Floating tends to occupy this special place in our minds. One of peace, tranquillity, even spirituality. I certainly think of it as a reprieve, a reset, all but guaranteed to make me feel better no matter the state I’m in. But is there a limit to this conception? As we know ‘not all floats are created equal’, but what does that mean?
For me that entailed coming out of a float the bluest I’d felt in a long time…
These days I float most often when my mind is getting crazy. As life becomes fuller I find that other priorities rise above relaxation and contemplation (sound familiar?), and it is only when there’s a Japanese game show going on in my head that I notice maybe something’s a-miss. Thoughts flung to and fro, my attention pinging around the pinball table of my mind.
At these times it can be difficult to feel like yourself- unless of course you’ve been like this so long you’ve assumed that’s what ‘being you’ feels like, in which case I have some news for you. I believe that we are all capable of blissful states of consciousness, inside the tank or out. In these states our minds are calm, we have an intimate and sensitive connection to our emotional base; a sense of a relationship with our own being. There can also be clarity or self-assurance of our strengths and weaknesses, where we work well and what healing needs to take place.
Unfortunately for most, this is not our daily experience. We rise from a slumber only to find it’s time to get up, perhaps have a stretch and grab some food, and get to work. Some mornings are spent solely focusing on getting out the door, and all the way to work we’re consumed by our to-do. ‘That reminds me, after work I need to clean that nasty bathtub, and of course cook and get the kids- that’s right the tyres are running low. Crap! Oh well it’s got to be done, maybe if I move around this appointment and…’ – you, probably.
Life goes on this way. It can be very distracting- or more accurately, our thoughts about life, its contents and our role within it. But what are we being distracted from? You may say nothing, but then I would pose you a question: What do you normally do when you’re confronted with a difficult issue? Perhaps something depressing or overwhelming; the pain of the world, your relational shortcomings or doubts about your life direction. Do you wallow for a while, then decide you “need a drink” and continue with your life? Perhaps call a friend or flick on a show. I’m not pointing fingers or shaming, nor am I saying we need to spend our days consumed by thoughts of the world’s suffering or our own personal neurosis. I’m saying that every time I pick up a drink, the TV remote, even when I go for a run or start cooking a new exciting meal, every time I think “what should I do?”- I’m running.
From what, I’m not sure. Some sort of existential angst, or the truth. A discomfort buzzing in my bones and underpinning my life. Most of my life is spent this way; running. I know that. Running all the time. Am I the only one?
It had been a particularly busy week. Not in terms of my life, but my mind. Thoughts everywhere, total chaos. My meditations were loud and far from peaceful. I decided it was time for a float and headed in, ready to be blasted to infinity, liberated from the noise and delivered to a calm, new dimension where I can follow a thought longer than 4 seconds.
Of course, this did not go to plan. When the first whispers of music rippled through the water at the end of my session, I was already wide awake. I had sunk for a while but popped back up around halfway- not blissful and gooey, but stressed! Anxious, to be precise, and uncomfortable. I began to think about the future again, how much money I really did not have and what I would need to do to accomplish even one of my goals. As is wont to occur when you start trotting along these mental pathways, my thoughts became darker and more lethargic. The concept of working for an income, only to spend it on fleeting experiences which I know won’t really fulfil me for long, again entered my mind. It was odious.
Is it the truth? I don’t think so, not anymore. But it sure wasn’t fun.
Something had gone wrong clearly. I had expected to wake up in flavour town but instead fell from a troubled dream to a nightmare. I was tormented by my own reality and my seemingly inescapable disposition towards it.
So what did happen? Is it true that the float worsened my experience, and I could have been better off avoiding the experience? I think not. The answer, I think, lies in the root of my mental noise the days prior. As I said, this business, buzzy buzzing, the absolute band camp of my mental condition, does not come about on its own. There is an emotional cause somewhere deep inside, something I’m struggling with, unable to face, probably totally unaware of. This is what I found in the tank.
The tank didn’t do anything wrong, it did nothing more than what it always does. It calmed me down. It calmed me down to the point where the real reason for my experiential angst was forced to leap from the bushes it had been hiding under and attack me front on. Was this fun, pleasurable, relaxing? Hell no, but it was far more honest than the mode of operation the week prior. This, I prefer.
The float allowed me to settle down, calm my thoughts and finally face the demon which I had been subconsciously running away from and thereby enslaving myself to. After some deep contemplation and meditation in the lounge of the float centre, I was already feeling a lot better. The problem was not resolved but at least I was acquainted with it, and over time I began to start drawing new neural pathways, including working for a passion and falling in love with the process, that are now radically changing my disposition towards money and work. I have the tank to thank for this.
It frightens me how much of our subconscious is beyond our comprehension. How many of our limitations and aversions are born of some anxiety we are blinded to. How much more effectively could I live my life if I were more aware. If I were able to recognise, make friends with, and eventually supersede more and more of my mental tricks and troubles.
For me, that is the choice. I can run all day. Run run run. I’ve run all my life, no issue running some more. Or I can turn, sit and calm my breath, settle my mind and allow my demons to rush upon me. Perhaps only for a few minutes or an hour at a time. It may hurt, it may be overwhelming, but at least I’ll know what I was running from. And slowly, I will gain the upper hand. I will work towards the dream that one day I’ll be able to put my running shoes away, slide on some comfy loafers and stroll though my life in peace.
Perhaps we don’t have the strength to settle our minds on our own. Meditation can be challenging and takes a long time to master. But in the floatation tank, we have the opportunity to bypass our limitations. To skip the queue and jump straight into the waters of our subconscious. The conditions present in the tank, capable of calming us, triggering our parasympathetic nervous system and opening us more and more to ourselves, are an absolute blessing to our mental and emotional development. This I believe to be true.
So I pose the question to you: tired of running?
I had met Anton from Float Culture a few nights before my first float. On talking to him about my writings on ‘the importance of feeling’ he asked that I take two floats and write a blog post from this perspective. So what’s so special about ‘feeling’? It’s a different way of looking at self-awareness. […]Read more
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Folks at Waikato University recently took a closer look at Float Tanks & how they might improve your athletic performance + help muscle recovery (Flotation-restricted environmental stimulation therapy improves sleep and performance recovery in athletes). In this small study, they compared floating to passive recovery. They found Floating had a positive impact on: muscle recovery […]Read more