It’s too dark! The walls are closing in! I can’t breathe! I can’t sit still! Get me outta here! These are the thoughts I expected to have when I encountered my first F.LO.A.T. last night because I have lived most of my life with claustrophobia.
Instead, I found the warm embrace of perfectly calibrated water, warm and silky to the touch, buoyant (even more than I had imagined), and a feeling of complete safety. From the moment I entered the room and had my reassuring orientation with Rick, to the moment I closed the door - I was confident that I was safe, and in complete control of my float. I am open to experiences and I often meditate, so I hoped I would be able to “let go” quickly and get to the spiritual enlightenment portion of the float. Interestingly, I maintained a more active presence than I expected through my float, and the results were more understated but no less profound. I didn’t see the fabric of the matrix torn apart like I have in meditations. I didn’t solve my current life stressors or even come up with a great idea for a new book. I relaxed. I floated. I felt my muscle and joint pain melt away. And, in a very subtle way, I worked on some deep fears I carry with me on a daily basis.
Fear #1: There is never enough time, yet time moves too slowly.
I have heard that every person experiences floating differently, and even for individuals every time they float is different. Even within this one experience I had a multitude of emotional, physical, and mental sensations. I lost track of time, felt it stretch out before me endlessly, and conversely a few minutes later questioned my understanding of time, thinking I had fooled myself and had only been there for a short while. This accordion-like representation of time, at once thinking my 90 minutes were up, and in the next “moment” thinking only a few minutes had passed continued throughout my float until I gave in and realized that, for now, living in the moment meant it didn’t matter. I reminded myself, “Time doesn’t exist, they will tell you when your float is over, and just let yourself be in the moment.” With that I let go of my need to monitor time.
Fear #2: I’m a mom and need to be a mom, and therefore in control, 24 hours a day.
As a homeschooling mom, I get very little time to myself. I noticed that the initial feelings upon getting situated in my float spa room were feelings of guilt for doing something that seemed so “indulgent” – ALONE! I even had to face that guilt, and resultant fear, head-on within moments as my mind fought the silence by trumping up worries that my husband and daughter might need me while I was unavailable, or worse, that I would “pay” for my Float by something tragic happening to them because I wasn’t there to be the mom. A few words of self-soothing, “You deserve to relax, nothing will happen to them. They are safe, YOU are safe,” sent those worries right away. I allowed myself permission to let go of my need to control my family’s every move.
Fear #3: I can’t handle closed in spaces with darkness.
Next I noticed the darkness. I was in control of this as I had a button I could push to have light, but I opted to try the darkness. Kevin, one of the owners, had set my mind at ease days earlier when he said I could open the inner door at any time, or even leave it slightly cracked. Rick also reassured me of this during my orientation, so as I floated and had my usual claustrophobia start to sneak in, I practiced deep breathing and when the air felt too warm to breathe (a classic feeling of claustrophobia) I opened the inner door just enough for fresh air to hit my face. It worked and as I reminded myself, “You are safe, you can end this at any time” the anxiety left my body. Throughout the float I (repeatedly) confronted and conquered my fear of darkness and close spaces.
Fear #4: I’m in pain and nothing can make it stop.
One of the benefits I’ve heard about floating, besides the emotional relaxation, is that in this anti-gravity state, your muscles are able to relax in a profound and complete way. Living with an autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, and all of the damage to my nerves and muscles I live in a constant state of pain. I can treat it, I can ignore it, but I am always aware that one wrong movement will send my body into fits of anger and spasms. Lying there, in my float spa, I recognized muscle movements and contractions that signaled the letting go of muscles. My first inclination was to pull back in response because this is a startling feeling when you usually walk around in knots. A little deep breathing and self-talk again helped to know that not only was the letting go, okay, it was also healthy, healing and would leave me feeling better. I instructed myself, “Breathe, this momentary pain is a release of muscles you will feel better after.”
It seems that this first float (I will go back for sure!) was about letting go of expectations, both of myself and of the experience. I was comfortable and secure and found a new, calmer part of myself. I enjoyed the gentle sway and lapping of the water against my skin, I heard my body’s noises as it adjusted to the state of relaxation, I allowed myself to melt into the moment and be enveloped by the calm darkness realizing it couldn’t hurt me, accepted that I can let go and not be punished for it, I even enjoyed the lack of smell and taste as the darkness seems to make everything seem absent and surreal. Floating gave me a safe medium in which to confront fears I avoid in my typical life and for 90 minutes, just be.
If you are in St. Louis, please visit F.LO.A.T. you will be glad you did.
(The only way it would have been better is if I could have had a relaxing massage immediately after at Rest Bodywork, upstairs from F.LO.A.T.)
Copyright Emily A. Filmore (2015). All Rights Reserved.