Float Home

I recently had the pleasure of experiencing my first "float" here in Victoria at Float House, a newly opened local business catering to people looking for a place to unplug and "experience nothing". For many years I've been looking forward to the opportunity to try a sensory deprivation tank; a term that has been replaced by "Float" or "REST" tank. Clients book a private room that includes a shower and a float tank that looks like the dream-manifestation of an Apple designer: a gleaming white, futuristic water filled pod with a violet-colored rim light. The pod is filled with water at the same temperature as your skin, and the water has 850 pounds of Epsom salts to provide positive buoyancy (apparently you are twice as buoyant in the tank than you would be even in the very salty Dead Sea).

After showering and inserting ear plugs, I climbed into the tank, pulled the clam shell lid shut, laid back in the warm water with only the soft violet rim light to light the tank from the interior and closed my eyes. Soft, hypnotic music played for 5 minutes or so before fading to silence, and the violet light eventually transitioned to perfect darkness. Since I have a tendency to sink to the bottom of any body of water I find myself in, I initially felt reluctant to completely let go and allow the epsom salts work their magic. I quickly discovered that sinking was not possible and I felt totally supported and was able to relax completely. Bringing my awareness to my breath and my heartbeat, I felt a profound and interesting combination of a deep sense of relaxation with keen alertness simultaneously. Only occasionally and very gently did my feet or hands brush the sides of the tank (I'm a lanky 6'5"). The confines of the capsule became infinitely expansive as my mind was unable to delineate where my body was in space; it was as close to experiencing levitating or weightlessness as I've ever imagined. This potentially disorienting feeling had the opposite effect; I felt incredibly grounded and relaxed. The expansive feeling of floating in what appeared to be infinite space had me grinning like an idiot a few times in the 90 minute float. In utter silence. In the inky blackness of deep nothingness.

I truly felt like I'd somehow returned to a familiar and reassuring setting despite the futuristic, spa-like environment. It was like experiencing the womb again with all of the comfort, peace, and serenity one imagines a fetus enjoys. It wasn't all a zen experience, however, as I did experience some mild neck discomfort initially (it released), one short stint of boredom (this happens to me in meditation retreats initially as my mind flicks through the channels of static before settling down), and one subtle but short lived moment of vulnerability after considering the fact that I was temporarily, although voluntarily entombed naked in a very dark, wet, salty space-coffin. All of these minor discomforts where transitory and vanished when I returned to my breath and heartbeat. Indeed, the reward of letting go completely was profound. On returning to the "outside", colors where more vivid, sounds more clear, and I felt like I could just "be" with more equanimity. If this feeling could come from one 90 minute soak in a warm, dark bath observing my thoughts, I was keen to further explore the cumulative effect of many sessions.

We tend not to make much space for experiences like this in our lives. Our days are busy and filled with stimulation. Taking the time to unplug from all of this intuitively seems like a very natural and healing practice. The float tank is one way to do this very effectively. I recommend reading up on the science of float tanks and the benefits enjoyed by those who frequently float. I'm looking forward to incorporating this amazing tool into my life in a regular way.

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