Adventures in the Flotation Tank

… Sensory Deprivation for Accelerated Transformation

The Aquarium at Still Point Wellness
The Aquarium at Still Point Wellness

“What an amazing experience to be alone in the dark for 90 minutes, floating weightlessly while deepening my inner awareness and releasing the things (body, mind and spirit) which have kept me tethered to the perception of lack and limitation. I shifted a lot of things and am still processing the rest….” (from Sandy Freschi’s Facebook page yesterday)

 

I’m in the process of gestating a creative project which requires me to go more deeply into my meditation practice and open up more to my creativity.  The invitation to start this project prompted me to go on another inner retreat.  It was time anyway, as I do them every 3-4 months.  But this time I have the special purpose of deepening my meditation practice and accelerating my own inner transformation.  So while investigating the options for doing this, a dear friend suggested the flotation tank at Still Point Wellness in Asheville, NC.  I immediately “lit up” at the possibility (something that happens when you have a human design splenic authority which is telling you that this is a good decision).  I made the appointment and went over yesterday for my first, of probably many, sensory deprivation flotation tank experiences.

Here’s what happened, so you have an idea of what to expect from your first float (if you choose to try it):

I arrived a little harried because my navigation system died en route.  Having never been to this place, I was on the verge of panic because I’m notorious for taking “alternative routes” to new destinations which sometimes don’t get me there at all.  So I called and Corey calmed me down and guided me through the most direct route, which kept me from sticking a wet finger out the window to follow which way the wind blew….  a technique I have used before believe it or not.  Once there it was impossible not to relax.  The stillness and peace exuded from the walls, and I was met by a kind and very present Corey who gracefully gently and thoroughly took me through the process of preparing to float.

The Preparation

The flotation chamber was in a private “suite” with a toilet, sink and shower.  Unlike some of the personal flotation pods I was familiar with, this chamber was large … kind of like stepping into a walk-in freezer at a restaurant.  I know that could bring the claustrophobe out in some of you, but don’t panic yet.  The chamber was filled with warm water which was infused with 500 pounds of epsom salts.  If you love epsom salts baths, just imagine this as an extreme bathing experience.  The water came up to my mid calf and was just a little warmer than skin temperature.  I was concerned about being closed up in the dark, but Corey showed me how I could keep the door cracked to make me feel more comfortable.  I even had the option of getting in and out of the chamber as I desired.  These options put me at ease and my fears about the possibility of feeling like I was in solitary confinement were dashed.  I was directed to shower off the body oils before getting in the chamber and was then left alone to have my own flotation experience.  So I showered and eagerly descended into the still dark warmth of the flotation chamber wearing nothing but ear plugs. (BTW make sure you have those plugs in good.  I think I got a little water in my ears when I tried to adjust them while in the tank)

Relaxing the Body

So now I know why they recommend 90 minutes for your first float.  I had no idea how much tension was in my body and how many thoughts would surface to be released before I could settle in.  My neck was the stiffest, but I found that if I put my hands behind my head I could relax.  Although I was instructed to try and stay still as much as possible, I found that it was very therapeutic to move my body very very gently in the water.  When I gave myself permission to follow my body’s promptings to make slow serpent like movements with my spine I could feel years of tension release itself from the inner depths of my nervous system.  The crackling, popping and relief of pain I didn’t know I had bore witness to my body’s re-calibration process which could only have been achieved through the pure weightlessness of floating.  I felt totally safe to unwind in this way, and did so in spurts throughout my float.  With each session of movement I reached another level of deep physical and mental relaxation.

Relaxing the Mind

Maybe it’s not this way with everyone, but I find that when I open up my body through movement my mind also opens to release binding and limiting thoughts.  So there I was for a whole 90 minutes, alone with my thoughts… a potentially scary situation.  The mind can hide a lot of things when there are the distractions of the outer world at play.   There is no hiding in the tank as I discovered.  And while I had no major cathartic experiences I communed and communicated with the one major, under the surface thought pattern which stood between me and deeper meditation… me and greater abundance… me and more joy.  I didn’t even know I was running it back there in the recesses of my mind.  I began to worry that I would run out of time, that I wouldn’t get as much as I needed from the experience because I was spending so much time getting comfortable… and what would happen if I was still moving around releasing stuff from my body and not ever getting to drop into that place of deep inner peace?  What would happen if I didn’t get to fully release the pain and tension in my neck?

It seemed that the weightlessness I experienced in the water allowed this thought pattern to become weightless as well.  I could observe it and allow it to be what it was with the awareness that it was only a thought pattern.  I released it as my body released.  Toward the end of the session it’s cousin, “I wonder if they forgot about me” surfaced.  I immediately knew exactly where that came from in my childhood, and I was able to acknowledge that I am no longer that child.  It released easily, like it was just a shadow of an old trauma which had long since left.  With that, I was able to lay out flat, enveloped by the hum of stillness in my body and mind.  It was nirvana.

And then I was shown the final truth of the day about my sense of time and timing.  I felt done just a few minutes before the knock came upon the wall of the chamber.  I indeed had plenty of time to get what I needed without feeling rushed.  My experience was complete.  I was at a place of deep peace and satisfaction.  My timing is truly in sync with me.

After the Float

When the knock came to complete my float I was a little disoriented as I sat up and re-entered gravity, groping for the handle of the door.  I did manage to emerge safely and showered off the salt that cradled my body in bouyancy so my mind and heart could open.  After gathering myself I settled by the aquarium with a warm cup of tea.  Ben greeted me with the gentle presence which seemed to flow throughout the entire space.  He wanted to hear about my experience.  We had light conversation as I slowly came back into myself.  Eventually I was ready to leave, and to my delight the day was sunny and warm.  I re-entered the outer world by gently engaging in mundane activities. I picked up a few groceries and had a light bite to eat before making the drive back home.

I don’t know what I expected when I returned to my real world, with a teenage boy at home.  As I entered the driveway I felt myself brace for the real world assault of noises and chores which awaited.  Strangely all those things were there, my stepson doing boy things, the animals who wanted to be fed, the dinner that had to be made, but none of it felt like an assault.  I welcomed all of it into my experience and sailed through the evening with a desire to connect and be present to it all.

This morning when I awoke I felt more like myself.  I really do feel like me, but something is calmer in my brain.  I didn’t feel the need first thing to check what needed to be done today.  I just didn’t have the desire to do it.  Instead I settled into my meditation time quickly and easily.  There was nothing to fight against in my mind and body.  I was just there and present for the unfolding.  My body felt like it does the day after a deep tissue massage… an inexplicable lightness with a tiny bit of soreness in the places which had been stretched and released.  There is space and energy now for my new creation to unfold.

 

Sandy Freschi is a Professional Life Coach & Human Design Specialist who assists people in finding their inner balance to achieve outer success.

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