Sunday 5 June 2016

Isolation Pod Floating

Entering Gravity Floatation Centre was almost like entering a different world. The waiting area is empty save for some chairs, a glass coffee table and some plants mounted on to the wall. There is some soft, calming music playing and as I wait to be called, and I start feeling nervous at the thought of being in a small pod in utter darkness and silence. Will the anxiety I often experience heighten? Will I have a panic attack in the pod? Will the lid get stuck and not open? I've seen Final Destination; death always finds a way. Before I can let my mind race any further (if that is even possible at this point), I am called. I enter the Endeavour room, all six rooms at the centre are identical, but they are named after 6 NASA space shuttles.

It's a private room with the pod and a shower. Earplugs, body soap, shampoo and towels are provided. The room temperature water and a highly concentrated Epsom salt solution (600kg of magnesium sulphate) are ready for me. The water is filtered and treated after every use and regularly tested by third parties. The pod has two buttons, a blue one to light up the pod in case I prefer it to the darkness, and a red one in case of emergency. I am also provided with a floating neck pillow and a spray bottle of water in case I get any of the Epsom salts in my eyes, which I'm thankful for after absent-mindedly having rubbed my eyes twice.

It is recommended you float in the nude, so once I'm alone, I lock the door, have my shower and with nervous anticipation slide into my pod. The buoyancy created by the Epsom salts is one of the strangest experiences I've had. My attempts to force myself to sink to the bottom fail.  With that comforting thought, I pull down the lid and it rests firmly in place. There is no latch or click for the lid to shut, so there is absolutely no chance of it getting stuck. I turn off the light in the pod and within a few minutes the meditative music subsides and it is just me floating, with no lights, with no sounds, with no distractions.
The hour I spend in there seems to go by very fast as before I know it, the music has resumed, signalling it's time to finish. I push open the lid and make my way out and check the time. 2:00pm. It has indeed been an hour. The whole time I was in there, I had not one moment of panic, not one moment of anxiety or claustrophobia. As strange as it sounds, you really are in control the entire time. I did spend a lot of time fascinated by the floating and thinking about what I was doing to make any genuine attempts to be present and mindful but with my planned return visits, that will be the focus of my attention.
While I didn't fall asleep (which many people do) or meditate, it was a great opportunity to shut out so many outside influences for an hour and to literally just be living in my own "bubble". The world could have ended and I would have had no idea - for an hour. With managing my anxiety, working full-time and about to embark on a three year Masters degree part-time, I can absolutely see the benefits of floating as a way of unwinding and allowing my mind to rest. 

Gravity Floatation Centre is located in Northcote and Armadale and have an introductory, three one-hour float sessions for $149.

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