May 24, 2018
I didn’t see aliens.
That was a bit disappointing, because I’ve heard that some people have all sorts of weird and insightful visions in the float tank. I’ve also heard that other people fall asleep. Either way, floating can be good for what ails you, and I wanted to try.
I went for my first float last fall at London Float Therapy. It was a birthday present from my wife, who knew I was interested in sensory deprivation as part of my ongoing quest to figure it all out. Floating is ultimately about relaxation. It can be a unique form of meditation or simply a great way to check out for one blissful hour.
My guide to the experience was the lovely Vivian, who runs LFT. It’s like a spa inside – clean décor, soft light, mood music. Vivian walked me through the process and answered my questions. She told me that LFT uses the same equipment as the New England Patriots. As a sort-of Bills fan, I’m not supposed to support such an endorsement, but let’s not get caught up in sports rivalries. Floating is about letting go, after all.
The clinic has several float rooms, which are private rooms with locked doors. Inside you will find a shower and either a float pod or a tank. The former is kind of an egg-shaped module and the latter like an enormous bath tub. The first step is to shower off any dirt or oils on your skin. Then you put on your goggles and put in your ear plugs. You’ll be floating in a saltwater solution, and you don’t want that in your eyes and ears.
The water is warm and buoyant. On the wall of your tank or pod you’ll find two buttons – one each to control lighting and music. I wanted the full sensory deprivation experience, so I went with complete darkness and silence. When you’ve chosen the settings you want, you can shut the tank door as much or as little as you like, and a soothing recorded voice tells you the experience is about to begin. That’s your cue to … well, float.
I know that sounds simple, but for a lot of people it isn’t. We’re not really accustomed to doing nothing anymore, and it can be hard to do. I almost immediately got into an argument with myself.
“When are the hallucinations going to start?”
“Sorry. I’ll stop now.”
“I can hear my heartbeat in my ears.”
“Right, right. Sorry. Stop thinking. Stop thinking. Stop thinking.”
“Stop thinking about stopping thinking!”
And on it went, until at a certain point I realized that I wasn’t arguing anymore. I tried to just concentrate on my breath and be still. Again, not easy, but eventually the circumstances lulled me to a level of relaxation that I don’t often achieve on my own. You might think an hour is a long time to do nothing, but it goes by fast when you begin drop a little out of consciousness. Believe it or not, floating takes practice. I also think your first float probably isn’t your best float – it’s all new and strange and your head gets wrapped up in the experience.
But it's still really cool.
At the end of your hour, the soothing voice tells you time’s up. A dim light fills the tank and you begin to come back to awareness. You get out of the tank (which automatically cleans itself and replenishes the water), and have a second shower to wash the salt off your body. I recommend a shower cap to people with a lot of hair, because the salt can be tricky to get out of it. When you get dressed and return to the reception area, take a bottle of water to re-hydrate.
What I noticed right away from my first float is that my chronic lower back pain felt quite a bit better, at least temporarily. Things just kind of release as you relax. I didn’t have any visions, but as I said, I think it takes time to get comfortable. I’ve done three floats now and each has been more effective than the last. I intend to do more floats in the future. It’s genuinely a relaxing experience and a unique way to simply unwind and breathe. It can also be great for creative types who need time and space to just let their intuition work.
If you’re interested in a shared float experience or something rather exotic on date night, LFT has a couples float room as well.
The original version of this piece was meant to be published in a local magazine. The deal fell through, which is a drag, but the silver lining is that I can say more explicitly here what I couldn’t really say there: Go support Vivian and try a float. It’s a completely different kind of experience and one that I think can help you decompress, disengage, and perhaps tap into a deeper part of yourself.
You might even see aliens.
Tell Vivian I sent you.