Trust. One of those words you think about, long and hard and deep. Do you trust? Totally? Utterly? Unconditionally? Very difficult.
But, you know…at some point, somewhere along the way, you have to trust. You have to let go, lean back and just…float; knowing you’ll be held; that you’ll be okay. And if you're not...hey ho. You'll still be okay.
And ah…floating. I first floated in London for a feature. I didn’t like the idea of it at the time – couldn’t help thinking about William Hurt turning into a wolfman in Altered States. But then I tried it and…oh my…total love in 18 inches of Epsom salts. Every so often I’d Google floatation tanks and not find anything round here – at least not a proper floatation room (rather than a poky pod). But then, last week, I had a message from a lovely woman called Jules I met a few years back. She practices Chavutti Thirumal, the Indian ‘rope massage’ – where you lie butt-naked on the floor and the therapist uses his or her feet to massage you, using an overhead rope for balance. It is, quite simply, bliss. Possibly the only massage I’ve ever had where, come the end, I feel sated, finished, done – rather than biting the therapist’s hand and wimpering ‘just another five minutes, please?’
Anyhow. Back when I had an income, I used to go to Jules for the occasional Chavutti and heaven it was. And now it seems she’s working at a new centre in Braunton and she asked if I’d like to come over and check the place out, have a massage, have a float. And I said… well, what do you think I said?
Actually what I said (about 15 years ago) was this. Floating was developed in the 1950s by Dr John C Lilly, a medical doctor who was also trained as a psychoanalyst and a specialist in neurophysiology. He found that floating helped people think better, learn more easily, concentrate more fully. Some said their creativity improved; others felt younger and healthier. Some even claimed their sex lives rocketed. Almost without exception, people insisted they felt much calmer and more relaxed.
|This gives an idea but you float naked and in darkness|
The almost complete sensory deprivation caused by floating seems to agree with both our bodies and minds. Blood pressure and heart rate become lower and calmer while oxygen consumption improves. People suffering chronic pain find that they can obtain relief, often not just for the hour or so they float but up to three days afterwards. Floating seems to stimulate the body to produce endorphins, natural pain killers. Meanwhile musicians, actors and writers frequently float because floating allows the right hemisphere of the brain to operate freely, allowing much more creativity, imagination and the ability to solve problems.
One of its most successful applications is in the treatment of addictive behaviour: overeating, smoking, drug-taking and alcoholism all respond remarkably well. Phobias often clear up quickly and anxiety states frequently disappear altogether.
Apparently an hour’s float is the equivalent of four hour’s sleep. Oh, bring it on…(incidentally, the last four words I said last week – or rather I thought them).
If you’ve never tried it, really you should. And if you’re anywhere around North Devon or West Somerset then shake a leg over to Hands On (okay, that clause bothers me but never mind). Their float room is lovely – with lights underneath and a star-spangled sky above. You simply shower, bung in some ear-plugs, lie back and then, when you’re ready, turn off the lights and…float. And I did and it was fabulous. At first my neck hurt and my shoulders hurt and I realized just how tense I’d been. So I let go, leaned back into the water and trusted it would hold me and do what it needed to do. And it did.
As if that weren’t good enough, I also got myself massaged by Phil, who owns the place. Now I’m not fussy about a lot of stuff in life. Okay, so I have an apostrophe issue and I can’t bear jeans that aren’t long enough and bananas have to be blemish-free and just ever so slightly under-ripe and…oh, okay, so maybe I’m more pernickety than I thought. But when it comes to bodywork I seriously take no prisoners. Back when I had a job I reviewed massage for a living (yeah yeah, jammy or what?) and I can tell the second someone puts their hands on me if they’re going to be good or not. Phil was good. More than good. Up there in my top five bodyworkers actually. He’s trained in sports massage, ayurvedic massage and Reiki but there was all kinds of stuff going on and, yeah, at the end I had to resist biting his hand and going, ‘more, more, more.’
Sooo. Bottom line. Nice place. Small, nothing to look at from the outside but bright as a pin inside and – if Phil and Jules are anything to go by – damn good therapists. They do all kinds of bodywork too (osteopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology etc) - and also hypnotherapy and medical herbalism.
It’s about an hour’s drive from me but I’ll be back… in that, at the very least, I trust. J