“Healing Bath”: A Body Scan with Visualizations

As a visual person, I have days when my “mind’s eye” has difficulty focusing during meditations. For those times, listening to guided visualizations is my best option for a calming tool.

Additionally, body scans are excellent pre-bedtime wind-downs. So when I recently heard of a great visualization that includes a body scan, I wanted to share it here.

Your private pool can be anywhere you want, even indoors. Source: https://pin.it/4UeEa1U

This one is based on a “healing bath” visualization that was presented by an MSW/Oncological Therapist who leads Friday morning meditation at my cancer center. Putting the focus on vivid visuals and including your other senses fills your awareness with rich imagery that works so well to soothe an overworked nervous system. While this will not be an auditory experience, use your imagination as you read this to paint yourself a picture of a safe, soothing space that you will remember.

Here’s the basic imagery (add details that resonate with you): you arrive at a beautiful natural location, walking down a path surrounded by lush greenery, wearing a luxurious fluffy robe and cushy slippers. As you follow the path, flowery fragrances waft on a gentle breeze that carries bird songs to you. The sun is at a height most soothing for you; for me, it is early morning with a mist in the air. Bright enough to see everything, but imparting a feeling of safety and privacy.

As you continue down the path, it opens up into a small secluded beach with a round pool of water, clear and sparkling; part natural pond and part constructed, with beautiful white stone steps leading into it. Surrounded by flowering plants, it invites you in.

Create a secluded place for yourself. Source: https://pin.it/3j88oEw

You feel the sensation of the fluffy robe and slippers sliding off of you as you leave these items by the entrance to the steps. Then, you dip the toes of one foot into the water and find that the temperature is perfect for you. Notice the sensation of the warm water as you step onto the stone stairs with both feet, holding onto a sturdy railing. You stand up to your ankles in the pool and sense the difference in the temperature between the misty air and inviting water.

Take two more steps down and the water slides up to your calves, soothing your lower leg muscles. Then step further in as the water line slowly travels up past your knees and halfway up your thighs, so that most of your legs are submerged in the placid, warm pool, now feeling more like a bath.

The bottom of the pool is easily visible through the clear water. Unhurriedly, take a few more steps down as your toes reach the white sandy pool floor and the water rises up to your waist, enveloping your lower body in warmth.

Feel the gentle support of the water.

By one side of the pool is a smooth sculpted stone bench to which you glide, feeling the slip of the water against your skin as you move, drawing the tips of your fingers across the pool’s surface, leaving gentle streaks as you go.

As you lower yourself onto the seat, sense the warmth rise up your torso and arms, traveling up as you settle down. The bench is deep enough for your body to submerge but comfortably keep your head out of the water.

The soothing water supports you as the seat cradles your body. Rest your head on the side of the pool – the edge is sloped and comfortable. Then listen. What do you hear? Sweet songs of birds? The meditative buzz of gentle honeybees that flit among the flowers? Waves on a faraway beach?

Can you smell the fragrances of the flowering plants that surround you? As you breathe, as your chest rises and falls, feel the water glide around you. Warm, secure, safe, secluded. This pool is whatever you need it to be for you to feel nurtured and loved.

As evening falls, lights illuminate the pool. Source: https://pin.it/2KpwRO8

Stay here for as long as you like, watching light sparkle on the surface of the water. If you stay until evening, warm lighting illuminates the pool and surrounding plants, dispersing dark shadows and bringing a sleepy tranquility into the area.

Finally, when it’s time to return to present world, lift yourself out of your seat and glide back to the stairs, keeping yourself submerged to your shoulders until you take a hold of the handrail. Slowly, slowly release yourself from the pool, noticing the sensation of air on your skin as you emerge, feeling the waterline move down your body as you climb the steps.

With the final step, you leave the pool and take up the fluffy, soft robe waiting for you, wrapping yourself in it. Slip your feet into the cozy slippers. Your body dries quickly. Make your way up the path. And although you leave this magical space behind, it is always available for you whenever you want to return.


If you are uncomfortable with water or if the visualization keeps bringing in disturbing images such as a very deep pool, dark water or something foreboding lurking underneath the surface, or it feels constrictive or claustrophobic, substitute a sparkling mist or a golden light for the water. You can still feel the body sensations as you enter into the pool. There are no rules here, it is your safe space and you can set it up as you please.

Finally, to bring this from a visualization into reality, create a real-life pool for yourself in your bath, with ample tealights, a soundtrack of nature sounds or gentle music and water temperature that is right for you. Feel your arms and legs float, prop up your head with a towel on the side of the tub. Breathe deeply. This is a perfect way to end the day and prepare yourself for a restful slumber.

Grounding Through the Fingertips: Hand Steepling

Note: this is another grounding technique, by which I mean a way to retain focus on what is happening in the “now” rather than getting lost in memories of the past, which we cannot change, or succumbing to fears about what may happen in the future. It’s not a woo-woo magical technique. It’s merely being mindful about what is currently taking place so that you can respond appropriately and maintain your composure.

During acute stress, we need to bring ourselves back to the present quickly. By doing so, we are able to clear our heads of the “what-ifs” and “you shouldas” that cloud our thoughts at those times.

But what’s the fastest way to do that? For me, it’s definitely focusing on the fingertips. Each fingertip has approximately 3,000 nerve endings, more than any other part of the body (except the most intimate). When you touch something, all those nerves start firing.

You can take advantage of this sensitivity to ground yourself.

Channel Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and put your fingertips together.

This is what I do: I “steeple” my fingers (thumb against thumb, index finger against index finger, etc.) as if I were Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock contemplating a complex situation. The fingertip pressure immediately commands attention from my fearful mind in the same way that a boss displaying that hand gesture would command an employee’s attention. Taking deeper breaths, I rub my fingertips against each other in a circular motion. The movement enables the nerve endings on the fingertips to keep firing as the sensation continues. Or I can bounce my fingertips off each other, or keep them together but flex the fingers to create a pulsing motion.

Closing my eyes accentuates the emphasis on sensation and makes maintaining focus on it easier.

Yes, this seems so simple, but it’s also quite effective. By placing our focus on the fingertips, we take our attention away from more reactive parts of the body like the chest area, where the heart might be beating fast and ribcage expanding and contracting with rapid breathing. Feeling into those areas might only serve to reinforce the heightened emotions that we’re experiencing.

The hands lie further away from that commotion, and that distance between the chest and our fingertip sensations enables us, if even for a short while, to get some perspective. Think of it as the anxiety not being “in your face”.

We can use body sensations as anchors to help stabilize us through anxious times.

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, all I “see” is that sensation of fingertip to fingertip, as if it’s the only thing that exists. I can play with this, imagining that I’m holding something between my hands, and that the sensation I feel is actually the feeling of that object against my fingers. It can be a pane of glass or even a beach ball. It all depends on what my brain is willing to accept at the moment. It’s a relaxing mental exercise.

As with many things related to mindfulness, it’s helpful to practice this fingertip pose when we’re in a relaxed and meditative state to connect the sensation to a feeling of calm, enabling it to serve as an anchor when our emotional seas are rough. The more we practice, the stronger that association, and the more effective the grounding response when we use this technique in the midst of anxiety.


Fun fact: body language experts consider steepled fingers to be an expression of confidence. That might be the little boost you need when you’re navigating a stressful event!