I first heard of Floating around a year ago, when a friend described to me the surreal meditation-like experience she’d been reading about. It sounded glorious.
I’m quite a physically active person. I’m also a creative person. I freelance within contemporary dance and choreography, and more recently have engaged with yoga. Of course, the nature of Floating integrates nicely into this lifestyle, so I was excited to experience it.
The sheer physicality of the float was wonderful. After an initial moment of settling in, I attuned to my heightened sensation of feeling. I was amazed at the simultaneous weight and weightlessness of my own head and limbs, and how completely supported my body was by the large concentration of Epsom salts. In dance, we learn to paradoxically both hold and release, but it’s very rare that we release fully, being so aware of form, posture and alignment. In the float tank, I felt my whole body opening.
Floating was relaxing as expected, but not in a sleepy way… I felt energised and alert, but also free to wander through my stream of consciousness.
Part way into the hour, I realised that I was smiling incessantly to myself in the darkness. Smiling became uncontrollable laughing, erupting from pure joy and bliss. Something about just being, with nothing else layered overtop – no sense of obligation, space nor time – rather, simply existing with my own mind and body.
And then strangely, moments later, I found myself in tears. I’ve encountered this before in yoga, where stretching certain muscles can elicit an emotional release. I imagine this experience might be a little unnerving for some people, but it didn’t bother me. As a dancer, you encounter injuries that you have to manage and continue dancing with. So I’ve learned to allow my body to move through the course of what it needs to.
And yes, I say “body”, even though tears might usually be considered an emotional process. Something I’ve long been fascinated with is how frequently the mind and body are distinguished as very different and distant dualities. However, my ongoing learning and experience – particularly through dance – leads me to believe that our minds and bodies are inherently connected. Think about how we use expressions of speech such as “butterflies in my stomach”; “heart skipped a beat”; “frozen with fear”. These all describe metaphorically ‘physical’ sensations that are in fact related to mental-emotional processes. Modern science proves exercise and diet assists with mental disorders. So it stands to reason that our whole selves need to be attended to, in order to function harmoniously and healthily.
To me, this is why floating was so pleasurable: floating is an ultimate mind, body and spirit experience. I feel sure that this triple-layered benefit of floating could be accessed by an individual via any of these perspectives, and therefore, it is something that would positively affect all people. Floating could be more of a physiological experience for some: a chance to relieve muscular tension and the force of gravity. Or it could be a chance to take a break from the mental stresses of life and busy occupations, to just be present in the self without external distractions. Or, it could be a spiritual experience where space and time are transcended, where new thoughts emerge and you are confronted with your own being.
I often see in dance and yoga that people enter with a singular approach: wanting to get fit or for the pure sake of having fun. Then, as their understanding of the practices deepen, their awareness expands into a multi-layered engagement whereby the entire person develops in mind and body and spirit. Similarly, I’m sure that regular floating would help people operating predominantly on one of these three planes to access the other two, and eventually achieve a mind-body-spirit balance: at first subconsciously, and then eventually, consciously.
At the end of my float, I felt very strange leaving the tank. I felt that floating had returned me to my most quintessential and wholly balanced self, and it was a bit odd to re-enter the mundane world of garments, light switches and traffic. Still, I felt more settled in the world than I had before: more present in both my mind and my body. And that’s exactly the space I need to be in in order to move and create.
Photo by: Natasha van der Laan
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