do a few sessions, as well. It was a wonderful time for us, made especially sweet by the new friends we made. (See photos below.)

Mille Grazie to

Italo Bertolasi and Cristina Levi for inviting Diane,

Cristina Levi and Roberto Bossi for Sasseta Alta,

All the staff at Sasseta Alta,

(especially Monica, Manuela and Laura who fed us so well!)

Being around all these aquatic bodyworkers at Sasseta Alta reminded me of some of my first forays into doing craniosacral and energy work in water. I am not an aquatic bodywork therapist, not by a long shot, but I do appreciate the opening I had to it when we went in 2002 to the Bahamas to work in small groups in the shallow sea.

The actual therapeutic work in the ocean was set up with a minimum of technique, so as to allow participants of varying levels of experience to take part. This allowed the main emphasis to be on remaining present with the person receiving the treatment and moving with them as their process unfolded in ceaseless rippling embrace of the ocean. My own experiences were quite strong. My body released and unwound in ways unimaginable on a massage table. It was a direct exposure to the healing forces of the ocean. A few reflections from my journal notes:

Journal Entry 1:

We spent part of a day with some semi-wild/semi-tame dolphins at Sanctuary Cove. We played with two juvenile males, friendly, frisky, non-scary, aware, curious and engage-able. Their keepers gave us tips on keeping their interest (young males are easily bored), so I dove and changed directions and dodged around and the dolphin stayed right with me. There were also words to the wise when it came to dolphin-touching. We were told to not touch the dolphin’s face or below the navel (they get aroused, you see, and you don’t want to start anything you can’t finish). But I touched elsewhere and I don’t think I have ever touched sleeker skin. Dolphins feel really naked and tactile! When I placed my hands on either side of “my” dolphin, and simply allowed the natural exchange of energy between them to take place through his body, he obviously felt it. Suddenly, he swam away and then came back to me, presenting his front side. I placed a hand on his chest and felt his heartbeat.

Journal Entry 2:

On the “magic table” of the ocean, the ocean is the lead therapist. I am fortunate enough to work most days at a hot springs retreat center where the healing properties of the land and waters are very palpable, and I am used to inviting the energies of the natural environment into sessions. I found it easy to attune to the ocean and invite it’s rhythms and spirit to enter into the person receiving the treatment.

Journal Entry 3:

Opening to the ocean was a big revelation for me. There seems to be no distance between the unfathomable, ageless vastness of the ocean and the oceanic depths of our subconscious, with all its beauty, terror and wisdom. There were moments in doing ocean therapy when the two were indistinguishable for me. In that sense, I was reminded of Robert Johnson’s statement about doing inner work:


“You must understand that when you approach the unconscious you are dealing with one of the most powerful and autonomous forces in human experience. The techniques of inner work are intended to set in motion the great forces of the unconscious, but in a sense this is like taking the cap off a geyser: Things can get out of hand if you are not careful. If you fail to take this process seriously, or try to turn it into mere entertainment, you can hurt yourself.

“None of this should dissuade you from doing inner work. We are only observing a universal law: Anything that has great power for good can also be destructive if the power is mishandled. If we want to live intimately with the powerful forces of the inner world, we must also respect them.”


Journal Entry 4:

Release happens differently in water, and here I am referring to the discharge of excess energy from the body. I have seen this in aquatic bodywork, like Watsu, in which the discharges of energy are absorbed by the water. In the ocean, this seemed to happen even more deeply with me.

Journal Entry 5:

The forces packed into the tissues and cells of our bodies are dynamic. They cycle. They rise and fall. That is to say they get closer to and move away from the threshold of our consciousness. The shake, rattle and roll of energy release allows what is held in us to surface and be re-absorbed by the greater movement of energy and life around us. When that greater movement of life and energy is the ocean, moments of release become a connection with an incomprehensible vastness.

Journal Entry 6:

In the ocean, I was reminded of Hafiz’s poem (or was it Rumi?) about the pitcher of water in a pool of water: it’s the same water within and without. In the environment of the ocean during the energy healing sessions, the semi-permeable membrane between me as an individual and the vastness of the ocean was a very strong experience for me.


Some photos from our time at Sasseta Alta:

Trust in Touch - II (for professional aquatic bodyworkers) Diane (center)

Diane and I with Italo Berolasi (left) and Cristina Levi (right)

My class called Journeys into the World of Energy and Consciousness

"Viaggi nel Mondo dell'Energia e della Consapevolezza"

(We did the "Orange Exercise" with lemons.)

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