You may be interested in the deep restorative benefits of floating, but aren’t sure how to prepare. Perhaps you’re even a little anxious. Here’s how to enhance the calm and invigorating effects starting a few days ahead and extend them long after your float.
Before Your Float
You may have heard floating enhances the tranquility of meditation. Many people find that floating brings them a deep intuition, clarity and non-judgment that may be found in deep meditation.
That’s why it’s so helpful to begin a daily mindfulness practice a few days before your float—or if you already meditate, consider the following ideas. Begin with an easy 5-10 minutes in the morning or evening—or during a lag in your day. Create an environment that limits sensory input, similar to the float: a body temperature room, soft and silent (use earplugs if needed) surroundings with diffused or very little light.
Choose a comfortable sitting position with an upright back to promote attention and relaxation—you may choose a chair, cross-legged on a cushion or lying down (less advised because of the danger of sleep). Because your float provides very little reference point, no hard surfaces or points of contact, it’s very helpful to get familiar with the pause or gap between thoughts or between breaths.
Here are a few tips for a meditation approach to prepare for your float:
- Bring a soft attention to the body, notice each area starting with your feet—simply touch on any sensations. Breathe into any uncomfortable areas—imagine you are letting go of any tension or pain with the out breath.
- Try “soft belly breathing” for a greater focus in the beginning—breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. Remember that it’s normal to get distracted by thoughts, emotions and body sensation. When your mind moves away, gently come back to the natural breath. If you feel out of breath, give yourself a stronger in-breath. If you feel tense or anxious, try a longer out-breath.
- Next, compassionately focus on the in and out breath. See if you can observe the pause between the in-breath and out-breath, this gap or pause where nothing is happening can provide the greatest relaxation.
- You might bring to mind the image or feeling of a calm and comfortable place, like a favorite beach or cozy bedroom. Or give yourself an assuring affirmation such as “It’s safe to let go,” or “I am trusting my mind and body.” Try a few positive words and see which one feels right.
- Finally, bring soft attention to the out breath, which calms and relaxes the body. You might let the out breath gently release on it’s own–allow the air to exhale without effort. You might observe a pause at the end of the out-breath before breathing in. End with returning to the natural rhythm of the in-breath and out-breath.
During your day, bring a gentle breathing—consider letting go of a few digital habits and spend a minute or two just pausing and noticing your body and mind–observing the pauses and stillness. This is just being with yourself, allowing spaciousness, allowing resting.
During Your Float
Once you enter the tank, it will take a few minutes to get used to the lack of sensory input and weightlessness. Your analytical mind may rush to take stock; instead try bringing your attention to the breath and repeat any positive affirmations or assurance as you adjust to this new environment.
Floaters report a deep sense of peace, reduction in chronic pain, and clarity of thought–similar effects to those with a long meditation practice. The more you’ve been practicing mindfulness, the greater benefits because you’ll adjust quickly. With little input, your mind and body begin to let go. Your brain begins to release feel-good dopamine and endorphins recharging your body and mind. Many floaters enter the alpha state (such as in light meditation) or theta state, where the deepest creativity, insights and inspiration begin.
Immediately after your float, observe your state—notice what is difference. Examine the quality of your body and breathing, maybe give this feeling a name like “peace” or “resting.” Consider an image or feeling quality, as a way to come back to this quality in your continuing meditation practice.
Continuing Meditation: After Your Float
Be sure to return to your daily meditation practice right away—this is where you will enjoy some post-float benefits. Once you’re able to maintain a regular practice consider lengthening it to 10-15 minutes or more.
Here are a few additional ideas:
- At the beginning of each session, it’s helpful to bring to mind your float experience with a reminder phrase or image, as if you were returning to that space.
- Imagine yourself as deeply comfortable within your own skin, very settled and at ease.
- Remember that it’s normal to feel bored or distracted with your thoughts, feelings or sensations. Consider one of the many mindfulness apps or videos to guide your meditation.
- Before sleeping, try a short body scan. Begin with a gentle attention on your feet and legs. Observe each body part, sinking into softness, noticing the texture with kind attention.
Our mind and bodies desperately need this spaciousness to refresh and rejuvenate, but it takes practice to cultivate. If you feel anxious or restless, or if you’re recovering from a stressful period or other difficulty, it may be time to schedule your next float.
Andrea has practiced meditation over 38 years, has studied zen in Japan, tibetan meditation, and secular mindfulness based stress reduction, or MBSR. She offers one on one coaching for simple mindfulness practices to calm the mind and body. She enjoys helping busy working people insert powerful pauses into their everyday lives for freedom from anxiety, and depression. http://www.awakentomindfulness.org/