I’ve been exploring how bodymind and place are woven together, but what happens when there is no place for the bodymind to be in?

The floatation tank was originally developed by John Lilly, who was – amongst other things – a psychoanalyst and philosopher. It’s basically a sound and light-tight tank of salt water at body temperature. The water is so salty it’s impossible to sink, so you float. In this weightless, silent and dark space there’s virtually no sensory input; you’re effectively in no place. The effects can be remarkable! At the very least it’s deeply relaxing, but using a tank can enhance creativity, sharpen sensory awareness and help with personal growth.

Michael Hutchison’s “Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea” provides numerous suggestions for how the tank works, including harmonising brain wave patterns and stimulating the production of endorphins. Clearly it’s a combination of many factors, all of which emphasise how integrated our bodymind system is.

There are some key aspects of floating that Hutchison doesn’t discuss. In the tank the bodymind goes completely off-line – something I touched on last year in the context of eating toast. More importantly, floating encourages our awareness to slide down what I call the cognitive iceberg into the ‘deep body’ – a potential source of profound wisdom.

There’s a classic comment from Rich Doyle in the video below. He doesn’t really appreciate his first tank session. He was “pretty sceptical” and the tank doesn’t seem to do whatever he expected it to. When he goes swimming the next day he gets it: “I realised that I had been thinking about the tank as a mental thing whereas in fact it’s a bodymind thing”.

I’ve been using a floatation tank for years and I’ve barely skimmed its potential. Try it: it usually takes a few sessions to settle in, but I’d bet  your first float will be the most relaxing hour you’ve ever had.

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One Response to Floating

  1. Reading this again from the perspective of a practising therapist I wondered if flotation would be suitable for people suffering from anxiety or depression. On the basis of the admittedly quite limited research, it seems the answer is an empathetic yes! According to research from Justin Feinstein and his colleagues, floatation “may be a promising technique for transiently reducing the suffering in those with anxiety and depression”: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0190292

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