Is floating the new way to meditate?

If you’re looking to learn how to meditate, you’re spoilt for choice these days. You’ll find many options available, such as sound, light, smart devices, and more.

What about floatation therapy? Many speak of the deep relaxation and inner experience that floating provides. It certainly seems like meditation and floatation have a lot in common. Read on and tell us what you think.

 

Meditation made comfortable

As a beginner, seated meditation can sometimes feel uncomfortable and hence discourage us from going further. We might get pins and needles or experience backache, causing mental disturbance. When we are unable to get past this discomfort, we find ourselves fighting our body instead of surrendering.

“What happens if you give space to the feelings of restlessness? Can you experience the urge to move without reacting to it? You might discover something about yourself if you are able to simply observe the sensations and let them pass.”
– Pocket Coach

So this is why floating could be a gateway into meditation, because it minimises physical discomfort. You lie in a supine position, supported by the buoyant Epsom salt solution. The water is heated to skin temperature, so that after a while, you lose physical sensations. It feels like you are floating in the vastness of space. We are able, quite literally, to float into a quieter, deeper state of mind.

Do note however, that if you tend to fall asleep while meditating, it may be wise to float at a time when you feel well rested, so that you can stay conscious.

“I think this is a technology that can help get you more supportively into or out of the little anxious “mini-me,” which is still running when you sit. It takes a longer amount of time to get into a rhythm during seated meditation. This is quicker. It’s a more contemporary, effective way.”
– Loch Kelly

Access theta state easily in the float pod

In the 60s, researchers Akira Kasamatsu and Tomio Hirai conducted a study¹ that analysed EEG tests of Zen monks going into deep meditative states. They were found to generate long trains of theta waves in their brain. And even in their deepest state, the monks were not asleep, but were instead mentally alert.

This was interesting information because normally, the average person tends to fall asleep as soon as they begin generating large amounts of theta. You’d recognise this by the fleeting instants when we are drifting into sleep at night, or when we’re waking up in the morning.

Theta state is characterised by “unexpected, unpredictable, dreamlike but very vivid mental images (known as hypnagogic images).”² It is a mysterious, elusive state that gives us access to unconscious material, free association, sudden insight, and creative inspiration.

As seen in various studies³, floating leads to an increase in theta waves. And here’s the good news: because we are able to remain awake while doing so, the imagery, creative ideas, and eureka moments remain a part of our conscious mind even after we emerge from the tank.

“This loss of time-awareness is a consistent characteristic of the theta state, and tests have shown that a floater in the deep relaxation of the tank generates large amounts of theta waves.”
– The Book of Floating

Develop the power of visualisation

“Our central nervous system does not distinguish between real and imagined events; it sees and accepts all images as if they were real.”
– Chungliang Al Huang

What is visualisation? Consider it an active form of meditation, in which you “relax and choose to view images in your mind’s eye that will influence your emotions and energy”⁶.

Mental imagery is a powerful tool that we all have access to, but may not necessarily make the most of. The good news is, with regular practice, anyone can hone their ability to experience and manipulate clear inner imagery.

For instance, biofeedback researchers have found that the most effective way of manipulating any body process is through visualisation. Research subjects were able to increase blood flow to their hands, or untwist chronic muscular tensions.

“The ability to think in sensory images instead of in words is an absolutely essential first step toward the mastery of higher states of consciousness, self control of pain, etc”
– Maxwell Cade

Visualisation is a stepping stone to higher achievements. For example, inventing the future requires one to be able to visualise something that has never been done before.

The float pod provides an optimal environment for visualisation, because it takes us into the theta state. As we have learnt, this state brings deep relaxation and strong mental imagery spontaneously and effortlessly. Can you think of how you have used visualisation to improve in some way – perhaps in sports, at work, or in the process of learning? What would this do for your personal growth?

 

In conclusion

Over five and a half years of running our float centre, many of our guests have shared that floating contributes to their meditation practice. For some, floating is a hack, a bullet train of sorts to the meditative state. For others, it has been a doorway to deeper exploration outside of the float pod.

What do you think? Has floating become a part of your meditation practice?

 

Sources

  1. 1. Akira K, Tomio H, 2008. “An EEG study on zen meditation”
  2. 2. ‘The Book of Floating’, Michael Hutchison
  3. 3. Taylor, Thomas E. “Learning Studies for Higher Cognitive Levels in a Short-Term Sensory Isolation Environment.” 1983
  4. 4. Neural correlates of the episodic encoding of pictures and words
  5. 5. Can sensory deprivation help your practice? An unscientific experiment.
  6. 6. ‘Thinking Body, Dancing Mind’, Chungliang Al Huang
  7. 7. ‘How to deal with restlessness during meditation‘, Pocket Coach

 

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