Life takes over.
Stress fills in every opening--deadlines at work, children, bills, mortgage, relationships. The chaos clutters my head. I feel overwhelmed, under-appreciated, burdened by "stuff".
My coping skill has always been to compartmentalize. I shove the negativity deep into my core. I persistently try to put up a front of strength and find myself raising my hand to volunteer for tasks I know I shouldn't.
This is where I was Saturday.
I've complained to my husband "It's all too much!" Life kept piling things big and small and I kept trying to keep up.
Three years ago, I heard about float tanks.
My husband told me then it wasn't for me, "you can't let go", he said.
With a certainty that I was still carrying around the aftermath of trials from years ago and on the edge of my relationship with so many of those I love, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give the float tank a try.
I was invited by AquaFloat in Charlottesville, Virginia to experience a float tank. Believe it or not, the thought of experiencing "sensory deprivation" for 90-minutes frightened me. I spent a week with feelings of anxiety and nerves.
We awoke early and took the rural road from South Western Virginia to Charlottesville. My husband pointing out points of interest or views that I needed to see, and yet, I wasn't really present. I was thinking of deadlines at work. I was planning the next couple of weeks of schedules for my family. I was trying to figure out the budget.
About all I could tell you about the drive was it was long and it was a day with a blue sky.
Two and a half hours later we pulled into a parking lot. A brick building advertised "AquaFloat" and there was a mailbox with brochures on "Beginner Floating".
I swallowed hard. Butterflies swarmed my stomach.
I opened the door and stepped into a room that was warm and inviting.
An area to relax, doodle, read or color.
Muted earth tones covered the wall, offset by artwork from local artist James Hubin.
It was beautiful! It was inviting. I felt at home.
Two men, behind the counter, greeted me.
One asked if I had watched the video they had sent via email.
I confessed, I had not, "but I am from Utah, and I have floated in the Great Salt Lake; it's like that; right?"
"Not really" offered a man I learned was Ted.
Ted is why I was here. I had read his story. He had traveled a fair distance, like me, for his first float experience. Meeting him and continuing his story through conversation touched me. Floating and Ted had found each other and it has become Ted's passion.
After a brief tour of the facility, Ted showed me the Infrared Sauna, which is something I'm interested in trying.
Then it was time. The moment I was waiting and yet apprehensive to experience. Ted took us into my float room, where I saw, for the first time, the float tank.
It was like science fiction. This white pod, in the darkness, reflecting a soothing blue light at its base. It reminded me of the vessel Mork came to earth in from his Planet Ork.
Ted covered the tank, how it worked and fun facts like there is 800 pounds of Epsom salt, approximately 10-inches of water, and when we emerge, our body has an incredible one pound of salt on it.
My mind was everywhere. Fear was really setting in. I would be responsible for lowering the lid to the level that made me most comfortable. There was a button if I wanted soft music, a button if I wanted the light to remain on, a small towel if my face had an itch. I was taking it all in.
Then, Ted left.
It was me and the tank.
I showered off and then I entered the float tank.
The water wasn't warm. It wasn't cold. It was 93 degrees, about the same temperature as my body.
I lowered myself into the tank.
I opted to close the lid all the way, to experience utter darkness.
My body popped up in the water like a cork.
Within a few minutes, I felt comfortable and pressed the light to leave me in an abyss of darkness, alone with my thoughts.
Slowly, my body seemed to merge with the water, there was no definitive line between it, me or the air I was breathing.
Not being one to have ever successfully been able to "turn off my head" to find peace and tranquility in meditation, I struggled. My head seemed to crash and ting as one thought after another raced forward for attention.
I closed my eyes and focused on breathing.
My back hurt, my shoulders were tense.
I took a deep breath and then I heard a faint rhythm. It was my heart beat. I tried to think about it.
Then, I heard my breathing.
Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes...it all ran together.
I touched my thumb to my middle finger and thought, "this stuff feels kinda sticky".
As my time faded in this tank, in the darkness surrounding me, I imagined this float tank was much like the womb where my life came to be. The water amniotic fluid.
My body needed to stretch. I obeyed.
Then it wanted to stretch again, and I obliged.
Slowly, there was stillness.
Then, there was absolutely nothing.
There was no sound.
There was no sight.
There was no thought.
The water seemed to be nonexistent. I was just floating somewhere in the universe.
When 90-minutes passed, soft music filled the tank. At first, I questioned what it was, but as I laid still, in this tranquility, it was soothing. I had the thought that perhaps I should have floated with the music on? It was relaxing.
Ted had told me once the music came on, I had five minutes to emerge the tank and then the filter would kick in.
Slowly, I sat up.
This is where reality collided with my tranquility.
I have long, thick hair, and as I sat up, the weight of my hair pulled me down. I hadn't expected it. Once I realized this is what was happening, there was no issue.
I lifted the lid and stepped out.
It was as if I were the Little Mermaid, Ariel, and Ursula had just given me my legs.
I wobbled. I could feel gravity on every limb and surface of my body. It was heavy.
I wasn't dizzy. I wasn't disoriented.
It was more, I was trying to remember how to walk.
I got to the shower and the water drops were heavy on my skin. Each one seemed to tug at me as it ran down my body.
I walked into the gathering room and met my husband. I sat down and he shared, "I remembered things from my childhood. It was like I was walking down a street I use to spend time on and I'd remember there was this business over here, and it would be there. I remembered my grandma taking me to see the Mona Lisa an artist carved into the side of a hill in the San Francisco Bay. I needed longer. You?"
"I thought something greater would happen. There was nothing." I answered.
I felt defeated. Maybe he had been right, I couldn't allow myself to let go.
That's when I realized how great that "nothing" was for me. There were no thoughts ambushing me. It was like my mind was a chalkboard and somewhere in that 90 minutes I laid in the darkness, it had all been erased.
My crazy box was empty.
I searched my mind for something. I tried to think of deadlines. I still recognized that they existed, but they were far in the distance of my mind. I tried to think of all the stuff in my life that I needed to do, to move, to make happen. Normally, this causes my heart to race and I grow cumbersome from the anxiety and stress.
"Something greater? Like you thought you were going to meet God?" My husband asked.
"I'm not sure."
I was very aware of gravity. My body felt heavy, but not a burden.
There was nothing in my head and I felt rested. I felt calm. I felt like I had reset.
I woke up, still feeling very relaxed, very calm.
I wondered why it was called "sensory deprivation"? I seemed to come to life in that 90 minutes. Now, out of the tank, the world was more vivid in color, texture, and sound. For me, the life I had been living was deprived of my senses. It was muted if only to hear the white noise.
The drive home was calm. I could hear the tires rotating and it lulled me to sleep.
I just kept repeating to my husband that there was absolutely nothing in my head. I had a fresh new canvas, ready to paint with my dreams. I was now in charge of how I navigated.
I liked this new me.
There was no panic, no chaos.
My mind was still.
My voice, softer.
For the first time in forever, maybe, I was fully aware. The white noise that surrounds us all, that we grow accustomed to as part of our existence, it was gone. I feel small in a vast universe and no longer fighting just to survive.
I slept that night with such deepness and my dreams were lucid.
It's been 72 hours since my first float.
I'm still sleeping deeply with lucid dreams. I'm not rolling over hitting the alarm and begging for five more minutes.
My mind is still clean, clear and I feel like I'm no longer fighting the chaos.
I'm taking it one day at a time, and looking forward to my next float tank experience to reset and explore the next phase of who I am.