Writing From the Void
One of our ongoing programs at Float On is our writing program, in which we occasionally give free floats to local and visiting writers in exchange for pieces centering around their experience. Below is a sampling of some of the poetry and prose we’ve received from our floating authors.
by Jane Gerber
I am floating
in a retrospective,
in a tank of my past.
It is saturated to the brim with salt.
I can see the pillars on the porch
of my childhood home,
the large oak tree from our backyard
that spiraled out from the overgrown grass,
the porch light swaying in
a breeze from days that have met it with more grace,
the popsicles sucked clean from the stick.
All of this is right in front of me.
and all of this is made salt
and all of this is dissolving away.
I am floating
the way stars float.
A pinprick in a dark blue sheet.
See how my light fingers out from my body
and grabs for more and more.
Like the night, I am calm.
This darkness does not scare me.
Light grows in every corner of my body.
In the pits of my elbows, in the corners of my eyes,
and in between my toes.
What is right in front of me is impossible to see
So I made myself into a beacon of light.
I am floating in the direction I was meant to go
to a place I cannot see yet.
I hope it is as nice as where I am now.
by Nikki Burian
1 – Strip yourself down to your most basic human existence. You will begin to
see the outlines of vulnerabilities – this is normal. They are exposed when
you are open; it has always been this way. Don’t fight it yet.
2 – Put your earplugs in, step inside the chamber. Close the door. Take a deep
breath. Lie down.
3 – Turn off the light. Keep your eyes open. What you see next is what you need.
4 – You will notice how quickly insecurities come hurdling towards you in the
dark. They will hover centimeters from every part of your body, waiting for
you to react, hoping you will crack them open and drink their liquor worry.
Insecurities are addictive. Do not swat them away, do not grab onto them.
They cannot see you if you are motionless, if you ignore their allure. They
5 – You are floating in this water not to unearth that which can destroy you, but
you discover the tools necessary to keep it buried. It isn’t always easy.
6 – Fight the void you feel when you allow your senses to be stolen. Every war is
different, but most are typically fought with ideas, hopes, and love.
Determination is essential. Darkness is only as consuming as you make it,
7 – What do you see when your sight is gone? What do you hear in the silence?
The person you used to be waits for you in this space. They will take any and
all opportunities to engulf you. They are your past for a reason. Leave them
there, where they do the least harm. Visualize your ideal self shooing them
away. Who you really are is present.
8 – Find the fireworks in your peripherals and embrace them. These are the
pieces of you that bring you the most joy and comfort. Allow them to explode
around you. Let their light illuminate what cowers in the shadows. That is
the direction you need to travel next. The next step to find your peace is over
there. Walk with passion.
9 – Reflect on how your mind kept you calm today, how it fights for that peace
even in the depths of your subconscious. The battle is always worth fighting
when you are in here. You are better every time you leave. Come back, fight
10 – Float on.
by Tanya Jarvik
At my first float, I’m left alone in the dark with a body of information, my body: winking in and out of self-awareness in the warm saltwater, floating face up, hands down. Initially, I’m a collection of minor complaints, resisting quiet, resisting rest, resisting the time this is going to take out of my day. Then, bit by bit, I allow myself to sift and settle. I surrender to the experience. I stop holding my head up. I stop keeping my legs straight. I stop surprising myself every time I swallow. I stop listening to my heartbeats, my inhales and exhales, and the faint rumble of traffic that occasionally breaks the surface of silence. Now I’m nothing but a skeleton. A concatenation of spine and vertebrae, radius and ulna, finger bones, toe bones, ilium and ischium. A skull full of stars. I’m a tiny astronaut, umbilicaled to an invisible spaceship, like the picture on the cover of my father’s LP of “Switched-on Bach.” I’m one sustained note in a long song, a deep note. I’m a tree. Trunk, mostly, and two branches, the left one slightly bent, with a crown of feathery leaves high above the understory flora, moving in a thin wind. I’m a shark in the sea. A thanksgiving shark, shrink-wrapped in white plastic and trussed in yellow netting, grimacing on my kitchen counter, sandwiched between the fridge and the stove. My eyes snap open. Wide. A shrink-wrapped shark? I blink in blackness, considering the image. It’s clearly the product of my subconscious mind, which makes me wonder whether I’ve been asleep, and if so, for how long. I decide it doesn’t matter, and close my eyes again. Aloha.
By Ken Yoshikawa
It started with Perplexus:
a spheroid puzzle game in the float shoppe’s waiting room.
You roll a 5mm metal ball through a three dimensional labyrinth
and stay on the track.
You learn to move the whole sphere & make gravity your friend.
Surely, though, you fail & fail & clang it slaps upon the plastic ramming shivers in your hands.
So you smack Perplexus back when the ball gets wedged, & you try again & again & again &
you breathe & be patient till all the meditating you thought you’ve done seems to fall apart
& you are frustrated.
When I laid Perplexus down,
the ball must have slid into the bones in my hand,
rolled up my arm
then right into my skull.
So when, without ado, I stepped into the void
I was not alone,
but my hands, still obsessed with the rattle clack of failure
held my head,
as if determined to solve the puzzle of itself
and be rewarded with neck pops
all suspended, breaking all the rules of normal.
