I vaguely recall hearing about flotation pods in the past, but it was something that I had not given much thought to until I was speaking with a friend last year.
She had mentioned her own experience of using one. The experience, for her, had been an immensely positive one, and she urged me to try it for myself. She said it had been well worth the money and time, and it left her feeling incredible for days afterward.
I trusted her opinion since we are so similar: both of us are busy mums, open-minded, spiritual, and we suffer from anxiety. If it worked for her, then I hoped it would work for me.
Unfortunately, lockdown put a halt on any plans that I had made for booking the flotation experience, but I made it a priority plan for when things reopened.
Sticking to my promise—and after four long months of waiting—I managed to book a session for the day that they reopened.
Float in the Forest is based in the Forest of Dean, which is a beautiful region in Gloucestershire, England (on the border of Wales). The independent business is run by a couple named Will and Shari.
The 30-minute journey from my home to the Forest of Dean has always been a pleasurable one, so when I arrived for my session, I was already experiencing the happy, uplifting, and relaxing vibes that driving through the springtime woodlands brings.
The bright sunny evening, with the River Severn in the distance, the bluebells and daffodils danced on the embankments of the ancient tracks and roads of the old mining villages. They dotted throughout the beautiful forest and added to the charm of the journey.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Will and Shari. The excitement of post-lockdown “normality” was wonderful, and the immediate calmness I felt as soon as I entered the building was tangible. There was a distinct spa-feel about the place as soon as I entered, and I immediately felt relaxed—as well as excited—about the experience I was about to encounter.
I am a chronic overthinker and I worry about everything, so I was really happy that the preparation video covered everything that I needed to know about floating. I watched it a few hours prior to my session, so it was fresh in my mind. Will went through everything again and showed me where everything was situated. I felt confident, at ease, and well looked after.
First I visited the bathroom, as advised. Here, I removed my makeup with washable, eco-friendly wipes and the cleansing lotion that was provided. I then made my way to the private flotation room, which Will had previously shown me. I was asked on arrival what color light I would like in the room, and I had requested pink (obviously).
The room was a large one, which contained the flotation pod, clothes hangers on the back of the door, a chair, and a shower in the corner. I locked the door, removed my clothes, and took a shower (essential). The shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner were all vegan-friendly products.
The room was dimly lit, apart from the LED pink lighting, which was already creating an other-worldly, calm ambiance.
After the shower, I checked that I locked the door for the third time (did I mention that I am an overthinker?), and turned my phone onto silent mode.
Now for the exciting bit.
I lifted up the door to the flotation pod and stepped inside. The 25 centimeter-deep water is heated to skin temperature and filled with Epson salt. Closing the pod door is optional. I chose to close it.
There was a switch to my left, which controls the lights inside of the pod, and a switch to my right, which is only needed if I had to call for help or assistance.
When I had previously booked the session, I had chosen an optional eight-minute guided meditation to start off the hour-long flotation. This began a minute or so after I got into the pod. I am normally someone who loves the idea of meditation but struggles to switch off, and true-to-form, this happened to me. I missed most of it, as I was too busy acclimatizing myself to the water and being in the pod itself. I was also playing with the lights, which are interchangeable and can also be switched off, leaving complete darkness.
I also remembered halfway through the guided meditation that there was a flotation cushion in the room (if needed for extra support), so I stepped back out of the pod to get it. Once I had got back into the water, I placed the cushion behind my head for extra support and got comfy, but the meditation was almost over.
This type of thing is typical for me, so I wasn’t overly disappointed that I had missed the meditation. I am sure that next time, I will be more relaxed at the beginning.
Once I had settled myself inside of the pod, I decided to turn the lights off. A large part of the experience is that it is sensory deprived, and I wanted to appreciate that.
All I could hear (apart from my brain convincing me that I could hear my neighbor’s phone ringing) was the strong and steady whooshing of my heartbeat inside my ears. The water was over my ears, so any other sound I heard was the subtle sound of the occasional bubbles in the water.
