This Saturday I’m launching the first of three workshops on submitting fiction and poetry for publication! It’s called the _mission Workshop Series for Writers, starting off with “submission”. It’s free, donations requested (I am in dire need of a new laptop and don’t have a job yet).
Gifts have a way of coming back to you. A few years ago, I gave my husband a gift certificate to Floatworks in Angel, following a period of prolonged stress at his job. Now, during a period of prolonged stress for me, he gave me a gift certificate to the same wonderful place, where he frequently goes to chill out.
I use the term “chill out” loosely here — it’s a whole lot deeper than that. In a foot of water full of Epsom salts, one can discover a whole new body, and a whole new soul. Welcome to floating.
This post is for those of you who’ve never tried it before, and are a little nervous about the whole thing. The idea of isolation tanks can easily conjure up some not-nice feelings — who likes the idea of not being able to see, hear, or feel anything? Well, it’s not that kind of deprivation. You are safe, comfortable, warm, and by yourself, and normally you float naked, although some prefer to do it in a swimsuit or swim trunks.
For max effect, go naked. It’s just you and the tank.
When you arrive, you’re greeted by the warm, friendly staff. You check your shoes at the entry and then go to your room. Every room has a pod as shown above, and a little shower area for you to clean yourself before and after the float. The water and air inside the pod is set to your surface body temperature, so when you get in and float, you don’t feel the difference between your skin and the water. You have the option to leave the lights on, or if you want to go for the full, in-the-womb experience, turn the lights off, and float in the dark. You can also crack the lid of the pod if for whatever reason you feel too warm. And of course, if you have any problems, you can call for assistance using a button inside the pod.
Floating is nothing short of magical. I had no idea what to expect. I am not that confident sitting in water or swimming, and I don’t like earplugs. But I just went with it, and man, the rewards are still coming to me even days later. You feel completely weightless, but at the same time supported, and this instantly dispels any kind of tension or anxiety you’re holding in your body for whatever reason. The feeling of peace immediately snuffs out any cyclical thinking, overthinking, planning, or other kinds of non-present-moment brain activity. It’s just you, and your breath.
After a while, you feel like you’re about to fall asleep. Yet the curious thing is that you sort of fall asleep, but you sort of don’t; you enter an inbetween space that taps into a very calm, peaceful, unique feeling, which presents answers to profound questions for some. For others, they experience visions, personal insights, or a general knowing that everything really is okay.
I didn’t gain any answers or insights, but I did feel like everything is fine — and it is.
The act of floating triggers a detox process in your muscles thanks to the salts, and helps to loosen knots, pop tight discs and joints, and literally helps you loosen up overall. As what goes up must come down, floating does have its downside of post-float pains. Because your body has deeply repaired and realigned some old hurts and tight spots, the hours after being in the tank can make you feel a little sore or out of sorts. This dissipates the more you float, however. The best way to ensure a quick recovery is to drink a LOT of water. When you’ve had a lot of water, drink more water. Remember, you’ve been lying in salts for an hour! Rest, relax, stay calm and comfortable as long as you can after a float. They’re nice to do in the evenings because you sleep SO much better. Some people, like my husband, prefer to do it in the mornings. The meditative headspace that results from floating helps him engage better with his day, and feel good overall.
A great video about floating and its scientific effects on the body and brain can be found here, from a CBS This Morning report:
When you’re done, you rinse off and have some tea, relax in the recovery room, dry your hair, moisturize your skin, and go back out into the much calmer world.
So, go for it. Book a float at Floatworks or whatever float spa is closest to you. You’ll be glad you did.
The Rare Treasures of the Earth exhibition opened today at Christie’s here in London. Promising “spectacular fancy coloured diamonds alongside rare rocks and minerals”, you know I had to be front and center at 10 o’clock this morning.
Although it’s a bit smaller than I expected, the exhibition doesn’t disappoint. Upon entry into the space, you’re greeted by pieces up for auction and other specimens for display, including some truly stunning (and big!) tourmaline, quartz, and my beloved amethyst.
“It’s always amazing to me that these things haven’t been ‘designed’, they just come out of the ground. A light from within.”
I overheard someone say that and it’s a sentiment shared by many. The monetary value of gemstones is human made, but the awe that value is based on is as natural as the sun. There’s a mystical quality to such precious stones; a curious balance of natural geometry and refracting light that gives pause to anyone who notices them. Also, the fact that they’re usually hidden underground, in caves or within otherwise “normal-looking” rocks, adds to their treasured reputation.
The irony is that while colored gems and crystals are the true rarities, no stone draws a crowd like a diamond. Naturally, this gem is the focus of the exhibition. Some of the allure of diamonds comes from years of marketing in popular culture (which I won’t get into here), associations with class and certainly with money, but at the end of the day, you just can’t look away from the winking sparkle of a diamond.
Even when it’s fake. (I’ll let you decide.)
The Hope Diamond, Millenium Star, Eureka, and the massive Cullinan are in the rockstar pantheon of diamonds for their sizes, shapes, and rare colors. Story and ownership are the primary tools in the world of gems. Once a skilled craftsperson discovers the stone’s most expressive cut, it changes hands over and over again through time, holding history, legend, emotion, violence — and even curses.
Whether you just want to stare longingly or learn something new, the exhibition has something for everyone. A number of displays go through where diamonds and other gems are typically found, how they are cut, graded, and what DeBeers is doing to keep the business of mining and selling diamonds as sustainable as possible.
All in all, it’s a beautiful and informative exhibition with much more to see than what I took photos of here. Rare Treasures of the Earth is on until 12 November at Christie’s London. (Just don’t break anything like I almost did, when I was inches from walking into a knee-high quartz. It probably would have hurt me more than I could have hurt it, but you never know.)
For more on the how, why, ooh and ah of the world’s most beautiful gems, I highly recommend this Nova documentary: