I’ll try just about anything once; raw oysters, ziplining, jalapeno margaritas…even sensory deprivation. If it sounds fun, interesting, a challenge, I can be talked into it… pretty easily. My decision to try float therapy started when my good friend Deanna told me she was opening a float spa in Mexico. I was intrigued…She explained, a float tank is filled with water and a huge concentration of Epsom salts that make your body completely buoyant, essentially weightless. It sounded cool. Then coincidentally, I bumped into another friend two weeks ago who also raved about a recent float experience. A Groupon for three sessions sealed the deal.
To be quite honest, I was a little nervous. An hour in complete silence with zero stimulation seemed drastic. It would be a very long time I thought, much longer than my usual 20 minute meditation…Nevertheless, I was in…literally, up to my cheekbones in the slimy saline solution (which BTW does not taste like salt water, more like a toxic chemical). The lid of the egg-shaped cocoon was closed and I stretched out into the temperature regulated water. My toes, sticking up above the brine felt cold at first. The skin on my arms stung from saline penetrating my recent yard work scratches.
I tried to relax, to breathe slower, but my neck and shoulders wouldn’t let go. I closed my eyes against the dim colored lights. Tiny rivulets of water squirmed into the gaps of my rubber earplugs. I waited for my arms to stop stinging, my neck to relax. I focused on breathing, sat up, adjusted my swim cap to keep water out of my ears. It was very hard to just give in.
But after a while, my arms spread wider, buoyed by the warm water until for a brief while, I couldn’t feel them. In fact, I couldn’t feel anything. It was as if my body had disappeared and all that was left was my mind, quieted now by the calm. A couple of involuntary nerve spasms shook me, but for most of the last 15-20 minutes, I lost all sense of my personal boundaries. For a while, there was no beginning or end to me, the water, the air. I wouldn’t say my thoughts stopped entirely, but they grew spacious and slow, like when during the pre-dawn hours, you slip between waking and dreaming.
So much of the time, we’re anticipating something – waiting for a special event, a person, a new circumstance to arrive. We build our lives around what’s about to happen. But in a float chamber, don’t expect anything. Nothing will happen and that’s exactly the point. Waiting, anticipating and expecting all cause the stress and anxiety we live with daily. The total mystery of not knowing what the future will bring on any front is stressful all on its own. And that’s why floating is such a relief. After your first time, you will at least know that you don’t have to expect anything and that’s completely okay. We don’t get opportunities like that too often! Maybe that’s why people find it so relaxing.
Still, it’s weird,… in a good way, if only for those few moments to be present without feeling, without any real awareness of taking up space, of not being anywhere. I imagine it must be what life feels like when we go, when we lose the edges of who we are,… when who we are is not our body, or a mind, but simply a soul – a part of everything with no beginnings, no endings…and no more waiting.