I remember the first time I heard about floating. My brother described it to me by saying, “You lie in a giant bath tub and you can’t hear or see anything — it’s great!” ...Huh??
I thought he was crazy. In no universe did that sound enticing. Fast forward a few years and now my brother is running Zen Float Co. — an entire business developed around making float tanks. How is this working? Why do people like it so much they are willing to buy their own float tank? Still confused at why people enjoy this alien activity, I thought maybe I should try it.
Let me pause here for a moment and tell you a little bit about myself. I recently graduated from college and am working as a part-time yoga instructor. While I was in college, I had your typical existential crisis and was endlessly searching for my “purpose”. That is when I found yoga. It was a meditation that allowed me to look inward in a way that I never knew how to do. It built my confidence and developed a trust in myself, showing me that I do know what I want in life.
Why is this important? Because I thought I already had it figured out. My mental game was strong, I knew how to meditate and my anxiety was under control. I didn’t think I needed to float, I didn’t think it would bring me anything new. But considering my brother is a floating guru, I was urged to try it.
So here I go, about to float for the first time. And I should mention — my brother made me promise him I would try it at least 3 times before I made up my mind about it. I rolled my eyes at him, “yeah, yeah, floating 1 time versus 3 times won’t make any difference, but sure”.
So there I was, standing in the float spa, ready to go. Calming music played overhead, it smelled like essential oils, and the room felt peaceful and inviting. I was starting to like this place - it reminded me of being in an actual spa. So I stepped inside the tank and the water felt good. But then I shut the tank door. The light and music disappeared, I was left floating in this dark abyss, and I completely lost my mind. I became so disoriented, it felt like I was spinning and spinning and spinning in circles. Feeling trapped and lost, not knowing where the door to get out was, I felt the onset of a mini-panic attack. Quickly, I jumped out of the tank, my mind racing, I stared back at it trying to get my bearings.
After a few long, deep breaths, I regrouped and climbed back in the tank — this time leaving the door wide open. With the door open I could orient myself and got more comfortable in the tank, but I never got into any type of meditation.
Finally, my first float was over. I left feeling so angry and frustrated. Why wasn’t I able to relax? How is sitting in a dark, claustrophobic pod good for anxiety? I didn’t understand it, I didn’t connect with it, and I simply decided I didn’t like it.
I thought about the promise I made to my brother — I will go three times before I make up my mind about it. So I showed up to float a second time. I tried to keep an open mind, but was very reluctant to go as I remembered how scary it was the first time. I thought to myself, “just get three floats out of the way and then you can be done”.
I climbed inside the float tank and didn’t even attempt to shut the door. I left it cracked, so only a little bit of light was shining through. And though it was a lot darker this time, I wasn’t completely disoriented. My body was able to relax and slowly my mind followed. I was able to get into somewhat of a meditation, but nothing profound happened, my life wasn’t changed. The float was over and I didn’t leave feeling completely discouraged. I just felt calm and pretty indifferent about floating.
So now it’s my last time having to go. I was both excited to try it again and anxious to get it over with it. As soon as I stepped into the water, I knew it was going to be different. I felt instantly calm. I was immediately relaxed and all of my anxieties and stressors so easily melted away. I shut the door completely, so no light was getting in — and no disorientation! With all the noise and light that usually distracts me gone, I drifted off into another world. I got into the deepest meditation I have ever been in.
I lost all track of time and don’t remember what happened between the moment I first stepped in and the moment I got out. It almost felt as if I was sleeping, yet I was fully aware and in tune. I didn’t feel any sensation, in my body or my mind. All of my worries and my thoughts disappeared. I was completely free — free of pain, free of doubt, free of worry, free of fear. And afterwards, I felt so light. I walked out of the building like I was walking on clouds. I was glowing and beaming, feeling so much joy within myself.
Now I understand why my brother made me promise to try it at least 3 times. Removing all of our senses that usually distract us from what is really going on inside can be scary. As all your thoughts and pains release, emotion comes up and it can be terrifying to become aware. But slowly, you get used to darkness and the quiet, and eventually you crave time that is free of all sensation.
To this day, I still float. It gets me into a meditation state that I am unable to access in any other circumstance - even when I am practicing yoga. My body feels better, my mind is lighter and I can think more clearly. It is amazing what you can achieve in one session of floating compared to hours spent on other forms of meditation. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t like you’re first time. And, from the wise words of my brother, promise me you’ll try it three times before making up your mind.
Behind The Author:
My name's Monique! I recently graduated from college and am currently a yoga instructor who will complete a 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training in August 2017. I also co-founded ZenAF, a space dedicated to helping millennials learn how to meditate and create their most badass life.