A Review Of Wisdom I Gathered At the 2016 Rise Float Community Gathering
I had an amazing opportunity to learn about the practice of floating from the national thought and business leaders of the industry. This is all thanks to folks at Float STL for going out of their way to support my float journey as an artist, athlete, and EDS patient. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the practice of floating and how it can help with EDS, please check out this initial review. In the most basic sense, floating is the therapeutic practicing of submerging ones self into a shallow body of very salty water. The water is set to match the temperature of the body. The water is so highly concentrated with salt that the body is fully supported and floats effortlessly. The practice of floating can be enhanced by removing sensory stimulation. Regular floaters often prefer to remove all light and sound. Although, it’s not necessary and some people instead choose a specific color of light or soundtrack. I’ve been going with the flow of the floaters and leaving the senses behind.
I began floating as part of a war on gravity. To fight the affects of EDS I’ve tried to build enough muscle to hold my joints in place and live an independent life. When I started intensive strength training, I began to experience increased muscle spasms, neural tension and tendonitis. With the increased muscle I have less frequent dislocations, but relocating my joints has gotten harder. Floating gives my muscles a chance to fully relax allowing my bones to gently realign. Otherwise, I tend to quit using certain muscles as the joints are not fully back in place. Overtime I end up neurally fusing these areas which causes muscle atrophy, muscle imbalance and ultimately a bigger problem.
So, my float journey began for pure physical healing, but it’s become clear that there’s no way to truly separate the material from the spiritual and in terms of health. They are inherently intertwined. The float conference solidified these beliefs even further. Attendees and speakers came from a variety of backgrounds, but they all had one thing in common. Everyone began floating with a narrow focus and regardless of background eventually found themselves on a larger journey. Floating can help heal the mind, body and spirit and take us to a realm of complete material and spiritual rejuvenation. It doesn’t seem possible to continue floating without stumbling onto a more comprehensive view of health and wellness.
Here’s an attempt to summarize what I learned from the gathering, how it relates to my life, and how you can relate it to yours. Special thanks to all the speakers I had the pleasure of learning from. I especially used specific information gathered from the talks by Kevin Johnson, and Richard Bonk to write this article. I believe that anyone can find this information relevant to daily life regardless of whether you float or have interest in doing so. Floating can be seen as a tool to assist and expedite the natural process of healing. The process of floating isn’t a learned skill; anyone can do it. The outcome is amazingly different and beneficial to a wide variety of people for a myriad of reasons. The float conference opened my eyes to the far reaching implications of this fascinating new trend.
Healing The Mind
Modern times pose a new threat to human cognition and reasoning. We’re faced with an ever increasing amount of choice, yet we’re becoming less free. Every waking moment we’re bombarded by the capitalist agenda of the media. We can’t hide from this its influence, but we can learn to rise above it.
We take in a waterfall of information on a daily basis, yet it’s impossible for anyone to properly process. Collectively we seem to be forgetting some of the most important aspects of natural living. Taking the time to remove extra stimuli gives the mind space to think deeply. Scheduling moments of solitude through floating, meditation, or any other mindfulness practice increases ones self awareness. Finding self awareness is the key to moving forward with the life you wish to live. Instead of being directed by life’s external pushes and pulls, you can learn to work in unison with the universes natural forces. Through this increased self awareness you can discover and solidify your true intentions. Living with your own intentions means you have the power to write your own internal programming. I’ve used aspects of this technique to help manage irregularities in my autonomic nervous system. I would imagine it could be beneficial for many other unwanted mental and physical states.
Floating can help facilitate all these practices of mindfulness. It also pushes the ego into a less prominent position. This allows for a time and space to face the true self. With nothing to distract the mind from daily anxiety, deep seated fear and repressed memories, it will be left to face the root of these battles head on. As scary as that may sound, discovering the root of suffering is the first step towards its alleviation. It’s important to allow yourself to enter into unwanted territory so that you can figure out how to move past it. You should try and feel the truth without judgement of the self. Only by feeling your way through the mess will you be able to see the light on the other side. Struggles are what teach us strength and wisdom. The universe speaks in its own language. When the mind finds stillness, we can listen to the greatest voice and discover the truth we need to survive, and eventually to thrive. Floating is a wonderful time to create this mental space.
