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.