I was recently in Jamaica, floating in a pool on my back, looking at the big blue sky and feeling very zen as pool water sloshed around in my eardrums.
This was not that.
I didn’t know what to expect when Nadeem Jiwani, founder and owner of Float Valley in Markham, invited me to try float therapy. Float Valley is like a hyperspecialized spa – they only have the one treatment (two if you count their meditation room), but the decor is very spa: soft blue lights, clean white surfaces, a plethora of gourmet teas in the relaxation room, and another separate room where they offer yoga classes.
I actually began my first ever float therapy in a very zen-like state. As the lights came down I closed my eyes and focused on breathing deeply. I marveled at the way the 800 pounds of magnesium-rich Epsom salts buoyed my body in the few feet of water in the float chamber.
I had heard weird stories about float therapy and sensory deprivation in general. I expected dizziness and disorientation, which I did not experience. What I wasn’t expecting was to feel restless after just 20 minutes in the chamber. By around the half hour mark I was experimenting with the light switches – one that turned the blue underwater lights on and the other an overhead changing starscape of coloured lights. I got out of the tank once to take a bathroom break and come back, but my concentration was broken.
Side note: because of the Epsom salts, float therapy can really dry you out after a while, so it’s important to drink water before and after; the problem is if you’re in the tank and you have to pee, that really stands in the way of reaching that higher plane of consciousness!
Maybe it was the fact that it was the middle of the day and I was heading back to work afterwards, or maybe I just missed my smartphone too much, but I couldn’t make it the full hour of the treatment. I felt a little like a two-year-old in a bath after a while and I was a little ashamed that I wasn’t doing it right.
“It takes practice,” Nadeem remarked when I told him afterwards. Float therapy is a good way to get used to meditation, he said. It’s like the mindfulness gateway drug, and I really do want to get hooked. Next time I plan to go on my day off, fight the smartphone withdrawal and Om my way to a zen state. Hopefully practice will make perfect.