“If I want to have a positive floating experience, then my mind needs to be completely quiet…90-minutes! How can I shut off my mind for that long? What if I can’t stop thinking…can I still benefit from this floating thing?”
Sound familiar? The idea that your mind must be quiet while you float is one of the most common and misleading assumptions we hear about floating! We hope this blog post de-bunks this myth and provides some much-needed reassurance for those of you who have active minds.
In an ideal world, we would be able to communicate this information to any person who is feels pressure to achieve mental silence during a float:
“Even people who have very active minds experience the many benefits of floating. If you ask any staff or owner here at FLOAT STL about this topic, we will probably share with you that we frequently experience mental chatter during our floats. This is especially true when we’re feeling anxious or stressed about something, going through a transition, or engaged in an exciting project. In fact, we often invite thinking. Floating is a wonderful place to focus and engage with thoughts without distractions. The floating environment is the perfect place to cultivate creative solutions to issues that you have been grappling with for a while. Mental silence may be a preference at times, but it is definitely not a pre-requisite for a good float.”
Having said all of that, let us return to your preference for mental silence. Even though we accept our thoughts when they arise, we also enjoy the peace and relief that come from floating in mental silence. The rest of this blog post will address how you can begin to journey towards this state.
Let us start by saying, too often, the attempt to achieve mental quietude is some form of effortful trying. We want you to know that if you enter your float with the goal to try to stop your mind, the opposite will happen. There is a phenomenon called, “The Law of Reversed Effort,” which exactly describes this experience. Whatever you ‘try’ to do, your result will be just the opposite.
So, try not to try so hard! Easy, right? Of course it’s not easy. Often, we can’t turn the trying off and thinking becomes more intense. That’s okay. It’s just part of the process. It’s frustrating, but it’s also no big deal. We want to reassure you that if you float often enough, you will eventually stop trying, and you will eventually have the divine experience of a truly relaxed and quiet mind. Earlier today, I was listening to a podcast called The Savvy Painter Podcast with Antrese Wood (I’m obsessed with this podcast right now, so you may hear more about it later). In March of this year, Antrese interviewed an incredible artist and draftsman, named Rey Bustos. In talking about learning to draw the figure, Rey said, “you struggle, and then something just takes over, and you fly.” I thought to myself, relaxation in the float tank is exactly like that. If you want it (and yes, it is amazing), just stick it out. You’ll get there.
Anyway, you may be wondering, “so, will relaxation only happen on an accidental whim? And…if I am floating in order to create more relaxation in my life…how can I work towards that goal without trying?”
Two excellent questions. First: no, relaxation is not completely random. It is a skill that you can learn through practice. But, don’t confuse practice with trying. Relaxation practices do not include effortful trying. That’s the tricky part. In a future blog post, we will absolutely suggest practices that you can experiment with during a float (stay tuned!). But, before you touch these practices, there is a first step you can take towards learning to quiet your mind. Prepare yourself, because it is 100% counter-intuitive. Here it is: accept your active mind.
We are very serious about accepting mental chatter! You don’t have to resign to it long-term, but if it’s happening right now, then it’s happening right now. Especially if you are floating for the first time, or if you cannot recall a time that you have felt an intense state of relaxation, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to relax. Don’t set any goals. If your mind chatters, just let it chatter. See if you can accept your mind exactly as it is. If you notice yourself arguing with your thoughts or attempting to push them away, see if you can just take a step back, give yourself permission to be human, and just let everything happen. Let whatever happens happen. Even if frustration sets in. See if you can accept that too.
So, now, you may be wondering, “how will accepting my thoughts cause me to feel more relaxed?”
That’s another good question. And we want to reassure you: after you practice acceptance, you can try other relaxation practices. It’s just that every relaxation practice that we are aware of includes a first step of acceptance. And plus, if your thoughts are there, they are there, and trying to push them away often creates a second layer of noise. So, first things first: see if you can accept your active-thinking-mind.
The best way to approach a float is to remember this simple idea: sometimes your mind will be active during a float, and other times it will not be as active. Every float is different! If you can give yourself permission to accept your mind for what it is, it will be easier to value each of your many different float experiences.
We hope this feedback helps you ease any pressure you may put on yourself to completely “zen out”! Talk to any owner or staff when you arrive, we’ll be happy to chat 🙂