It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and I have been reading, drawing, meditating which looks a lot like napping to the untrained eye. I have also been thinking about writing, which also looks remarkably like napping to the untrained eye. Sunday is the day I soak. I try to make little to no plans and let my inner princess-sloth lead. The term “soak” comes from my friend John’s daughter. He would go wake her for school and she would beg to soak a few more minutes in her bed. He would try to explain the misfire of her logic, i.e. no water etc., and finally acquiesced coming back 10 minutes later to her same plea. Eventually he got her up and dressed but they fought the soak battle many mornings. The truth is soaking is essential for creativity, learning and well princess Dom.
Doing nothing in particular can be difficult, thinking about nothing is near impossible, both of these feats require lots of practice. The key is not to engage your brain to much, letting your day unfold, floating from one small activity to the next, not planning, not rehearsing, and not strategizing the best use of your time, resources or drudgery. Yes I understand you over-achievers out there think it is blasphemous to putz around all day rearranging the art in your house, reading a book for hours, taking a walk, scribbling in a journal, watching the birds out the window over a cup of tea, or pulling out an old coloring book and just coloring. Your brain is a muscle it needs rest and some unstructured time to puzzle things out without your direction. It needs to take a back seat and let your conscious mind, the bigger part of you, run. This is where stillness and wisdom live.
Between the words, the notes and the logic is that space where we find beauty and meaning. If you can’t get quiet, slow down and listen. You are running head first through your life wondering what it all means. How can you hear a thing with your thinking mind running lists, planning a route to Target, the bank, the grocer, and the dry cleaners so you can travel in a single no-u-turns-same-side-of-the-street direction then hit Starbucks for a boost? We have so much noise, commotion and whirling that that is what steals our attention. Or rather we give it away and in doing so give ourselves away.
You don’t have to be totally still to find stillness. You can be walking, painting or on top of a surfboard. Stillness is when you get in a zone and unplug and just do or be. It can be more profound however if you are physically still as then everything is attuned to that one breath and space. For some this is a guilty pleasure, for others they would rather set their hair on fire. I have been in both seats on any given day but on this day the seat was a floatation tank. I was going to enclose myself in a coffin filled with high levels of saline water… well that isn’t exactly what the brochure says but that is what my friends were saying. And I was thinking, “Wow, this could be fun, right?”
The floatation tank or sensory deprivation tank as they used to be called was something I have always wanted to try. When the offer came up on Groupon, a group coupon site, I jumped at it. Yes Virginia, this is exactly how I wound up in the pole dancing class but really that has no bearing on this. How could I get bruised floating naked in a water filled coffin? What’s the worst that could happen? The reality is that I was hoping to take my meditation to the next level, maybe do some out of body exploration. Hey it could happen? Look even people with humming bird concentration abilities can bust a move on the metaphysical side of the fence. I just didn’t know if I would be one of them or if I could distill stillness in a coffin better than I can sitting on my sofa.
After booking my appointment I read through the small list of do’s and don’ts. This could go any which way I thought. No shaving the day of your float or the salt water will burn, check; no heavy meal before, check; no caffeine, check; list the next of kin or emergency contact, uh check?
I took a yoga class in the morning before I tanked and it kicked my butt. I hadn’t been in almost a month and not with this teacher in over a year. The logic being I would be stretchy and physically tired, yoga invigorates and relaxes… two, two benefits in one. Not exactly a breath mint and a candy, but you get the idea. After yoga I did a little reading, a light lunch and a quick meditation before I left for my appointment. I am fine in small spaces; I even like them on occasion so I had no apprehension about that. There was some in the fact that this was all new, new is spooky but in a good way. In the way it makes my stomach feel at the top of the roller coaster ride before it takes off: fear, anticipation, excitement all rolled into one. I got there and filled out the paper work for my session. The paperwork states that they are not responsible for anything, including me going bonkers. Again not worded like that but none the less message received.
I got a tour of my private room, shower, tank and the tank-talk procedure: I could shower. I could use the recommended earplugs and neck pillow to keep me in straight alignment while in the floating position. I could close the tank door for the full experience but could also leave it open if I needed to. It’s mentioned that if I do this cold air comes in, “Not me,” I think, “I want the full on dark, silent cocoon effect.” I don’t even consider this an option. My tour guide goes on to say they play you in with 10 minutes of music to help you relax and you then get 50 minutes of golden silence. They play music again when it’s over to let you know time is up, go take a shower and get the hell out of dodge. Seems simple enough and boy am I ready to relax and kick ass in some meditative way. I am going to wrestle this stillness shit down.
