You did what?
I assume that this is a new subject for many people, so allow me to briefly explain what I did and why I did it. Floating is an increasingly popular therapy similar to meditation that is used primarily for improving mental health, but it also has many physical health benefits. The way it works is you lie down in a pod or tank structure that has a shallow amount of extremely salty water inside. Once inside you pull the lid closed, lie on your back and then press a button to turn the light off. As a result of the added salt you will have no problem floating near the water surface, which I find to be a very pleasurable experience. Floating is only a part of the experience though; the sensory deprivation is what really makes this therapy unique. I think most people enjoy the feeling of floating in an ocean, lake, or even a pool, but in these situations you will still feel the inflatable mat under your back, the taste of salty waves splashing into your mouth, the smell of chlorine, the sound of kids yelling nearby, or the sight of the sun shining on your face. I’m not saying that all these sensations are necessarily bad, but they are all a form of stimulation that is difficult to avoid. In the controlled environment of a float pod, nearly all of your five physical senses disappear. With the lid shut it is pure darkness inside, in fact you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. The pod is so quiet that you can hear your heart beating, and if you decide to use earplugs the silence increases further. Floating in the comfortably warm water nearly eliminates any sense of touch, and the smell of salty water is so faint that you can barely notice. Keep your mouth shut and taste nothing other than the inside of your mouth. The result of this extreme sensory deprivation is a meditation environment perfect for either a beginner or an advanced student. As a beginner, there are no distractions to hinder your practice, such as when an inflexible person tries to sit in the traditional cross-legged position on the floor. For the advanced student this can be an opportunity to take your practice to the next level of mind control.
Welcome to the information era
Besides the pleasurable feeling of floating it is time to briefly explain why someone would pay to be enclosed in a dark pod full of salt water. The answer is simple, we are over stimulated and our lifestyles are hectic. For most of us there is no break in the action from the moment we get out of bed in the morning until the moment we fall asleep at night. We commute to work with the radio blasting out the daily bad news followed by constant advertisements. All day long we stare at a computer screen, rush to meet deadlines, and off to the side our smartphones are constantly beeping at us. We commute back home and attempt to complete all our chores before the newest episode of America’s favorite show comes on the TV. Maybe we even fall asleep while watching TV. Many of us don’t slow down enough to eat a decent meal; instead we snack during the commute and gulp down some food for lunch while sitting in front of the computer screen. Phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook updates, Tweets, apps, news, commercials, billboards, magazines, and on and on. Modern technology provides us with some very powerful tools when their use is properly managed, but they can be harmful if you aren’t careful. With the information overload that we now experience daily, it is more important than ever before to reserve some rest time for your mental health.
An Ayurvedic perspective
In Ayurveda, the energy of motion is called vata and when that energy becomes excessive in a person, we would say that their vata is imbalanced. I think it is safe to say that as a nation, America is currently experiencing a vata imbalance due in part to all the sensory and information overload that we regularly experience, and also from all the traveling and commuting we do. Ayurveda is really quite simple, the best way to bring vata back into balance is to introduce the opposite of the excessive quality, and the opposite of motion is stillness. Meditation and floating are both excellent practices for balancing our hectic lifestyles and for cultivating a mind centered in the present moment. Floating lounges are now available all around the Northwest and can be found in Bellingham, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC. You may absolutely love your first 60-90 minute float, but even if you find it challenging to slow down for that long then I still recommend trying it at least 3-5 times to fully understand the experience. If you can’t afford to float regularly, then an excellent alternative would be to float every one to three months and supplement with meditation at home or in a group setting more often. This is my interpretation of the experience but it can be different for everyone. If you decide to try your first float after reading this article then I’d like to hear your thoughts about the experience in the Bellingham Muse online comment section, bellinghammuse.com
Eric lives in Bellingham and is a certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guide. Visit sattvicplanet.net for more information about food, lifestyle, preventive medicine, and environment.