Shower first, use the special soap, don’t forget ear plugs and then get into a non-descript tank filled with warm water and 900 pounds of Epson salt. That was a Friday night for me in February. In the name of journalism I went “floating” at Flowt, an aptly-named business in the north end of Waterloo.
Floating is a type of sensory deprivation, first developed by American physician John C. Lilly in the 1950s. The point is to provide an atmosphere free of sensory stimulation. Flowt delivers.
The salt in the tank made it impossible to sink, so floating was—believe it or not—the only option once the water coffin swung closed over my body. And the inside of the coffin was—believe it or not—pitch black and free of distraction. For 90 minutes it was just me and my thoughts, buoyed by the salt water. The guy at Flowt’s front desk assured me that the time would fly by. It did not.
Apparently floating has a host of benefits, including the relief of chronic stress, managing anxiety and depression and elevating your creativity. In an episode of The Simpsons, Lisa and Homer visit a new age floating centre. She hallucinates, finding herself in her father’s shoes (and her cat’s paws). She learns a lesson in empathy while floating. I just got bored.
After the first few minutes of wading in, making sure there were no monsters in the water and finding my preferred floating position, there were 85 minutes of uninterrupted silence. Except for both times I got out to check the time on my phone, because I thought there was no way it had not been 90 minutes.
I tried to find some sort of meditative peace while in the water coffin, but it just didn’t happen. Instead I tried remembering full episodes of Broad City in my head for entertainment.
There are definitely some people who would find comfort in the floating process. Ninety minutes of quiet and no distractions is hard to come by—days are filled with distractions and Flowt did give me quiet time. If I was the kind of person who meditated, I might have liked it better.
Usually, I hate people and only ever want to be alone, but at Flowt I found myself very alone and hating it. Is there no happiness in the world?