By Gareth Watkins
CALGARY — Let’s start by dispelling a myth: you’re not going to hallucinate while floating. In the pitch dark, naked and immersed in warm water, there’s just your thoughts exposed like a disassembled watch. No spinning mandalas or sage wisdom from your spirit guide, just the absolute absence of anything. It’s pretty great, actually.
Isaac Neubert and Dustin Ryan are two Victoria, B.C., transplants who have opened Float Life in Kensington, outfitting an austere-looking concrete space with two imported top-of-the-line “Iso-pod” floatation therapy tanks (also used by the New England Patriots and the Navy SEALs), each the size of a family sedan, with three more to come soon. For 90 minutes at a time, you can be cut off from everything, receiving relief from anything from back pain to PTSD – though the majority of customers will just want a brief respite from the modern world.
“It puts your body in a parasympathetic response,” says Neubert, “which is the opposite of a fight-or-flight reaction. Most people in our culture are over-stimulated and we’re stuck in fight-or-flight, which affects all aspects of our life and your health.”
Despite being around since the 1950s, floatation therapy research is still in its infancy, so the full range of benefits has yet to be scientifically verified. But Ryan describes, “It gets all of the clutter out of the brain. It really reprograms your mind to be able to focus and allows you to think more clearly on issues that you’re dealing with.”
However you want to look at it, the amping up of neurotransmitters or mental housekeeping, the experience in one of the pods is fascinating and leaves a serotonin buzz that hangs around for hours. Having an encounter with nothingness turns out to be something completely fascinating.
It begins with a brief introduction to the pod itself, which looks like an Apple Store in its larval phase and comes with two buttons: one turns the lights on or off, the other one alerts the staff. The interior is large enough that even people with severe claustrophobia rarely report anything negative. If you can be comfortable inside a Car2Go, then you should have no problem in an Iso-pod. After the short introduction to floating, you are left alone in the room to undress and take a shower before you enter the pod itself. A large and powerful filtration unit runs before and after each float, but you’re still expected to be hygienic.
Once you’re in the dark, it’s natural to wait for some radical change to your consciousness to kick in. Even if you know that hallucinations are impossible, you’ll probably still think that the experience will be like nothing you’ve ever known – and in many ways it is, but there’s still a little sound, the heat from the water, sweat building on your brow, the moisture from the water. It’s not “sensory deprivation,” the Guantanamo-esque name once given to floating. Your senses are still engaged, just with little to do. You yourself also have little to do except to run through the same moebius-strips of thought that appear in dull moments at work or when you’re trying to sleep. Quieting these thoughts is many times easier than it is with sitting meditation or mindfulness techniques, but the quiet is still fleeting. As Zen monks will tell you, the point isn’t to meditate hard enough that you shatter your brain into a million pieces and get a congratulatory handshake from the Buddha, the point is to just go ahead and do it; you’re as enlightened as you’ll ever going to be, floating there for 90 minutes until New-Age music is piped in and you hit the showers.
Float Life is located at 102 – 1422 Kensington Rd NW. For more information, visit floatlife.ca.AB, Alberta, Float Life, floatation therapy, Kensington