What 9 Days of Floating Taught Me
I am already a regular floater. Twice a month I enter a dark room filled with salt water, close the door, and block out all light and sound. Floating in salt water at the exact temperature of my skin, I don’t know where I begin and end.
When I float, I let go of everything. I am peaceful. I surrender. I let go of everyone else’s voice or expectation. I let go of my own expectations, to do list, relationship dynamics, my age, and what’s for dinner. I am with myself. I am in my body. I can hear my heart beat. I feel the rhythm of my blood moving beneath my skin. My breath is loud in my ears. I go inside.
I thought I’d try 9 days of floating in a row, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - to reflect on my year, let go of what was no longer serving me, and have more clarity about the year to come. I wanted to contemplate how to write myself in the book of life, not leaving it to the almighty out there, but give it to the almighty within.
For me, part of feeling fully alive means facing and preparing for death. Accepting endings. Remaining myself during uncertainty and disappointment.
Floating has become one of the ways to release my ego and self-interest. I strip down and question the things that I think will protect me, but actually siphon my energy and deprive me of real freedom.
Would I feel vastly and deeply held by 9 days of floating?
Sometimes floating was like the equivalent of rushing to a yoga class. I have such full days (so yes, I am vibrantly alive) that it was challenging to devote about 3 hours per day to resting in a pool of water, plus the travel and hair blowdrying, and tea drinking involved. Sometimes I started out frenzied and then the experience became luscious.
By day 5, though, I was wondering - why am I doing this? Is this completely necessary?
No, not necessary. But good. I did this because that is me. I experiment. I contemplate. I do new things to see what will affect me. I also like the affect of floating. My mind becomes more clear and settled. I love working or relaxing after I float. I am clear headed and words and ideas tend to flow out of me without feeling rushed.
9 days of floating also helped me appreciate how to hold opposites at once. I slow down and I speed up. I think deeply and I eat turkey burgers. I can let myself be held by water, and I also work hard.
We sometimes believe that we need solid ground and permanence to feel steady. We need a certain dollar amount, a certain number of likes, approval from someone we think we need it from. But impermanence and liminal space is actually a very friendly place. It’s a lot more kind than building our lives on a false foundation of belief that everything is secure and will stay the same. It will not.
Floating reminds me of impermanence, of weaving in and out fast and slow, sacred and profane, your voices and my voices, of floating and standing. I feel safe in quiet and unsteadiness.
So, how can I write myself in the book of life when I know that the people I experience will change, the light coming into my kitchen window will change, the weather will change from Fall to Winter to Spring to Summer, my emotions will change, my body will change, the character on my face will deepen, and all the other invariable fluctuations?
The answer, as the hippies have said, is be here now. I want to face death, the book of life, the experience of aliveness. So I float to let go, to listen to myself, to remind myself of my animal ways, to practice receding from the world.
While there are twinges of sadness with time passing, I feel comforted that endings always lead to new beginnings.
Creating anew often means dropping something old - old behaviors, old frames, old relationships, old habits. It’s scary. We cannot know the future. But the more we can sit with impermanence, the more we can create on this day.