The following piece comes from one of our regular floaters James Davidson, about the need to float regularly from his experience of the past few years in the tank.
Physical learning curves and preconceived ideas in the tank
Your first float acts as an introduction to the practice. Just as you wouldn’t expect to master meditation after a single sitting, or become fluent in Japanese after one class, why would you expect one float to solve all your problems? Before you can dive deep in the tank, you have to introduce yourself, you have to say hello. That’s what the first float is for, checking in with yourself.
The more you float, the easier it gets, and the deeper you can go in the tank without distraction.
When I started floating regularly, I learnt that some aspects of floating can take longer to master then others. Here are some pointers for beginners that can help your budding practice.
The Ping Pong Effect
When you first jump in, you’ll bump against the walls a bit as you get comfortable. If you fin yourself perpetually bumping the walls however, you’re moving too much. It’s funny how lying still can be a lesson in itself. What’s usually happening is that you’re trying too hard to be still, and end up tapping the sides more forcefully than you need. If you let yourself bounce around for the first 10 minutes or so, the water will calm itself. You’ll always be moving the tiniest bit in the tank due to your heartbeat and your breath, but this movement is fairly minuscule. You’ll soon find yourself in the infinite middle, then you can start enjoying the water.
Initially, the sensation of floating will feel very exciting, but this will wear off in time. When we hear that the novelty wears off on something, we usually interpret it as a bad thing, but this is not the case. When floating for the first time the water is so interesting, it can also be distracting. Getting comfortable in your environment means sussing out your environment first. You may even feel more alert to begin with, as novelty is stimulating.
It can take a couple of sessions to perfect your floating positions. The sheer buoyancy of the water is unparalleled in nature (even the dead sea is not this buoyant) so it can take a while to trust that the water will support you. This is most evident in your neck and shoulders. You may find halfway through your float that you’re straining to keep your head above water. Relax, your head will float just like the rest of you, without assistance. Your legs, neck, and spine, when left alone will find their optimal position. Your arms, however, have a few different angles. It’s best to experiment; I usually begin arms down, and if I start to feel any strain or tension in my neck, I raise them above my head. The tank is great at showing us just how much tension we’re carrying, so don’t worry if either position feels a little strange at first, let your arms move when they need to and the tension will release itself.
No matter how long you’ve been floating, every once in a while, you’re going to get salt in your eye, and it’s going to sting. The first thing to remember is that it’ll pass, if you stay still you’ll tear up and cry the salt out. Failing that, you can sit up (carefully) and gently spray your eye with the bottle provided. You can also reach for your face cloth (note to self, bring face cloth into tank for this reason) and gently wipe your eyes. If that’s not working, you can jump out and have a quick rinse in the shower.
Leaving the Tank Mid-Float
It seems like a taboo to get out of the tank during the float, almost as if you’ve failed the yogi test. You must be too wound up, too stressed, to out of touch with yourself to stay in the whole time. Nonsense! If you need to get out and rinse your face, do it. It takes a minute or two at most. Same goes for visiting the bathroom. If you need to relieve yourself, get out and do it, there’s no relaxation while you’re holding it in. The amazing thing is, jumping back in you’ll find you’re just as calm and quiet as when you got out.
Allowing your body to do it’s thing, and letting the environment of the tank do it’s thing, simply lets the experience happen. The tank will work on you, without you doing anything. Your preconceived ideas and expectations are necessary at first (if you weren’t excited or expecting something, then you probably wouldn’t have booked a session). What’s important to remember, however, is that you have to respect the process, which means respecting yourself. Don’t beat yourself up when you start to get bored, be gentle with yourself when you start feeling restless and give yourself time to relax. Let your thoughts wear themselves out and just be there.
It’s hard to put into words what I’ve experienced from floating regularly. I’ve floated through restlessness and confusion; but also calmness, safety, and a stranger feeling of understanding as if I’ve gained closure on some long past anxiety. I leave the tank feeling as if my body’s been reset, but each time it feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m always wanting more.