float away

I’d love that, I thought. Total lack of sensory stimulus and a chance to relax completely for an hour in solitude.
My friend’s husband bought her a floatation tank experience for her birthday; this friend for whom silence and stillness are vacuums just waiting to be filled with busyness and doing rather than simply being. She was uncertain of how she’d like the darkness, the enclosedness (is that a word?), the silent stillness, the floating in nothingness. Me, I’d love it, I thought. And as the words slipped out, she decided that she’d found the one person to take with her on the “2 for 1” voucher.


I don’t suffer from claustrophobia – in fact, the thought of being enclosed in darkness was a pleasant one.

Did I love it?

In a word….

I didn’t hate it, I just couldn’t relax. In fact, even worse, I managed to relax for the last five minutes, from the moment the music began in order to signal “get ready to get out”. I liked the sensation of the warm water against my skin and the salts which have left my skin soft to the touch. I liked the darkness and the gentle music.

I did not like the sound of my breathing once the music stopped and the silence began. I started to question – is this the right pace for breathing? Why is my breath juddery on each exhalation? Is this normal? Does the air begin to seem just a little bit stale?

I did not like the sensation of the neck pillow supporting my head. Can I move it a bit? If I move it here, will it suddenly pop out from under my head and I get the water on my face, soemthing we were warned not to do? If I take it from under my neck, will it be any more comfortable? Will it float off somewhere where I can’t reach to retrieve it? Is it really sensible to balance it on my stomach? Is my neck supposed to ache like this? Ah, it is more comfortable if I put my hands at the back of my neck – more comfortable for my neck, that is. Goodness, though, it doesn’t half make my shoulders ache.

I did not like the way my thoughts continued to bombard my brain but without being able to gain a purchase and be resolved… a bit like those squelchy toys you throw against a mirror which sort of stick but then slither down and fall off onto the carpet where they pick up all the loose hairs and fluff. I didn’t go into a meditative state – I went into a teflon state, but still with the myriad of thought-directions sparking off inside my brain… together with a sense of guilt that I should be relaxing.

I did not like the way my stomach loomed high above the water level. I really must lose some weight this year!!!! More to the point, it was chilly. My back was warm, my front was decidedly not. I found myself wondering how far into the hour I was, whether I could sneak out of the tank and into the lovely hot shower which was waiting for me after my floatation experience – a ration of five minutes at the end of the session to wash off the salts.

Once the experience was nearly over – the air in the tank had warmed and I’d found a comfortable way of supporting my head, the music had begun and covered the sound of my breathing, suddenly I had a taste of just how relaxing it COULD be in there. Just in time to get out.

Would I do it again? Only if you’re paying!

5 thoughts on “float away

  1. 😀 You know – some of this sounds uncannily similar to my struggles with contemplative prayer – the main difference being that I’m fully clothed!

  2. I used to go on retreat quite regularly and it would take me at least the first day to stop finding ways of occupying myself with unnecessary busy-sort-of-tasks!

    I have been thinking recently that I could probably do with some ‘time out’. Must remember that I will need more than a couple of days if I hope to derive any kind of restful benefit from it!

  3. Yes, takes me at least a couple of days to unwind when I’m away.

    I wonder if I could set up my own floatation tank experience at home in the bath!

  4. Thank you for the review. Having only had reason to think of these after watching an early episode of Absolutely Fabulous when Edina goes in one, and hearing aout Bertie’s mother going to one in the Shortland Street novels, I feel privileged to know someone who has used such a device.

    Given I can never relax in water (baths and spas are quick affairs), I do not think I will give it a go.

  5. That is exactly why I gave up the bath in preference to the shower.I would turn the light out (joys of a windowless bathroom)and drift off to the land of nod, only to be rudely awakened in a hypothermic prune like state an unknown amount of time later , best form of relaxation ever if you can keep the water warm .One day I should try a proper immersion tank ..

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