A Bad Float

“People look for retreats for themselves—in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind…so constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”

—Marcus Aurelius

I’ve floated many times. More than three, fewer than thirty. This morning I got out of bed, walked the dog, drove to SYNC, and got straight into the float tank. I hoped I’d just fall back asleep, but no go. I focused on my breath, a common meditative practice, but almost immediately my mind wandered. I went back to my breath—after all, meditation is about noticing when you lose focus and coming back to it. But quickly it was gone again, and I realized how restless I was. I thought about getting out—it’s free for me, so what do I care?

Then I realized my dreams have been restless, too. Frequent waking. Lots of anxiety-filled situations with me at the center, trying to fix things. Maybe the purpose of this float wasn’t that of so many others: rest and relaxation. Maybe this one was a window into how I didn’t realize I’d been feeling: distracted and uncertain how to proceed.

Starting a new job is confusing, even (especially?) when it’s starting your own business. My workdays at SYNC couldn’t feel more different than my workdays before. I love that they’re different. I go home with energy. I cook. I spend time with my family. In a relatively clean house even!

But floating this morning I realized I still have the same busy mind. I should get out. I should finish the laundry. I need to check the schedule. What if I’m missing an important email? Without my ever-distracting phone in my hand, though, I had nowhere to turn. No immediate opt-out of my own thoughts.

bad float

So I stayed. I let myself feel a bit bored. A bit restless. Totally not relaxed. And I watched my thoughts. “What am I doing wrong?" and the much bigger, "I’m staking my future on the experiences people have in here—does having a bad float mean I’ve made a mistake?”. In response I heard the advice I give others, “Every float is different. It’s a practice like any other practice.” Even a float spa owner, with however many floats under her belt, sometimes isn’t sure what to do in there. How to feel. What should be happening.

In that moment I realized how important it is to abandon expectations of floating being a certain way, whether it's your first float or your fiftieth. Immediately I inspired! I wanted to get out and start writing. I had things to do! But I stayed. I let myself observe my own need to be busy.

Funny enough, when I got out I felt like a million bucks, and I heard my own voice again, “That was such a good float!”.

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