My guide left and I disrobed, showered, played with the ear plugs and jammed them in my ears in what turned out to be not the best way but I was excited to get in the tank. The tank is 4’ by 8’ you walk up a few steps and there is a hatch type door at what could be said is the foot of the tank. The speakers are up at the other end; you climb in, sit down, reach up, close the door and lay back. The saline solution is 9 times stronger than the ocean, they use ultra violet light to clean and blah, blah bottom line it’s 8 or 10 inches of skin temperature water that you float like crazy in. No drowning, no sinking, just warm salty goodness. The high mineral content makes it like a mineral bath and is slick to the touch. I had been forewarned about not touching my face or anywhere near my eyes, which is ex
I laid back and noticed the music, an odd choice, a blend of bird screeches and classical. Ok well, “that is interesting,” I thought. It was warm and moist in the tank not unlike being in a steam room. The water was silky and felt good but I could barely feel it as it was skin temperature. It was not like a warm bath, it just was there. I took a deep breath, or tried to. Ugh it was hard to take a deep breath, I tried again. I am not claustrophobic so that was not the issue it was warm and humid, like a wet sauna, which made it hard for me to breathe. The air already felt regurgitated and I had only been in the tank for 2 minutes. I am a delicate flower, I was thinking, “the air would be circulated better but no matter I am here to relax.” Then my nose itched, I went to touch it and remembered “no.” I tried to breathe in again and thought, “ok relax”. I heard the music then my stomach gurgled loudly. I tested the floaty aspect, stretched a little and splashed some, ok not good. Water near the face was a no.
I needed to relax more, I tried to breath and realized part of the problem was one nostril passage got clogged and I could only breath through one. Ok I tried a deep breath through my mouth and it tasted a little funky, but I got a good breath. I tried this a few times and fidgeted to get more comfy. The water started to enter my years and get all tickly, which was the furthest thing from peaceful and relaxing. I pushed off from the bottom of the tank and tapped my head on the top. I reached out and tapped the sides with my hands to see where the tank sides were; ok I had a better idea of my boundaries. I tried my nose again as my mouth felt slack when I breathed and hated that mouth breather thing. Parts of my face were itching, my stomach was making crazy sounds that I hoped were not going to be an issue, my head and nose felt more clogged and the music went off. Christ I was 10 minutes in and nothing was going as planned. I was a huge weenie I couldn’t get comfortable, my nose was begging to be scratched, I had water in my ears because I couldn’t work an ear plug, I couldn’t breathe right, I may have had some upper GI issues and was nowhere near connected to my spiritual center. Hell I was more agitated in the tank then I was getting lost on the way there.
I took another attempt at a deep breath to settle. It was silent; well almost I heard folks somewhere talking in the distance but knowing me that could have been in my head. It is pretty crowded in here, there is a riot of people at any given time giving opinions, making observations, and milling about. I took a deep breath and focused inward trying to relax my body and my mind. I felt a release start. And then I sneezed. I sneezed two more times before it was over and I settled in to my now fully clogged head and bitchy mind. I can’t even ride in a car without the fan vent on and open, so trying to take deep relaxing breathes in there was not going well at all. It seems I am good in a small space as long as I am not breathing my own used up air. The fidgeting, obsessing, mental twitching went on until I let go finally. I could have gotten into the zone, or it could have been a cat nap, all I know is the music came on and I thought, “hell that went quicker than I thought.”
I am still not sure if I was able to relax for that short time at the end or if I had just nodded off having exhausted myself mentally with the futzing. There was no distilling of stillness, this was distilling of my neurosis, and I paid to lie in a tank of saline water for an hour to refine my crazy. I can easily get to a deeper mediation on my sofa or in mediation group; I can get more stillness and clarity walking on a beach. What the hell went so wrong in the tank? It took me a couple of days and hours more obsession to finally let the whole debacle go. And you know what comes when we let things go, when we stop trying so hard to find the answer? That’s right kiddos when I let go of trying to puzzle it out, it came to me. I tried too hard to relax; I had too many expectations of what should happen, I over-thought the whole operation and floated my way into my homeland of crazy town.
It seems my friends I do my best soaking on dry land. It requires no planning, no dos and don’ts, no expectations other than to just be. It also has a bonus of fresh air, scratches itched, adult beverages, tissues, and sunshine—everything a delicate flower like me needs to grow.
actly what I wanted to do once inside.