Healing The Body
Discovering peace of mind allows us to think clearly and prioritize wellness. The increasingly unnatural demands of this time period put our bodies at risk for abuse and neglect. Floating can aid in the process of physical healing through several modalities.
The water is filled with high levels of magnesium salt, which is essentially like taking a super epsom salt bath. The power of magnesium salt is currently in the process of scientific investigation . However, we all know that soaking in magnesium salt is commonly used as a home remedy for aches and pains. Studies are underway to the benefits of medical grade salt. It’s likely the intravenous magnesium therapy can improve pain and nerve function. More studies are needed to prove that salt can be absorbed through the skin. As we live longer, we will continue to face new challenges of aging nerves and muscles so again these therapies are especially relevant to modern times.
Our sedentary work environment, with prolonged periods of sitting, counteracts normal skeletal alignment. Floating gives the body a chance to reestablish proper alignment. I originally began my float journey primarily for this purpose. Floating is similar to the practice of yoga and tai chi in the sense that it rebalances the musculoskeletal system. The difference and added benefit of floating is that the rebalance occurs spontaneously. Zero cognitive or physical effort is needed. Floating gives the muscles a complete rest period.
Muscles can only recover and grow during periods of rest. EDS causes the body to need more rest and recovery, floating is a great option to help increase energy levels. Compounded upon this is the fact that EDSers are generally recovering from multiple injuries at any given time. There’s no official data, but most everyone feels that an hour of floating should be compared to at least several hours of deep sleep in terms of physical rest. With EDS, we have extreme difficulty getting comfortable enough to be able to sleep. Since increased rest is important for muscle and tissue regeneration, the lack of proper sleep creates a vicious cycle for EDS patients who are continuously recovery from multiple injuries. So you can see how the muscles of both patients and athletes can benefit from floating. The intensive rest period can also decrease chronic pain both indirectly and directly. Anyone living with inescapable pain understands that even a moment of relief can increase energy and productivity for an entire day. Simple knowing that there’s a chance of relief brings hope and can reinvigorate desire for life.
A hopeful mindset creates an openness to positive change. This is how the mind can indirectly begin to heal the body. Thoughts surely have power over our mood and our ability to reason. If we can get into a mental space where we feel hopeful, empowered, and loved we will be able to create the life we wish to live. I like to believe we have much more control over our inner selves than anything else in this world. Things will continue to happen in our external environment, but how they will change our internal world is left up to us. I believe that living with pain of mental origin can produce or worsen physical pain and that living with pain of physical origin can produce or worse mental pain. I don’t think there’s a way to separate the mind and body in this sense.
Aside from EDS, I live with two other related medical conditions that can produce physical states of anxiety. These conditions are Mast Cell Activation Disorder and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Due to the POTS, I must drink copious amounts of water to keep up my blood pressure. If I don’t drink enough water, or I remain upright for too long, blood pools in my lower limbs. In response, my heart begins to race to pump more blood to the brain, and my sympathetic nervous system gets stuck in fight or flight mode. I’ve used floating and other forms of mindfulness practices to train myself how to halt this cycle. I can’t stop it from happening, but learning to get in touch with my inner sense of oneness has allowed me to have some control over heart rate. This helps prevent the sympathetic response from going on for extended time periods. I’ve noticed that floating totally resets my automatic nervous system far better than I’m able to control. This is a great example of how one can use the mind to heal the body. In turn, the body will help to heal the mind. In this case, lowing my heart rate decreases feelings of anxiety. These elements of the healing cycle are inherently bound together.
