LII – Floating

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Early last year, Catarina offered me a floating session. A few weeks before, I had never heard of such thing, until a podcast sparked my curiosity. In a nutshell, it is a capsule filled with excessively salty water where one enters, closes the lid, lays down, turns off the light, fully relaxes and gets to enjoy a sense deprivation experience.

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As a birthday present and to help in the post natal recovery, I offered a couple of sessions for Catarina to revel in. She kindly decided to share one. And so it was that we took advantage of having her mom around to go floating simultaneously in our separate rooms.

We went through a 7 minute video induction detailing the required steps. It is mandatory to take a thorough bath beforehand and suggested that we float on our birthday suits. The only unnatural items when getting into the water are the compulsory earplugs. One sits, pulls the lid down, pushes the light button and easily slides into a lying position where the impulsion of the salted water keeps one’s body inertly balanced.

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It is not unusual to develop a stiff neck due to the primordial embedded reserve of having the eyes, mouth and nose underwater. However, due to the high salt content, one would have to work quite hard for this to happen. Once one is able to let go, so does the stiffness and the experience is able to begin in earnest. By relaxing entirely, the unfamiliar buoyant force made my shoulders almost touch the jaw and I felt like I had become “neckless” – as if I had frozen in a “I don’t know” shoulder shrug.

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I went in with the intention of conducting a meditative experience during those 60 minutes. I closed my eyes, relaxed and concentrated on my breath. It was the easiest thing to do as (together with my heart beat) it was the only sound available to me.

An inaccurate sense of motion delivered a startlingly contradictory sensation when my brain was telling me I was floating sideways, at a considerable speed, and my hand on the opposite side touched the pod’s wall… talk about misdirection.

After concentrating on my breath for a while, I decided to conduct a body scan where it was challenging to grasp the feeling of each body part. The air, water and body temperature were one and only. I couldn’t find the air/water frontier.

By the end (I think), I could only feel the part of my body where the water exerted a continual and inexorable pressure. It felt as if I was lying on a rigid mattress, moulded exactly to the shape of my body. It made me decide to practice acceptance of what is and delve into the acknowledgement of feelings and letting them go.

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A few weeks ago whilst meditating to the sound of a ringing bell every 2 minutes (a call to bring back awareness back to the breath), I had a revealing moment. Every time the bell rang I went back to the breath and focused on keeping my attention on it for the entirety of the next 2 minutes. My mind, obviously decided differently. Nevertheless, after the bell had rung a few times, one of the 2 minutes periods seemed like 10 seconds. I know I didn’t fall asleep and was deeply concentrated, so either the app’s got a bug or I had a moment.

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I am intellectually and empirically aware of the relativity of time, but same as the floating session over a year ago, I can’t account for all the time spent in the capsule. I really can’t be sure if I fell asleep or not, or if the sense deprivation environment enabled for another time-incongruous meditative experience.

After our session, Cat and I sat down in a relaxing environment holding a cup of tea and discussing our individual experiences. They were not too dissimilar, not at all. Bottom line… it is definitely an experience worth having.

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