How can it...letting your mind "wander", well you float naked in perfectly controlled body temperature water, which is saturated with hundreds of pounds of epsom salts.
Seems normal right?
A float tank is either a pod, like the one is the above picture, or simply a bath tub like basin, that is 30 cm deep, is super saturated with 1155 lbs of epsom salts per 1000 litres of water, and is heated to 35.5 degrees C (our body temperature).
The reason the water is heated to exactly our body temperature is so your brain cannot distinguish the parts of your body exposed to water and he parts exposed to air. The purpose behind this "mind trick" is to make the brain think you are floating in mid-air.
Now you are probably asking yourself "why would you climb into a claustrophobic space ship so that you can just float around?".
Floating inside of one of these sensory deprivation tanks gives you ability to escape gravity.
Unless you are a regular astronaut this is the only way to experience true weightlessness.
All of the forces on the musculoskeletal and nervous system are completely eliminated due to the extreme buoyancy of the epsom salts. It is the only way to experience complete muscular and mind relaxation.
Even when you are comfortably laying in a bed or getting a massage, the mattress or massage table put pressures onto your body. Well these pressures are completely eliminated inside a float tank.
Here is a quick quote from the i-sopod website "with no commands needed to be sent out, the logical side of the brain is rendered redundant, and it's activity slows down until it synchronizes with the creative side. This leaves the individual in a dream like state, akin to the thoughts experienced before you go to sleep. In this state, the brain releases vast amounts of endorphins".
There are many health benefits associated with floating such as accelerating recovery from training, balancing your bodies hormones, but most importantly it is this ability to get into meditative state that you cannot experience anywhere else.
I will be honest the reason that I first wanted to try floating was to feel the benefits associated with recovery. However after doing some more research I became much more intrigued with this meditative state.
So what was my experience like?
Float tank establishments are popping up like crazy. I happened to go to one called Urban Escape here in Calgary.
How it worked is you had your own private room with a shower, an area to change, and of course the float tank. At Urban Escape they had the i-sopod's like in the picture above.
You strip down and first have a quick rinse in the shower. You want to make sure that you haven't shaved that day as the salt in the water may irritate your skin. Since I never shave I didn't have this problem.
After that it is float time. The typical time for a floating experience in 90 minutes. I will admit that for my first float it seemed a little long. More on this is a second.
You climb in, close the lid, then simply lay down.
Now at first laying down is a little weird. Some people cannot completely relax their heads back into the water. However there is so much buoyancy from the salt that it is difficult for your head to get submerged under water unless that is your objective. I would recommend not trying this as a 1000 pounds of salt in the eyes doesn't feel that great!
Once you are comfortably floating you can adjust the lights, I preferred complete darkness, adjust some music, I preferred none, then you just "let go".
This "letting go" part is the challenge...at least for me.
Your floating weightlessness in water, which you can't feel because it is the same temperature as your body, and you are thinking "what is hell is going on!".
But after a few minutes of mind games I was able to somewhat relax and drift off slightly. You know sometimes right before you fall asleep you might have a big twitch, well that happened to me a couple times. The difference is you splash your face with salty water.
After about 70 minutes or so of "dreaming" and completely relaxing I became more aware, basically just completely awake and mindful, and then waited for the 90 minutes to come to an end. At which point the lights some on inside the pod and you then get out and have a shower to rinse off all the salt.
A few take-aways and learnings...
Next time I will wear the ear plugs provided. The dude running Urban Escape said that they are not necessary but honestly I am still trying to get my head to drain from some of the water which made its way inside my ears. (Side note...I had 7 sets of tubes as a child so to say I had a few ear issues is an understatement).
Definitely go with no lights and no music.
It takes some practice. Floating is a type of meditation. You do not sit down to meditate for the first time and instantly you are a Buddhist.
I think that it is kind of like an onion. When you float for the first time you can maybe peel back the first layer. Then the second you can get deeper, perhaps 2 or 3 layers deep. The third deeper yet.
You have to learn the let your mind go. To get into a state that you never experienced.
The rest of the day after the float I felt awesome. Just an overall relaxed state and if I were to rank my float on how well I was able to experience this meditative state I would say 2 stars out of 10...at best.
It was a great experience that I want to consistently incorporate into my life. It is going to take some practice but I cannot wait to feel the full benefits of floating!
Live Your Best Life!