Healing The Spirit
The spirit, or the soul, could be thought of as the third element of health. This is the most mysterious and least understand part of the human condition. Everyone has their own unique perspective on the topic, and may refer to it using another word. What remains constant throughout is an understanding and feeling that there’s something greater than the self. That’s what I’ll be referring to in this section as the spirit. The spirit inspires us to wonder, scares us by its mystery and pushes us to explore the boundaries of ourselves and relationships with others.
When we give ourselves the space to think about what we don’t know, we immediately grasp the irrelevance of our daily problems. With this perspective, we can begin to explore further connections to others, our communities and ultimately the world. Living peacefully in the present gives us an opportunity to learn from each moment. To get to this state we must figure out how to step outside the ego. Floating alone, detached from the constant influx of light and sound, pushes us closer to this space. Personally, I’ve been been exploring meditation for years and still find myself caught up in daily worries and the over planning my future. Floating can get you to a meditative state quicker than having to practice, but I think the practice is ultimately part of the progress. I don’t think anyone should rely on floating to bring about a quite mind. However, if you can only reach this state is through floating, its a great place to start preparing for mediation.
Being in touch with the inner spirit can help manage uncomfortable feelings and emotions. We can practice true acceptance of feelings by respecting their presence without letting them fully override our emotional state. When we’re in alignment with the spirit we can appreciate all types of feelings and use them as a filter to understand the world around us.
This sense of cosmic connection gives us guidance in unexplainable forms. Some people may refer to this as intuition, a six sense, or an inner sense of knowing. Others report more direct communications with this entity in the form of signs, vivid dreams, out of body experiences, and even reports of astral projection to another place and time. Personally, I cannot testify any truth to any of these claims, but I know our subconscious mind processes, stores, and learns from the information of our surroundings without our consciousness knowing. This data remains bellow our level of awareness, so it makes sense that we can access bits and pieces of this knowledge by entering into altered states of consciousness like dreaming, mediation, and floating. If you pay attention to this spiritual guidance, you will know how to learn from the present moment. You will be able to escape the ego and see your life from a birds eye view. This zoomed out perspective brings peaceful guidance through life’s inner and outer struggles.
Spiritual Mind-Mindful Body
If you can learn to access a spiritual place of peace, you can see above the influence of the ego. In this sense, being in touch with the spirit is a tool for healing the mind. By temporarily removing the self from directing awareness, you will be able to view the components of your inner programing. This will allow you make consciousness decisions over wether or not you would like to keep running mental software. If you see that you’re continuously doing something for the wrong reasons or something that continuously causes you pain or stress, you can make the choice to delete the program. You can choose to keep only the programs that serve your mind, body and spirit. I try and categorize my inner programming based on the type of motivation for it’s design. This seems to work pretty well if I can be honest enough with myself to find the true motivation. Any programs no longer relevant to current functioning, can be removed from your mind. Often I find that programs created to escape or run from fear are the most difficult to delete. I think its important to accept that there will never be an end to this process and that you can’t control the rate of change. Floating helps explore these deep inner topics. I haven’t had a chance to specifically try this during floating since I spend the majority of my floats focused on the realignment of my joints, but I’m optimistic about the spiritual and mental potential of the float tank.
Overall, the most important thing I learned is that one cannot separate the process of healing into categories. For the mind, body, and spirit to be in alignment we must learn to unify the process of healing. True therapy should consider each of these aspects of health with equal importance and relevance to health. I wish to live in a future where medicine becomes truly comprehensive. Interactions between the mind, body, and spirit are endlessly complex and there’s no way to separate their relationship or predict cause and effect relationships between the three. As I continue my float journey, I wish to delve deeper into the mind and spirit. For you never know where the root of your problems lie until you face them head on at their source. Genetics and gravity are the major components in my fragile state of health, but no one enters this world untouched by emotional trauma and faulty programming which seeped into our core long before we even had a chance to defend our true nature.