To be honest, I had built up the float experience almost to a point where I envisioned a grandiose experiences that would quickly prove to be a solution for calming my mind. I had talked about doing this for months, I had even encouraged others to come with me. The day was finally here. Monday March 11th at 10:30am. I got there early to register and watch the video and I was ready and raring to go.
When I walked into the room, I saw a shower, a tank, a bench and a filtration system behind a lattice free-standing wall. I pulled the tank open slowly and peered into my space for the next hour and a half. As I looked closer at the tank, it did not seem quick as large as the eight by three foot description I had read about online and the liner reminded me of any swimming pool I have been in.
I felt a tinged of that underwhelmed feeling. Was this going to be everything I had hoped? Whas this, rather expensive hydrotherapy appointment, going to be worth the money? As my mind was ready to whirl into a spiral of doubt and inevitable disappointment, I was able to squash the worry and focus in on the present.
I started to really look around and I even took a couple pictures to document the experiences. Then I was ready!
I stepped down on the the first step and found that the water a degree or two cooler than I had anticipated. A couple more slow movements and I was ducked down and kneeling in the centre of the tank. Looking around I took it all in; the emergency button; the water depth, that was also more shallow than I had thought; the slits of light at the back of the tank; the smell of the 900 lbs of epsom salts filled my nose. The smell was almost too much when I first closed the door, but it didn’t take long until I got mostly used to it. I reached out and closed the door behind me.
I laid back and lowered onto my back. For someone who is usually not a buoyant person, I was surprised with how well I floated. I placed my hands at my sides, palms up, like they recommend and waited. NOTHING!
Again, I was tempted to get stuck in the negatives. But I didn’t. Rather than nit picking, I started noticing.
TOUCH: I noticed the water was virtually the same temperature as my body. Although I was obviously in the water, there was no hot or cold sensation associated with it, just neutral. This immediately reminded me of the perfect temperature that my bath water gets too before it is too cold and I have to get out. The difference? This water was meant to stay this temperature the whole time. Things were starting to look up for this float experiences.
SIGHT: As I closed my eyes, my brain began to fill with wonders. Will this even work for me? How long will this take? What if I fall asleep? What if this feels like an eternity and I want to leave early? My mind flooded with DOUBTS within seconds. Rather than appeasing the flood of thoughts, I focused in on my breathing — — breath in for four — hold for four — and out for six. After a couple rounds, my limbs began to relax. I cannot say that I was in a state of full relaxation by any means, but things were starting to come together even more.
SOUND: During the breathing, it was hard to not get distracted, just like during regular meditation. Between the daily headspace series we have been doing and my own learning on meditative practices, I knew that it was my job to notice the distractions and bring my mind back. The chamber was silent, especially with the silicone earplugs in, now it was time to bring my mind to a similar state. I went back to focusing on my tried, tested and true breathing techniques. Before long, I started to hear and feel my heart beating. I was suddenly aware of the air filling my lungs and when I was holding my breath (which is something I am notorious for as an awful breather). I even started noticing the little squeaks as my belly was digesting. Having my ears underwater is a sensation that I am used to because I often lay underwater in our jacuzzi, but the earplugs added an extra silence. My thinking had shifted focus inward.
SMELL: I had the hardest time with my sense of smell because it went through waves where it felt like it was too much — and it stole my focus. At times, I wondered if I could smell the hydrogen peroxide that that used to keep the isolation chambers clean. Each time it felt like too much, I noticed the feelings, went back to my breathing and essentially told myself to suck it up.
I couldn’t tell you how long it took for me to finally settle in, but once I did, it was something different. It has been a couple days since I floated, but I vividly remember 3 of the most unique experiences that I have ever felt.
Explosive Accidental Caress: After laying for quite a while all spread out with my arms above my head, I slowly reached down to put my arms at my side. In the process, my hand barely brushed along my stomach and it caused the most intense sensation that I have felt (outside of “romantic caress”). I can’t even fully describe the strength of the sensation. I just know, that after laying in this isolation chamber with virtually nothing touching my body, when I finally did touch my side, it was nearly electric.
Deep Relaxation: For anyone who knows me, you know that my brain is always on full force. It is difficult for me to shut it off from thinking and overthinking. I often mask my worrying or anxious thoughts in the notion that I am just planning and the idea that all the time spent planning will pay off. During my float, my brain had nowhere to go, except to think about being in to moment. As I floated, the sensation of inhaling and rising higher in the water and exhaling and sinking in were my main thoughts. Every now and again, I would notice that I felt the slightest of muscles soreness in my neck or legs. Normally this tension would stay with me until it turned to an ache, or I “reset my posture”. In the isolation tank, because there was nothing else on my mind, I believe I was able to notice the tight muscles faster and consciously relax them.
An actually Resting Mind:
As I said, my brain truly struggles to completely “turns off” and just relax and be, except when I am focused in on an activity like yoga or art. When I was younger, it was something quirky that I embraced, always thinking, always planning always on the go. In my adult life, I have learned more about effects of spending too much time in the flight or fight stages. I now know more about the toll that it plays on my myself and my relationships. During my float, I was able to reach a sense of just being. My brain felt calm, which is something that I regularly strive to achieve. I wanted to stay in that state for as long as I could. I cannot remember another time in my left when I have felt so alone and so relaxed. This experience allowed me to go on a mental “getaway”.
After the Tank:
When I opened the tank at the end of my hour and a half, I felt so refreshed. I felt rest that I only feel after a full night’s sleep, or after laying in the sun on vacation when you are away and cannot worried about much. I felt like I could take on the world. I was ready to start a piece that took a horror spin on the experiences (lol). I was ready to do it again, but I just didn’t know how soon would be too soon.
This experience reiterated the state that I can only strive to for my brain to rest in. In reflection, if I had kept the mentality that the isolation chamber was going to help me achieve this state independently, I do not think the experience would have gone as well. The chamber allowed me to enter a state that I had never in my life experienced, however, the chamber was the vehicle, but my mind had to do the work to allow me to drive to a state of full relaxation. I know that this experience was not “perfect” if that is such a thing, but I am so thankful that all my learning around mindfulness helped me to get to, and maintain such a calm and relaxed mental state.
Have you ever floated? What did you think? If you haven’t, would you ever try it out? Let me know on the comments below!