Can you contend against eternity
when you can see where you end against the utter backdrop?
Can you cheat the void
with sleight of hand?
Or are you left, suspended in a block of glass,
thinking everything you do is wrong.
Your thoughts are all mistakes, that wretch until there’s salt inside your eyes & then reality
begins to strobe light step its way up to the moody lighted shower head to clean itself in blue &
red then turn on back again into the dark, when even still you’re bouncing off the walls &
everything is still just wrong.
This whole thing is just a ghost, a trip, some simulation made to flip a switch.
This doesn’t change a thing about me.
And then, I breathed this fury that went down into my gut.
My body, pain, the death, the smell: it’s all to go one day, why bother, right?
So meaningless, this drip, you may as well embrace it, ride it down into the ocean, from the
clouds & shattered sky, until your toes will spark like little lightning rods.
I must have let my head go,
because the metal ball just seemed to roll right out the top,
and everything went still,
as if a lion roared.
When I moved my wrists beside my head, the ice that cased me in would crack its lines out into
space, decompressing constellations, twisting into groans of muscles, bone, the crunching noise
was loud, O why so loud. The rage, this body, cracking, spread like music meant to make you
Till the lion roared again & thunder made its quiet.
There was this drumming
distant, thumping, battle, dancing,
O & all the steady majesty, so simple, doubled
strong enduring far beyond what any thought could ever reach.
And so I gently floated on toward this beat
with wonder why my heart just feels so far away.
There are things in this life that scare you. I am not one of them.
There are things in this life that ruin you. I am not one of them.
Now, I knew what you were initially thinking, anxious poet:
“This will rob me of my sight and my sound,
and I am mostly shut these days – far too fragile to
unearth the parts of me that only dwell in harmony.
Just hurt me. Hurt me and I will easily create.
Nurture me, and I do not know how.
I ache for booming, crashing waves,
Destructive enough to stifle what cannot clamor.”
What I need to tell you, poet, is that I am not upheaval.
I am no exclamation.
I will not drag you through pandemonium
and thunder revelations from you.
I am salt-dissolved buoyancy, cradling your mind above water.
You will not know where I end and where you begin,
I am your warmth. I am comfort disguised as you.
You cannot drown in me in order to be something. I refuse it.
I’m sure I am not the first body you’ve tried to float in.
I hope I am never the last.
Salt burns open wounds, I don’t blame your hesitation.
But remember, I am a carrier.
I will bring you, silent and confident, to the person you want to be.
If you agree to these terms and conditions, sign below:
by S. H. Aeschliman
The first fifteen to thirty minutes in the tank is always about coming back into my body. Becoming un-numb.
I hear my breath and heartbeat. I feel the water touching my skin. Eventually my consciousness expands, and I occasionally hear the rumble of a truck passing on the street or another floater bumping around in their tank.
When I step out of the tank, I feel relaxed and calm but taut, put-back-together. My mind is a lazily churning eddy in a clear, warm stream. Not the best state of mind for productivity, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s okay to just be and feel a while longer.
Toward the end of a float, after several risings and sinkings of the consciousness, I notice that my knees and shoulders are still tense, that they never relaxed.
Outside the tank, I now catch myself tensing my left knee while I’m driving, despite the fact that it has nothing to do. Or while I’m sitting in bed. Or hanging out with friends at the bar.
I become aware of how I walk around all day with my shoulders tensed. It’s a conscious effort to lower them, and when I check back in with my body half an hour later, they’ve migrated back upwards again.
Why do I feel the need to hold onto all this tension?
Let go. It’s my new mantra outside the tank.
I breathe it into my muscles when stretching to help them relax.
I repeat it to myself when I’m tempted to try to control how other people feel or react.
Or when a strong emotion comes up: instead of trying to repress, control, or ignore it, I need to let go of the walls separating me from myself, from me and my experience, and let it come. I need to remember to forget to put up the walls.
I am a tightly clenched fist. So tightly and for so long, that it’s actually painful to unclench, that it takes a force of will rather than being a simple release. It somehow takes effort to do something that should be the opposite of effort. In theory at least, what could be more effortless than letting go? And yet it’s so hard. Even in stretching my muscles— even in that supposedly simple act—there’s a part of me terrified that letting go will result in me flying apart, my atoms forgetting their purpose and rushing out with eager curiosity to explore the world.
I’m scared that letting go will mean I cease to exist.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, or I notice as I’m lying in bed that my body is tense, I take half a minute to imagine that I’m in a float tank.
The sense of relief is immediate. The float tank has become an internal space I can access at any time to help me center and calm.
During my most recent float, I spent a decent chunk of time imagining metal-and-leather braces covering my body, unbuckling them, and letting them float away.
Unbound was the theme of this meditation.
I’d created these imaginary braces for myself when I was a child, thinking they would keep me safe and stable. But it turns out that they limit my movements and chafe, rubbing me raw, and I don’t need them.
Outside of the tank, I continue to think about being Unbound, and now it has occurred to me that I am Unbounded, too.
I don’t know what the long-term consequences of taking off those braces will be, of unbinding myself, but I look forward to finding out who and what I am capable of becoming.