What is Floating? Potentially a Great Experience.

Several weeks ago I was attending my monthly Vistage executive session. Unlike other sessions, this session was a retreat to the historic St. James Hotel in Red Wing, to hear an amazing speaking in Dan Miller. Dan Miller, also called Ultra Human Dan, speaks about wellness issues for the body and for me, the mind. While many of the items Dan spoke about I was already aware, he mentioned Awaken for Wellness in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Immediately my curiosity was piqued.

You see, ever since I was a little kid and was diagnosed with a cognitive disorder (the “Ultra Perfectionist” disorder) I had to learn how to rewire my hardwired code. It would take me hours to fall asleep because I was constantly over-loaded with information. Unlike today’s world we live in where technology is at our fingertips, I was over-loaded with learning and reading. I always had to excel at everything I did and took on way too many tasks. I thought I could do it all, but boy was I wrong. To help me combat some sleeping issues, I had to turn to meditation tapes where I would trace a spot of light from my toe, up through my leg and eventually out of my body. By doing so, this enabled me to concentrate very still and ultimately fall into a deep sleep.

As Dan explained, stress is a major contributor to belly fat and God knows, I have a little of that, but I have worked very hard at making better lifestyle choices. Over the past five months, I lost about 16 pounds of weight and am feeling better, but stress is something that we deal with all the time. Dan coyle asked our group, “What if I could tell you how to reset your mind, would you do it?” Well, I’m game for pretty much anything – with the exception of skydiving – so once Dan explained to us the concept of floating, I knew this was something I needed to try. I vowed to make an appointment within seven days of our meeting for a future float and although I was slightly delayed, 15 days after first hearing of floating, it is me who now is gloating.

So what the heck is floating anyway? According to Awaken for Wellness’ website, “Floating is a therapy for body and mind that is experiencing a rebirth into independent and integrated health care, becoming a large part of many people’s health, wellness regimen around the globe. Our pioneering owners Chris Richmond and Jesse Steinmaus and skilled and caring staff of Awaken are partnering with wellness coach, meditation and yoga instructor and 30+ year float veteran Richard Bonk to initiate a renaissance in floatation and are excited to bring it here to St. Paul!” Here is a brief video to explain a little more about floating:

So late yesterday I decided to take the proverbial plunge and made an appointment for this morning. I was really looking forward to trying floating to relieve some stress. Yes, outwardly I am pretty calm, cool and collected and when I get home, I literally turn off my Type-A work personality and sometimes just seem like a goof-ball. That is one way to relieve stress. I also write a lot, either tweeting poetry or writing here on my website. That is another way to relieve stress. Yet, even though I have trained myself to fall into a deep sleep in a matter of five or so minutes, I really wanted to try floating. Some floaters have talked about the difficulty in letting go their emotions and others have talked about seeing flashes of light and hallucinations. While I had no preconceived notions of what I would experience, I kept an open mind.

I showed up at Awaken for Wellness at 8:15am this morning for my first float. After filling out some paperwork, I was soon in the float room receiving my orientation. Remove all your clothes, place in some earplugs, hop in the warm shower and get ready to float. Important to note, I was told to use the restroom prior to getting into the float room. After a quick pit stop, I took off all my clothes, placed in the earplugs, took a quick shower and opened to float room door. At first, the smell of the 1000 pounds of distilled epsom salts in 12 inches of water was slightly overbearing, but a few crinkles of my nose and my olfactory senses were adjusting. One of the reasons why epsom salts are used is not only to enable to float, but to also eliminate your sense of smell. In reality, the float experience is about sensory deprivation – no light, no sound, no sense of taste, touch or smell.

I then entered the float room and laid down in the 12 inch deep water. It was explained to me that the lights and the music would be on when I entered the float room but after several minutes of getting acclimated, the lights will dim and the music will fade to emptiness. Once I laid down, I simply floated effortless in the water. I noticed that I was moving a bit around the float room and I simply pushed off the side with one of my toes and before you knew it I was centered back in the float room. As my heartbeat was settling down, the lights began to dim and the music faded. I was in total darkness, but you know what, I wasn’t afraid of anything. I knew there was a small button to turn on the interior lights as well as an emergency panic button, but in reality all I would have to do is sit up and open the float room door. The float tank is another alternative, but if you are slightly claustrophobic try the float room for your first time.

For the first few minutes of darkness, my eyes solely adjusted to my surroundings. Now what I am about to tell you may sound a bit crazy and in fact when I explained this to others, they thought I may be crazy. Over my 60 minute float session, I didn’t have a sense of time, however I could tell when my eyes were opened or closed, but then suddenly I could not tell if my eyes were opened. I could not feel my arms, my toes or my entire body. Occassionaly I would have a quick-muscle twitch in my left shoulder muscle, but otherwise I was not aware that I was floating at all. That’s pretty cool.

As I began deeply breathing through my nose into a meditative state, I then started to see a variety of light flashes – think of an electrical lighting storm – but the white turned to vivid colors dancing across my eyes or eyelids. At one point, I had a conversation with my deceased grandmother – without her accent – and I asked her if she was doing okay and if grandpa was with her. Next thing you know, my grandpa said hello. They both reassured me that everything would be alright. Perhaps subconsciously I had thought about my mortality or my family history of cancer. I remember seeing visions of burning cars and if anyone has ever seen the television show “Lost”, there was a “Ghost Monster” which I was seeing something like that in my float session. However, the most vivid image I remember having during my float session was at one point, my eyes were open and suddenly I could see a bright blue sky and I was sitting on the edge of a mountain in a most serene setting eating what appeared to be a bagel. Well that is pretty trippy and I am still giddy.

Sadly, after 60 minutes the lights began to slowly turn on and I could hear music starting to play. I knew that my float session was now down, however my enlightenment has just begun. After I showered and re-dressed, I couldn’t wait to talk anyone about my first float session. What a wonderful experience that I was able to enjoy and I can’t wait to try another session in the near future.

When I arrived to my office, my colleagues were indicating to me how relaxed I looked. I even convinced a few of them to book an appointment, so if it can work for me, it may work for you.

Lastly, from me to you I hope you do try a float tank, as yourself you will thank.