I let my arms slowly glide from the sides of the body to above my head.
Warm water gently flowed and touched my skin – in this completely dark and almost weightless space, it was hard to tell if there were directions at all.
It was the simplest form of motor control, but somehow there seemed to be another force guiding my movements as I floated on the water filled with more than 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt in a closed chamber.
I was in an altered state of consciousness.
Recently, I went to a couples’ float session in a flotation tank with my boyfriend at London Float Therapy. We wanted to try something interesting and new, and secretly I was also hoping to form spiritual connections through some supernatural telepathy in a closed space.
A flotation tank is a tank full of salt water at body temperature in an environment without sounds and lights. It was first called a “sensory deprivation tan”k by its developer, American neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly. Although there hasn’t been adequate support for its use as a medical therapy, it’s sometimes used as a complimentary treatment of diseases and chronic pains as well as an additional physiotherapy practice.
For healthy participants, one commonly cited research paper demonstrates that stress, depression, anxiety, and pain significantly decreased after attending a 7-week flotation program with 12 floating sessions.
After a quick internet search, we found a flotation centre in North London which provides both flotation rooms big enough for couples and flotation pods for individuals. We arrived at London Float Therapy 15 minutes before the appointment, signing a consent form and getting familiar with the procedures.
Inside the flotation centre with walls painted in white and charcoal, calming and ethereal music filled the air.
The manager was quick and concise to introduce us to floating. She told us to avoid the getting the water into our eyes, because the salt would burn.
After a quick shower, we plugged in earplugs, took a headrest, and walked into the warm water inside the blue-light filled flotation room.
Floating in a weightless space
The first challenge came before we started – I didn’t dare to lay down. When I finally managed to do it, I got up within a second because I thought I would sink. In fact, the large amount of salt makes the water denser than the Dead Sea.
I gathered my courage and tried again. I felt my back touch the water, then my head. I floated before I struggled to get up.
Still, l couldn’t straighten my body and was in a position ready to escape from the water, which gave my back tension. Then I closed my eyes and relaxed.
As if a reward for trust, I floated. The tension in my back immediately disappeared.
We wanted to give complete sensory deprivation a try, so we turned off the music and light completely. I regretted it around 10 minutes in.
All my senses were limited to only three things: feeling my skin floating and touching the water, smelling humid and hot air inside the room, and seeing pitch-black everywhere.
After a while, the boundaries between my body, my motions and the water started to blur. At some point, I was unable to tell if it was me or the water that was moving. Even a tiny body movement seemed to make waves, but I was never sure if I did move at all.
My mind was hopping like a rabbit from one place to another. First second I was in this humid room feeling impatiently hot and almost suffocated, and the next I was thinking how to describe this experience. I giggled for a couple seconds feeling funny for unknown reasons, then quickly stopped because I was afraid I would disturb my boyfriend who was next to me.
Floating released me from gravity. The sense of water was all there was left to reference my position from.
It was as if I was in a void extending and expanding to an unknown black space.
I reached out to the edges of the tank and finally located myself.
I started to talk with my boyfriend – we could only hear muffled sounds because our ears were plugged and were under water. I reached my hand in his direction and touched his halfway. For a while, I felt we were slowly swirling in the tank. Our movements towards each other might have made the water move.
My guess for the direction was right the first time. Soon we were floating along the shorter side of the tank: just enough for me, too short for him. Giggling, and feeling our way about the tank with the help of the edges, we managed to change back to a more comfortable direction.
This trip in the tank had loosened me up more. I started to feel the fun of it, and really enjoyed the limited and unfamiliar sensations.
I moved my arms and legs very slowly, and sensed that the tiny movements were picked up and amplified by the water – the water and my mind were integrating to make one small but effortless movement!
Before I knew it, a female voice gently told us that our time was up.
I climbed out from the water which was starting to rotate clockwise.
Overall, we both felt it was a relaxing, refreshing, and interesting experience, and the time went past faster than we thought. Even though for me it was closer to a quality nap than a four-hour sleep as advertised.
As for the couples’ float experience? No telepathy experience, but I was touched to know afterwards that my chuckles didn’t disturb my boyfriend at all. It was rather a reassurance that I was also there in a pitch-black place.
Floating on the water with gravity and senses restricted was a completely novel experience. It left me with my racing thoughts in a timeless and weightless space.
Approximately 80 dollars per float makes it harder for me to enjoy it on a more regular basis (although becoming a member is almost half-priced). Nevertheless, this single experience alone reminded me to appreciate the senses I take for granted, to slow down, expand, and indulge in my sensations even in their simplest forms.
Checkout London Flotation Therapy right here for more info.