A trippy experience I had during a water massage
how I came to know the story of Kyra
Art was my favorite yoga instructor at the yoga retreat. He’s Irish and maybe in his late 30s, with blonde hair cut in a vague hipster fashion. The first class I take with him he's dressed in a black Iron Maiden T-shirt and black denim shorts. He has a bit of what might be an enlightened disillusionment, the kind you get on an acid trip where you realize we’re all one and there’s no one else ever, really. Or maybe I’m just projecting.
Art spends a few minutes of class kvetching about the state of yoga today. And when you take his class, you get it. Art does what he calls kundalini hatha. For example he’ll tell you to stand on your knees and clench your Mula bandha, aka butthole, and puff out your stomach while making a weird face breathing in and making a weird noise while breathing out.
This is literally the opposite of pretty Instagram yoga, and at first I’m suspicious he might just be getting a kick trying to figure out what is the limit of what he can make these yoga vacationers do? But it’s intense; Johnny actually passed out once during a breath hold. It also feels real and that feels good in the way street Thai street food served in a plastic bag tastes better than the food at the posh orchid-encrusted Thai place in SoMa, San Francisco. He says the point of yoga is to not about the pose or alignment, it's about energy—cultivating energy for lifelong vitality. After the class I feel it. My energy feels better, I feel better.
All the instructors pedal their private offerings at the end of class, and so does he. He offers water massage, glossing over all details other than a mention that most people find it “pretty magical.”
Johnny finds this description sufficient and he schedules one. Afterwards he says being held in water by a man was healing, that he processed a lot of stuff with his dad.
Water massage sounds weirdly intimate and I’m not sure I want to try it, but I trust Art and Johnny and I might as well to maximize my fringe healing experiences on the island, so I sign up.
I show up at the GPS coordinates to a small house with a decent-sized pool. Art asks if I've got my intention. I think “letting go and something something dolphins” and say “Yep.” He seems amused; I guess I was supposed to say the intention out loud. But Art has the quality of attention that pierces beneath your walls, and I'm feeling naked enough in a swimsuit and will take whatever privacy I can get.
He wraps floats around my legs. He describes how to breathe and that he’s going to tap me when he's going to dip me underwater. He'll try to time it but I can always come back to the surface if I'm out of air. If things go well, at the end of it he’ll push me to the bottom of the pool and stand on me. I think this is why he glossed over the details before—this all sounds awful.
Art gives me a nose clip. I have never used a nose clip and I put it in my nose instead of clipping it on the outside. He finds this very funny, but I seem to have missed a developmental stage of relating to physical objects and so am accustomed to being an idiot around them.
He lays me back and as soon as my head touches the water I start thinking about a story. The story is about a woman, Kyra, who’s on a space colony. She’s one of many researchers using DMT to project her consciousness into inner space to gather intelligence.
At first I think, "Oh cool. This will be a fun thing to write about." But the more the massage goes on the more it feels like a transmission. It doesn't feel like I'm thinking up the story. I've been trying to write a novel for two years and can't get past the first chapters. I can write the characters and initial scenes, but I can’t write the plot.
With Kyra's story, the plot unfolds effortlessly in my mind. The next part appears and then the next and then the next. Kyra is me but not me. She's tougher, angrier, and more defensive. But she's going through similar themes. As the story unfolds, I live through Kyra's emotions. Every time Art pushes me under the water, I feel more and more and more.
At some point I open my eyes. Art is humming along with some music I can't hear under the water. It's been a while, I think the massage might be coming to an end soon. I wonder if the story will finish in time. I close my eyes.
Art pushes me to the bottom of the pool. He stands on me and I feel like I’m being annihilated. I release everything I can, all Kyra’s and my emotions, all our defeat, all our despair.
In the final moments of the massage, Kyra is transformed. There’s insights and understandings about everything that happened, all that pain.
Art brings me up gently. He orients me and I’m back. But I’m not back, I’m still processing. What just happened? He leaves me alone and I put my hands over my eyes. I feel raw and obliterated and new.
Do you want to hear Kyra’s story? Here’s Chapter One.