How floating puts you in a flow state

“The floatation tank is a specific and reliable flow-creation tool. On the whole, floaters seem to experience flow every time they enter the tank. Even better, they experience that most elusive and pleasurable thing, long periods of pure, uninterrupted flow.”

– The Book of Floating, Michael Hutchison


What is flow, exactly?

In our age, the concept of flow is most well known as having been studied by Dr Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975, a professor in the Department of Behavioural Science at the University of Chicago. He interviewed and studied chess players, composers, dancers, basketball players, rock climbers, surgeons, and others who did things they deeply enjoyed.

“The underlying similarity that cuts across…is that they all give participants a sense of discovery, exploration, problem solution – in other words, a feeling of novelty and challenge.”

Flow is certainly something we would all love to have – all the time – but the fact is that it remains an elusive state in everyday life. At work, many of us drag our feet through our to-do list. In the U.S., about 2/3 of employees were found to be ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work. We count the minutes till we get to do things that do put us in a state of flow, like exercise, or painting, for example.

So how does floating put you in a state of flow?

Csikszentmihalyi listed these six factors as encompassing the idea of flow:

1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
2. Merging of action and awareness
3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding

Regular floaters will recognise these qualities – they are what makes a whole hour of doing ‘nothing’ not only bearable, but actually enjoyable.

That said, it’s not a given that you will enter a flow state every time you enter the tank. It takes a certain amount of being able to fully let go of your thoughts or any sensations that may distract you. But it’s worth it when you make the effort to get there. Can you think of any personal experiences where you were able to carry your float experience into everyday life?

“When you float, there is nothing happening in the tank that is not you. That is, everything that goes on in the tank is either what you ‘do’ or what you ‘don’t do’.”



Book excerpts are from The Book of Floating, by Michael Hutchison

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