“I learned that the interior of life was as rewarding as the exterior of life, and that my richest moments occurred when I was absolutely still.”
My first float was half parts weird and wonderful. It was in January 2014, in the float club’s first pod. To be honest, I had been skeptical and dismissive when I first heard the scientific term ‘sensory deprivation’. I hadn’t read up much, so I really didn’t know what to expect.
I got in, bobbed around way too clumsily, and couldn’t stop bumping into the sides. Then I made the mistake of touching my face with my salty hand and got stinging salt water in my eyes. I tried to bear with my tearing eyes for a good 10 minutes, then realised the stinging wasn’t going away, so I got out. Checked the time. It was (only) around the 30-minute mark. Washed my face, and thought, this is trickier than I expected.
Epsom salt – great on your skin, not in your eyes
Almost reluctantly, I decided to try again. I got back into the pod, this time moving as carefully as possible. I tried my best to stay still. Now the water stayed calm too, moving only slightly with each breath. Suddenly, something clicked. I forgot where the water ended and where my body began. I remember feeling really amazed by the sensation of being completely weightless.
The darkness, which at first had felt a little unsettling, now became the perfect canvas for my imagination. I imagined that I was swaying slightly on a cloud, or just above the softest fabric I’d ever felt. It was the most relaxed my body had been in years.
Too quickly, the hour was up. I’d begun to realise that perhaps there’s still a lot for me to discover about the world and myself, if only I could be more patient and open-minded.
My point is, that first float is probably the most mind-boggling. Like everything else, new experiences take a little getting used to. It’s easy to make a quick judgement and give up the moment you feel restless. But if you trust the water, you might find something worth discovering within yourself. Or you might not. The tank just provides the setting, and you, the variable.
I hope that others can get past the weird and get to the wonderful like I did. So here’s a simple but important guide to your first float.
Before Your Float
Schedule it on a day where you won’t feel pressed for time. It’s nice to be free to process the experience afterwards, for as long as you like.
You might have seen videos or read about other people’s experiences, but try not to compare your float to anyone else’s. Your mind and body are unique, and the same goes for your float.
- Ask questions
It’s important to pay attention to the pre-float briefing. Ask if you’re nervous about anything – the more comfortable you feel, the easier it is to relax.
During Your Float
It’s just you and the silence…or does your brain suddenly sound like a busy market? It’s totally normal to feel restless; it takes time and practice to quiet your mind. A good place to start is to focus on your breathing, or try tensing and relaxing every part of your body from head to toe, one by one. Learning (and practicing) basic meditation techniques before your float will certainly also help.
- Keep an open mind
We reckon this is how new ideas get in ;) you can explore how floating can be a tool for personal growth. As Russell Simmons once said, “Stillness is the soil in which our imagination is nourished and our ideas can grow to incredible heights.”
- Go with the flow
Just let your thoughts come and go. Think of your brain as a computer – it takes time to shut down all the ‘open’ programmes. Eventually, you relax and enter a prolonged theta state. A place we rarely access, normally only after long periods of meditation. Here, you might experience a boost in problem-solving, creativity, and vivid mental imagery. Suppressed emotions or memories may arise, a form of important processing and release. Every float trains your brain to get here quicker.
Lounge with a view
After Your Float
- Unpack your experience
Instead of rushing back into ‘real life’, it’s nice to give yourself time to absorb the experience, perhaps by writing, doodling, or simply staring into space. With a clear head, it’s easier to flow on into the rest of your day.
- Observe what’s new
Do you feel a difference after your float? Maybe it’s in the way you respond to everyday situations (less road rage?), or maybe you finally had a good night’s sleep after weeks of insomnia. This will help you figure out how floatation can fit your lifestyle. For example, you might prefer a morning float because you feel energised after, or an evening session to wind down.
- Don’t forget to build on it
As most of us realise, inner calm and clarity isn’t something we just pick up – it’s a discipline.