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I Tried Floating. Here's What Happened

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While reporting her story about floating, reporter Melissa Meinzer tried it herself. Here's what she found.

I visited FLOAT STL on a Sunday evening with stratospheric expectations. I was pretty sure I was going to trip my balls off in there, see the face of God and resolve some deep-seated conflicts. Totally reasonable for 90 minutes, right?

For the first few minutes I fussed around physically, bopping against the sides of the tank and trying out different arm positions. My legs and trunk felt perfect almost immediately, heavy yet weightless. My arms and shoulders, always tense for me, never got there, but I did feel some profound loosening.

I spent what felt like a lot of time thinking “Okay, clear your mind, dammit. Stop thinking…NOW.” But my thoughts never did ease up.

What I realized was that, completely alone in the tank, all the thoughts were coming from me. No external force was responsible for the laundry list of disappointments or the rumination on complicated grief with which I was tormenting myself. That gave me a new perspective on my own depressive and self-critical tendencies: I’m the one doing that to myself, and I have more agency than I realize.

It wasn’t all existential dread. I had luminously vivid memories of past travels: a sunrise visit to the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat, and listening to a man sing a wild song in a deep, dark cave in western Iceland. They were almost visual hallucinations, way better than looking back through my Facebook postings. The womb-like setting also made me think about my parents as much younger people anticipating my arrival 37 years ago, and of my younger sister whose first child was then due any second. When the music signaling the end of my float piped in, I was pissed off and certain there had been a mistake, since it only felt like ten minutes. I wanted to go home immediately and pout to my cats, but I deigned to sip tea and talk with the other folks who had just floated.

As I recounted what happened with other wet-behind-the-ears floaters, it dawned on me that it was profound, even without living up to the chemical-free acid trip I had envisioned. Sad and frustrating for me, sure, but a deeper internal journey than my half-assed meditation practice has ever taken me on. I’d love to try it again.

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