When I added floatation tank to my #50for50 I knew it was going to be a stretch for me. I have been mildly claustrophobic since I was a teenager.
I had loved caves until the day I was spelunking and got stuck a few minutes in a coffin size dead end. Since then I’ve avoided closet sized or smaller dark enclosures.
Small dark enclosures like a floatation tank.
However I booked it anyway.
Turns out it is bigger than I expected. Literally tall enough for me to stand in.
At Still Point Wellness you get a private room with shower and toilet and before you are left alone the attendant explained everything in detail. How to put plugs in my ears to keep out the water, how to acclimate myself in the tank, how long I would be in there and how he’d let me know my time was up.
How I wouldn’t sink because of the salinity of the water and how it is kept at body temperature to help with the relaxation. How to get as still as possible during my float.
Even how to leave a tiny bit of light if it made me feel better.
After he left I got naked and took a quick rinse in the shower as instructed to do before and after. You can wear a swimsuit but I decided to go in the tank au naturel since that is what one of my friends recommended.
I stepped in, then turned around to close the door. I decided on the pinhole of light just in case so didn’t pull it completely shut.
Sitting down I immediately felt like a bob on a fishing lure and stretched out to test the water.
I didn’t sink and I decided to try out some of the meditation techniques I’ve been practicing with Headspace since the beginning of the year.
First I tried to get my body still. Harder than I imagined. My hair floated around and bubbles kept tickling the back of my neck.
Where to put my arms was the next big decision. Outstretched, I felt vaguely crucifix in position. Down at my sides and I had to keep adjusting not to let them rest too close to my torso.
Meanwhile I’m also hyper aware that CERTAIN rounder parts of me are floating above the water. The air isn’t cold however I felt strangely vulnerable imagining I looked like a small atoll of islands in an otherwise placid dark sea.
Finally I managed to get still and just breath. Deep breaths in and out of my mouth then gradually slowing to in and out of nose only.
Eyes closed and floating, breathing slowed I reached a state of true weightlessness. Except I could sense the tension in my shoulders. And randomly I had one foot that felt stiff in the arch.
I blame that on my running.
I thought weightlessness would make it go away. The attendant said I might recognize a few spots that wouldn’t relax.
I concentrated on keeping my breath slow and at one point I realized the only thing really moving me slightly was my heart beat. Even with no physical exertion it seemed boisterous.
Everyone said I might fall asleep. I never felt sleepy however I did feel my body twitch once the way it does if I’m trying to stay awake in the middle of a long, droning lecture.
The twitch made my body drift towards the opposite wall. I pushed myself back into the widest part of the tank and tried to get into a relaxed state again. I repeated the position, the breathing, and then I was able to reach stillness.
And soon after I reached boredom.
Perhaps 90 minutes was longer than I am used to sitting still, laying still or even floating still. But I was determined to fulfill my time slot. Except then I got paranoid about perhaps not being able to hear the attendant come to knock on the tank.
I literally tried to float with one ear out of the water. I didn’t like how close my mouth was to the extremely salty water.
That’s when my compulsion to check my watch started. I had meant to take it off and hadn’t affected my relaxation as it only lights up if I swipe the face.
And I desperately wanted to swipe the face.
I tried getting still again so I wouldn’t be tempted. But a few seconds later I swiped anyway and saw I had 15 minutes left. Not wanting to waste that time I started to get quiet again, floating peacefully.
Luckily the strong urge to pee held off for a few more minutes. Then the knock came, I answered it, got out when he’d left then jumped in the shower to get salt free.
After getting dressed and doing a quick bit of makeup I got my hair dry enough to leave. One last look in the mirror confirmed I looked as glowing as I felt.
I had survived reducing my senses to nothing but my own heart in the darkness.
It was surprising that despite my imperfect float I knew I had at least achieved a measure of success. I felt a sense of accomplishment in not letting my fear of possible claustrophobic reaction keep me from trying this experience. I relished the feeling my body held of the buoyancy and it stretched into an ebullience that lasted all day.