A few weeks back, I wrote about doing a 40-day yoga challenge and struggling with the meditation portion. Someone recommended I try floating in a sensory deprivation tank as a meditation aide. Floating consists of lying down in a small pod filled with water and hundreds of pounds of Epsom salt. The water is heated to body temperature and the pod is sound and light proof—hence the sensory deprivation aspect. Without outside distractions, your body and mind are forced to relax into a meditative state. Floating has a hippie connotation but serious athletes also use to to restore their muscles, including Houston's most favorite guy ever, JJ Watt.
I'm sure Mr. Watt has his own pod at home, but I certainly don't. Online I found a company called Float Houston that is operated out of a private residence in northwest Houston. I made an appointment and was given a long list of do's and don'ts. The main don'ts: food, caffeine, alcohol or other stimulants prior to your float. Do: Be naked. I think I can manage all that.
I arrived, as instructed, 15 minutes prior to my scheduled float to meet with the owner. Yes, she is a hippie but she is also kind and informative. She explained how this would all go down: I would take a shower in the small bathroom attached to the room holding the tank, dry off then enter the tank. I'm supposed to sit inside and close the door and start to relax into it. Some music will be playing that will turn off after a few minutes. I had the option of playing music throughout my float, but I declined. The pod would be dark but there's a button inside to turn on a light in case I need it. When my float time is up, the music will come back on, then back to the bathroom for a shower before heading out into the world.
She explained to not get any salt in my eyes if I can help it and that there was fresh water next to the tank to wash out my eyes just in case. She provides small ear plugs to keep the saltwater out, as well as fresh towels, shower shoes, robes and toiletries like shampoo and conditioner. Lastly she recommended I use the bathroom prior to entering the tank so I don't have to interrupt my float.
I entered the floating room and found two tanks—I guess this is for couple's floats? She set me up with one tank and gave me my privacy to set up and get myself situated. Everything went exactly as she explained, which was helpful.
At first I had trouble relaxing into everything—I'm kind of a stress machine. But soon enough, the powers of the float took over and I started to let go. The water being at body temperature meant that I couldn't really feel it. It felt sort of like I was flying. I had no sense of how my body was oriented. And you do actually float; you have no choice with all that salt buoying you up. I worried about feeling claustrophobic in such a small space, but it didn't end up bothering me at all. I also had no idea what to do with my arms. Should I place them on my sides, palms up like in corpse pose? Crossed over my chest? Supporting my neck? Nothing felt right.
As the starting music in the pod faded away, I was left with just the sound of my breathing and my heart beating. I took this as my cue to just focus on that while floating. Every time my mind would start to wander, it was easy to bring it back to my breath. I think I finally mastered meditation! All it took was $75 and about 1000 pounds of Epsom salt. I completely lost track of time while in the tank—I'm not really sure how that hour passed by. It was a surreal feeling.
When my time was up, just as she had explained, the pod music came on and I started to come back to reality. I got out of there feeling like a slippery newborn baby. Emphasis on slippery. I literally slipped coming out of the pod. I was completely relaxed, even more than I am after a massage. My muscles were putty and my brain was a puddle. I slowly showered and changed and headed out into the world. Driving home was overwhelming. The light from the setting sun was overwhelming. The noises from the radio were overwhelming. I got home and lay down in a dark room because anything else was too much.
I wanted to hold on to this blissed-out feeling forever. The good feeling lasted a couple of days. I didn't find myself overwhelmed with stress or emotions during some stressful and emotional situations. Was this experience worth it? Yes. Totally. I wish I had access to a pod all the time. I'm sure it's the reason JJ Watt is a super cool guy.