I felt very calm this time. Having floated before, I now understood the mechanics of the room, what I was supposed to do, and how the float felt. I wouldn’t say I was determined to float the entire two hours but rather I was ready for the experience.
Once again, I inspected the cocoon that would hold my body to free my mind. This exercise is demanded by my mind – to look around the tank, feel the floor and sides with my hands, and this time I laid back while the door was still open so I could see/feel/experience the float before the experience of total darkness. After reading my last post, a friend shared that she experienced a float with the door open. It had never occurred to me to even float for a moment with the door open, and when I read about her experience I decided it was a great idea to begin my process. The whole preparation process probably took less than a minute for me to feel comfortable and ready to begin.
Expecting to fall into my meditation mantras, I instead entered a period of questions and answers. It’s interesting when my mind considers two hours of just being. And fascinating to observe it’s process! Why would I want to get naked and float in salt water in complete darkness and silence? What do I get from the experience? If nothing mystical occurs, what’s the point? And then answers… It gives me two whole hours to release, let go, and be fully present. The epsom salts (magnesium) is so good for my body – I can even feel a difference in my shoulder’s range of motion and reduced pain. (At some point during the float I stretched my left arm/shoulder to prove to myself that the experience was making a difference.) And more questions… what is mysticism really? Do I want an experience I can brag (I mean blog) about? Is that what this experience is about – am I proving something to myself and others – how I don’t need outside gurus or expensive therapists and coaches when I am the Guru?
The conversation continues… I remembered to lock the door to the float room this time. There have been a lot of fires in Baltimore lately. What if this place catches on fire? Will I hear Twig banging on the door? I’m floating in ten inches of water, I don’t have to worry about fire. If I stay in here, I don’t have to worry about smoke……..what if the water begins to boil? …….Surely I will hear something and oh yeah, the door has glass, Twig can break through it and open the door…… Seriously? This is how I’m spending my time in here? Thinking about the possibility of fire? I am safe…. I am perfectly safe.
Occasionally my mind drifts away – for a minute or second or maybe a millisecond – I don’t know because the moment I realize it’s gone, I’m back in my body completely aware of the experience I just had but couldn’t hold onto.
I wonder if I’m going to freak out. The sound I heard during my last float – the sound that I mistakenly took for the filtration/times up signal, began rather early in the process. I still don’t know what that sound is. I heard my heart beat. I heard my digestion. I heard my muscles stretch as I moved my arm. The most amazing thing that I was aware of was how often my body jumped.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this. Sometimes at night when I lie in bed and my body reaches a deep level of relaxation, there is a sudden jerk in my leg or arm or foot, indicating a deep release of tension. That often happens to a client during sound massage or Reiki. This release happened over and over again while on this float and I realized just how tense my body is! I haven’t walked nearly as much since the weather turned bitter cold and while I planned to get back to yoga, that was a plan without action. All I want is comfort food – warm, savory, and sweet. I’ve given several sound massages but I haven’t had any body work for myself. But is that it? Do I just need to work my body harder? Or… is the release of tension in my body telling me something deeper and much more important about what is going on with me?
When I reflect upon that question I immediately feel like I’m working too hard to hold it all together until I retire. I mean, if I’m honest with you and let go of the ego that wants to appear to have it all together, I really feel like I just need to make it through the next 27 months – I just need to survive this time the best I can – the way so many others have done it.
I haven’t given up on an early retirement and I feel like I need that opportunity to execute the plan I’ve created in my mind’s eye, but I haven’t found the sign that indicates that dream will come true. For the first time I am asking myself the question, “If I don’t get an early out with it’s separation bonus and full benefits, how will I begin my next journey?” Just trusting is one thing but just like a plan without action, trust without action will take me nowhere.
While I’m in the tank I sometimes begin to process my experience. I catch myself writing my blog and when that happens, I realize my mind has found something it really doesn’t want to admit or delve into. I discover that I’m focusing on the future and external factors (your reactions). I’m considering what I want the experience to be, rather than what the experience is. So rather than continue processing, I set that aside and bring myself back to my breath and the present. I tell myself that I don’t want to process in the tank. It is here that I want to discover. And as it was with my first float, I found it hard to talk about my experience right after the float, and easy to write about the next day.
This morning I am very aware that every single day of my life, I’m focused on paying off debt, maintaining good health for me, Paz, and Jaxson, and finding at least one thing in the office to hold on to – something that allows me to be a productive member of the team while enjoying my time rather than wishing it away. I pray and affirm that I will get through one more payday without an emergency that I’m not prepared to address.
I monitor the amount of heat I’m using and how it affects my budget plan with BG&E. I thank my car every single time I get inside, for providing safe travels. I just spent $1000 on some work on my car and when the weather is bad I refuse to drive to work or anywhere else for fear that something might happen.
Every time I pet Paz I feel massive tumors in his body and wonder if I’m really a good dog Mom by not putting him through surgery and if I really trust the doctors and friends who tell me this happens to ten year old dogs, or am I just afraid I can’t afford to take care of him properly. When I feel Jaxson’s bony little body and realize his hearing is not what it used to be, I pray he doesn’t need a trip to the vet; yes, because I don’t want to put him through that or lose him, but really because I am just afraid I can’t afford it.
