My float experience was far from sensory deprivation.
…I can’t move. I’m paralyzed and freaking the F*ck out. I want to get out! Now! But I can’t get out. I can see anything. Where is the handle?! It’s humid and I feel like I can’t breathe. Oh gosh. I don’t know what to do! I got to get up and get the F*ck out of the stupid f*cking chamber. AHHHHH!
Floating is a unique and subjective experience. I had no expectations going in and I am glad I didn’t. Prior to floating, I was researching how one floats and what to do during the sixty minutes allotted. The how was a simple answer: the 80-degree water temperature is saturated with 900 lbs of salt which allows your body to float. This buoyancy, in combination with total darkness, creates a loss of control or, as it’s advertised, sensory deprivation. The ‘how-to’ float is totally a subjective experience where some people meditate, some people fall asleep (whether intended to or not), and others use the time for reflection. There is no real good answer to the question of what to do when you float. So, I went in with the goal of meditating, but if I wasn’t able to fully relax I would be okay that that too and take the experience for what it was.
You are supplied with everything you need. I was given towels, earplugs, a neck ring (to stabilizable your head and relax your neck muscles), and even petroleum jelly for cuts and scrapes (we all know salt and wounds are NOT a good combination). After taking off my shoes to put on spa sandals, I was shown to the back where I would have my own personal chamber. I was given instructions to shower prior to entering (wipe your face dry before entering so no water gets into your eyes, your hands will be covered in salt after you submerge yourself) and shown how to control the lighting and music. After showering, I hopped right in.
I had the option to keep the door of the chamber open if I’d like and keep it well illuminated but declined to either. To get the full experience, I closed the lid, turned off all the lights, placed the neck ring behind my head, and just floated…
As I laid there, I struggled to get comfortable and fully relax. The feeling of weightlessness is an uneasy feeling for me and made me quite nauseous at first however, the more I relaxed, the more it faded and eventually disappeared. I told myself to just let go and surrender to the feelings associated with this experience, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. My thoughts keep being directed towards being claustrophobic due to being confined to this chamber and not being able to breathe due to the temperature of the water and the humidity created. There were multiple times I thought about cracking the lid open to get out and get a breath of fresh air, but I didn’t. I wanted to struggle through the ‘suffer-fest’.
When I get overwhelmed or experience panic or anxiety in life I use a mantra to keep my mind at bay. It helps to reassure me that everything will be okay. We freak out because we are so focused on the negative feelings and thoughts that we fail to experience the moment. It isn’t until we take a step back from our thoughts and perceive that there is a before, a current, and there will be an end to the panic, that we can fully relax and experience the moment. I used my mantra during the twenty minutes of intermittent panic and anxiety until I was able to fully relax and meditate on my sufferings.
As I floated and scanned my body, my mind began to open up and I violently dropped into the land of anything. I meditated on the feelings of being alone and my fear of heights. When I focused on thoughts of heights my mind morphed myself into a bird where I was then soaring past sky’s limits and though the most beautiful cityscapes. I felt the wind on my face as I swept through building after building, almost crashing into the window of a sixty story building. I felt free. I felt alive. As I turned my attention to my breath I and to my nostrils, I visualized where the air was being received and then aimed to follow it into my lungs and diffuse throughout my body. After a few times of this, I relaxed deeper and found myself running wild throughout my inner organism. From playing with my neurons within my brain to calmly stroking my heart to visualizing the knots of my muscles slowly unwind, I found a plethora of things to do within the body. I realized that when I feel lonely I can turn inward where I will never be alone.
Floating not only allows for the mind and body to fully relax if you allow it. The body relaxation was most comparable to that of receiving a massage. When I finished, I was mentally focused and physically relaxed to take on the day and anything that it threw my way. Floating is what you make of it. You can choose to make it a spiritual journey, as I did, or use it to reflect on your day. Whatever your aim is, I think the float life is a great tool we can use to help us achieve a state of calm and still nature.