There are times when you hear about something and just think ‘that’s a great idea, why didn’t I think of that?’ I had that when I first heard about floatworks.
The idea is simple. There is a tank in a room, inside the tank is salty water which you float on. Then you close the tank door and just float for an hour receiving all sorts of benefits that usually takes a long time and a lot of effort to achieve (like a Buddist monk meditating in a temple length). It’s a bit like floating in sea in the dark, but without the drifting off to your doom and getting eaten by sharks bit.
I was impressed when I first set eyes on the tank. It was slightly bigger than I expected, but this is the biggest tank, most of the other ones (which a friend of mine accompanying me used) are almost half the size, like comparing a double bed to a single bed sort of difference. The only difference is a little more space to float around in the bigger tank, and you do float around in them albeit very slowly.
Inside the tank is an underwater light, a cleaning jet port (which doesn’t come on until you finish) a speaker (for sea like music on entry and when you need to leave – see video below), a light switch to the left along with a head cushion (to get used to laying back your head in the water).
To the right was an emergency call button and a fresh water bottle, which is for clearing your eyes of salt should some get in…
Anyway, naked, showered and in a basement in London, I step first foot in the overly salty water. Immediately I rename this ‘floaty’ water, as my foot just doesn’t want to touch the botton but insists on floating on top. So I chuck my other leg over for good measure and lower my backside in.
I naturally lay back and… float. Hey it works! So I try to pull myself up (which is a task in itself on floaty water) to turn the light off and pull the handle down. This I find is the wrong combination, as without the light I can’t see the handle, so I try that again and finally can settle down, light off, tank closed and the isolation begins.
Then as soon as I laid my head back I realised I forgot the provided earplugs, so again got out, stuck them in and got back to position. The earplugs doing very little as the water just seeps around them anyway. I also had intense stinging on my head due to eczema I have, but in hindsight the salt water was doing it a lot of good and this sensation only lasted a few minutes.
What’s interesting about the float tank is how you lose your senses. It is advertised to do so, but they seem to go one by one rather than all at once. Firstly as soon as the light is out, is vision. I held my hand very close to my face and couldn’t see it. 1 down, 4 to go.
My sense of smell never really left me, there was always a dull salty smell inside, although it seem to become ‘less important’ rather than less noticeable as time went on. 2 down, 3 to go.
It took a while for sound to go. I seemed to be able to hear a pump or filtration system whilst submerged, which made me think it was not quite the experience I was expecting. But again, this also went not soon after leaving me just with the sound of my heartbeat, which seemed to be located in my head rather than my chest. The thumping of my heart between my ears sounded like it was inside a tupperware box too, very odd, but also nice to know it’s in there and working, keeping me alive. 3 down, 2 to go.
Taste never really went inside the tank, but taste only occurs when something is in your mouth, which doesn’t happen in the tank, unless you unfortunately swallow some saltwater. 4 down, 1 to go.
Last to go out of the apparent 5 senses was touch and this is the big selling point of floating. With the water and air heated to body temperature, you slowly begin to lose sense of where exactly the water/air line is. This doubles as a relaxing agent for your brain, so with your body completely supported, you need less brainpower to move your limbs.
I also realised there is many more senses to the human body, time is one. I lost all sense of time in the float tank, have I been here 5 minutes or 50 minutes? It was really hard to tell. I had no perception either, have I done a 180 spin? Is the emergency call button to my left or my right? That sort of thing is also lost.
This is where I’m going to kick in with a bit of brain science. So pay attention double-o seven. All of your movements (although subconscious) that you use daily are controlled by the left side of your brain. This is the logical side, it does the maths not the art. It turns off a lot of bodily functions when you sleep or have it untrained, if you’re familiar with a baby not being able to hold itself up or crawl, this is because the left side of the brain hasn’t developed to do this. Likewise you can poison this with alcohol getting that oh so fun legless feeling. When that happens, your brain isn’t functioning logically, hence the lack of control.
While the float tank doesn’t make you drunk, it does disable a lot of the logical side of movement. You are aware you still have a body, but you’re not aware (getting feedback via the nervous system) of what it’s doing. This however free’s up the right side of your brain, the ‘creative’ side. So you can have much clearer thoughts about things that matter or are inside you that need to come out.
Logical brain and body taking a back seat, I could finally dig into my creative side, something I don’t usually associate myself with coming from an electronics engineering background. I found I unfortunately had very little up there. Nothing creative was flowing, am I that boring? Should I have taken hallucinogenic drugs before doing this?
A little disheartened, I decided not the waste the opportunity by asking myself questions to answer instead. Without my logical brain kicking in, maybe I could find something interesting this way. Firstly, what happens when I die? Then I figured quickly, this is what death feels like. It’s floating into blackness with little thoughts or feelings. Almost the exact same of birth then. That’s what I’m doing right now, feeling the sensation of birth and death at the same time, nothing but a heartbeat for company.
This gave me some clarity on life. If this is death, then I have nothing to be afraid of, we all go to nothing after, what is left on earth is just my legacy. So what is my legacy? It’s not the things I bought, it’s not the things I thought or memories I have (as they are my memories, no-one elses’). What have I left the world if I die now? A Facebook page and this website? The website will quickly go when the bills stop feeding my hosting company/URL registration and advertisers realise there is no new content to draw people on here, Facebook profiles can be taken down upon death too. I made a few people happy, made a few upset. I’m childless. That’s about it. Maybe this is the day I really start to build my legacy, maybe it’s the day I accept the inevitable. Either way, I feel happy here and am resting in peace.
As I mentioned before about losing the ability to move my body easily. It still is possible. I had an itch on my nose I needed to scratch, so I lifted my arm. This although perfectly normal in operation, felt like I was moving underwater, I had little power to move my arm; I could do it, it just needed concentration, a bit like being in a drunk/dreamy state, but fully aware of it. But eventually I scratched my nose. It was like I was holding a wooden spoon and scratching it with that. A glorious slow and comfortable operation. until… WHAT THE FUCK!!! MY EYE! IT IS ON FIREEE!!!!!
Yes the salt from my finger dripped down my nose and into my eye. Destroying all relaxing properties I had until this moment, all my senses except time and vision returned. I splashed around in the floaty water trying to find the ceiling handle to open the pod and eventually managed it.
Fortunately I had the foresight to predict me cocking up like this, so when I got the pod open the towel was on a chair right next to it and easy to grab. Wiping my eyes like someone who had just cut an onion using a blade attached to their nose in addition to spraying the fresh water over my face.
Then I settled back into the tank, water bottle in hand. I got used to the tank much quicker (which shows this sort of thing will benefit regulars more than those who go for their first time). I was floating and spraying the water in my eyes eventually opening them to release salty streams of tears from them. I think this is something people don’t do twice in float-tanks.
To finish off the experience I asked myself more private questions, mostly about where I wanted to go in the future, and who with. I was pleased with the answers, and happy that I found a place where I found find them. I won’t reveal, as that’s private. But it’s another technique you could use in a float tank to get something out of it, if you’re just floating there wondering what on earth you’re doing.
To finish off the float experience, the music comes on signifying it’s your last 5 minutes (so get out and shower). This seemed to be timed well for me, as I got a lot of answers that have plagued me for a while, so I can only give a full recommendation to try out a floating experience, especially if you’re at some cross roads in your life and need direction on where to go, as the answers are usually inside you. But whatever you do, don’t scratch your nose.