And the weight I’ve lost… How can I keep it off if I’m not moving my body and I’m back to eating unmindfully? I so love wearing clothes I couldn’t fit into six months ago and excited to continue releasing weight so I can fit into spring clothes that I haven’t worn since 2010. So why aren’t my actions in alignment with my desires?
In December I had a moment when I thought I might have a second shingles outbreak. Fortunately, I was wrong. Last Friday I had a client who was in a full shingles outbreak and I went to my trusted copy of to remind myself what I discovered the first time I had an outbreak. According to Louise, shingles appear when one is, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Fear and tension. Too sensitive.” And shoulder problems (listed right under shingles by the way), “Are meant to carry joy, not burdens.” Is that what my life has become….a burden that I carry as I wait for the next shoe to drop…fearful of what might happen that I can’t control…anxious for the manifestation of a better, easier, more joyous life?! I sit with this possibility…
I’ve spent a lifetime doing what felt good in the moment and trusting that everything would turn out just fine. Or have I? Did I do what felt good, or what felt safe? Did I trust that everything would turn out just fine, or did I worry about who I might hurt, who might hurt me, was I good enough, was I worthy enough, would I have enough, give enough, be ENOUGH?
When was the last time in my life that I did not worry about having enough money, losing enough weight, giving enough to my relationships, or being happy enough? After years of self-help books, seminars, and workshops, spiritual retreats and religious doctrine, do I worry less and trust more or have I fallen into the trap of Spiritual_Bypassing, knowing the right phrase to use, the right tool to depend upon, the right justification for my feelings and experiences?
It might be easy to relate to my process of self-inquiry and one might feel the need to reach out and let me know that everything will be all right. All I can say right now is that for me, everything is all right!
My life is not perfect and easy – it’s messy and complicated – in the same way that everyone’s life is messy and complicated. That doesn’t justify my experience but instead, provides a means to embrace and relax into my experience.
Ego is not the devil on my shoulder who is arguing with the angel on my other shoulder. Ego is what supports my human experience and my ability to maneuver in the physical world. When Ego leads to worry or despair, those aren’t feelings I would never feel if I was more spiritual or healthy, those are human feelings that drive me to take action.
I believe that the mind-body relationship is what creates harmony or dis-ease in my body. And floating is a tool that allows my body to express the condition of my mind. It does this by relaxing my body and mind from outside stimuli. It is deeply meditative and no matter what I read, see, hear, experience, or learn, I always come back to that most basic understanding that meditation is as fundamental to my well-being as air, food, water, shelter, and love.
Last night I thought that maybe two hours was too long; that maybe 90 minutes was too long. I even thought of recommending to people that they really only need an hour in the tank. And maybe they do. But I’m grateful my next float (and the last float of my introductory offer) is a full 90 minutes. And who knows, maybe it will turn into 120 minutes. The time in the chamber no longer matters to me. While I suspect I will investigate the tank before closing the door during my next visit, I find myself free of fear. I know that I am physically safe in the chamber and in fact now find it a very safe, sacred, and healing space.
I’m not processing all of my discoveries here on the blog; those things about myself that I discovered while floating. I am aware how delightfully synchronistic my life is. I’m reading a new book by Sharon Salzberg, and attending Sharon’s talk regarding her book at an event less than a mile from my home and sponsored by Breathe Bookstore Cafe. Having no idea this event was coming, I registered for a seven day silent meditation retreat taught by Sharon at IMS. The retreat is described as, “Metta is the Pali word for friendship or lovingkindness. It is taught as a meditation that cultivates our natural capacity for an open and loving heart. With its roots in practices said to have been taught by the Buddha himself, metta is traditionally offered along with meditations that enrich compassion, joy in the happiness of others and equanimity. These practices lead to the development of concentration, fearlessness, happiness and a greater ability to love.”
My sense of self and spirituality has shifted over the years and going deeper into my practice and thereby deeper into my soul without judgment of what I feel or fear of what I might discover is what inspires me now. I am so very grateful to all my teachers – formal and informal, past and present, human and non-human, observations and experiences.
Right now, as I sit at my laptop, I feel the existence of my body more than ever before. I observe the tightness in my shoulders and coolness of breath as it enters my nostrils. I feel the hardness of the chair I’ve sat on for the past two hours. I acknowledge that the awareness of my body provides insight to the condition of my mind and I give myself permission to return to that awareness the next time I worry about Paz or Jax, the car, the office, or my health. I don’t ignore fear or cover it up. I don’t replace worrying about with being concerned about, as if concerned about is more acceptable than worrying. I touch it, feel it, ease into it and release it.
As if this post isn’t long enough, I want to offer a link to a great NPR Fresh Air interview I listened to this week. It is an interview with Jessica Lamb, author of Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture. I know that like me, some of you will relate to the observations, questions, and discoveries Jessica shares with NPR’s Terry Gross.