Mindfulness Methods: Acknowledge The Journey
I recently started a Master’s program to become a Mental Health Counselor. In class, our teachers warn us about trying to fix things for others. There is much more power in simply listening and acknowledging what someone is experiencing. Telling their story is the journey they need to go on to find their own solutions and resolutions.
I believe we all too often ignore this principle when dealing with ourselves, especially while floating. The float tank is a lot like a therapy office - a place designed for us to reveal the weight of our burdens and go through the process of letting them go. In a float, however, we are both therapist and client.
People often expose what kind of therapist they are to themselves when sharing about their floats. Turns out, many of us are the kind that devalue the journey and just try to fix things. We judge ourselves for feeling antsy or scattered, and try to force ourselves to sit still. Or we feel the tension we’ve been carrying in our neck and back for too long, and try to correct the discomfort by moving around to find a better position.
A Different Perspective
These floats can leave us feeling frustrated. I think that’s because we do not give ourselves the space to tell our story - to see ourselves clearly and understand how our stress has impacted us. How can we know what we need to fix if we don’t take time to examine the extent of the problem?
Another contributor to the frustration we experience is our desire for our stress to have an on/off switch. We want to flip the switch and have the symptoms of our stress to go away right this second. But that’s not how it works. Our stress is more like a spring that gets slowly wound up. Releasing that tension requires unwinding, and the tighter we are wound, the longer that journey will take. That’s not always a comfortable experience, but as soon as we acknowledge that the tension is there, we let the process begin. Understanding this, the unwinding then becomes an integral part of the relaxation, instead of an obstacle of it. Unwinding is the telling of our story that ultimately leads us to where we need to get.
What would accepting the unwinding really look like? Maybe, “Argh! Why am I so antsy?!” could become, “I’m obviously feeling a bit antsy, so I’m going to bounce around a bit.” For me, the latter approach gets me through the restlessness quicker than resisting it and trying to will it away. I know that every picture you’ve ever seen of a person in a float tank has someone laying there peacefully; what isn’t shown is the stretching, tossing, turning, and occasional barrel roll that helped get them there.
Maybe, “I hate that my mind won’t be quiet!” could become, “My mind sure wants to run right now. I’m going to give it something to do.” Then implement a mindfulness practice that engages the mind a bit more, like Ho’opnopono or Sorting. Your thoughts will still run away during your practice, but you can recognize the unwinding for what it is, and gently bring your thoughts back. Give it time, and everything will gradually slow down.
You can apply the same principle to the example I gave of neck pain too. Listen to your body, acknowledge that you’re in pain, and don’t try to fix it. If you keep moving your position in search of that perfect spot, you’ll never find it. Continually contracting your muscles actually prevents much of the magnesium from entering the tissue to relax it. Sit with it and let the story play out; the tension will start to unwind on it’s own.
Give It A Try
Floating, like many things, is just as much about the journey as the destination. In fact, you can’t even experience the latter without experiencing the former. So next time you float, take the opportunity being given you to clearly acknowledge how you’re feeling, accept it, and allow the story of those feelings to be told. Though you still might start your floats with a bit of frustration, you’ll be much less likely to leave with it.
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