As I floated, my arms found their own comfortable position above my head, and my legs were outstretched and slightly bent in at the knee, the first thought that came to my head was that I must have looked like a frog.
I thought to myself, this must be what it felt like to be inside the womb: the darkness, the water, the floating, the warmth, and safety—the only sound being the steady whooshing of the heartbeat.
Maybe this basic and primal experience triggers the unconscious memory for rebirth, unlocking the door to complete surrender and relaxation, and allowing our mind to reach its full potential and enlightenment.
I have never been bothered by the dark, so having the light off inside the pod felt natural to me. At first, I was unsure if I should have closed my eyes or kept them open, either way, it made no difference, it was still the same darkness; in the end, I kept them comfortably half-open.
I had previously read about people experiencing hallucinations in a sensory-deprived environment, but for me, I likened the darkness to the vast and open universe.
I imagined that I had left my physical body and floated up into space, where I drifted up to the black and endless cosmos before me. I saw the arched Milky Way outstretched like a gateway to the infinite mass of galaxies that I could see beyond. I was connected to every planet and star that both shone and dimmed, twinkled, flickered, and radiated, each of them telling ancient stories, stretching out over eons, lifetimes, and countless rebirths.
The current issues in my life, all the stress and anxiety, heartache and worry that had eaten me up for weeks, months, and even years now seemed so factual, so tangible, so basic; in fact, I felt I could just pour them into a glass bottle and throw them out to sea, then it would all be gone—it felt that simple.
The paradox to sensory deprivation is sensuality, aside from listening to my own heartbeat, (the drum that has kept me alive for almost 38 years) just touching my body felt completely different. The salt water made my skin feel magical, soft, and alive.
The stomach I had always hated suddenly felt owned. I marveled at how this part of my body had grown three babies. I likened my hips to the solid foundations to the bridge of life. I stroked every part of my body—in appreciation for what it is, what it had achieved, what it is still achieving. I touched my hair, outstretched and willowy under the water. Not styled, not blow-dried, simply surrendering to the element it was immersed in.
I surrendered, right there, in that other-worldly place, whilst I floated in space amongst the stars and the planets, as they sang to me. My personal problems that had become so tormenting, so debilitating, were becoming as immersed as the salt in the water, floating away and slowly dissipating.
I felt a deep sadness as I floated—a deep, soulful sorrow. In this moment of clarity amongst the silent darkness, I realized how much I had neglected myself for so long. I am not talking about fancy spa days or regular manicures, but the realization that I had neglected my very soul.
All the times that I had sacrificed my own happiness for others, all the moments that I had spoken badly to myself, denying myself the love that I had so deserved. I realized at that moment, that I was as pure and beautiful as the unborn baby that I once was, when I had previously floated in the safe and warm waters of my mother’s womb, with only her heartbeat for sound.
Someone spoke to me inside that pod, and the words all made perfect sense.
The lights and gentle music slowly came back on, signaling that the session was over. I opened up the door of the pod and sat for a minute. Blinking away the darkness and acclimatizing myself to normal space and time again. The subtle pink lighting illuminated my wet body, and I likened myself to a mermaid who had just found herself on land (more glamorous than a frog, I guess).
Shaking off my sea legs, I stepped out of the pod and walked over to the shower. I washed the salty water away and stood for a long time under the hot water, as I reflected on my experience.
It was relaxing and it felt great, but the experience had been so much more than that; it had been revelational, epiphanic, spiritual, and mind-opening. The tears stung my eyes, and I had to crouch low for a few moments as emotion struck me.
I slowly got dressed and made my way to the lounge area. Will had previously told me that there was no rush to leave, and clients were encouraged to have a drink and sit in the chill-out area to emerge slowly from the experience. I sat on the sofa and texted my friend (the one who had first recommended the experience to me), my message was a garbled mix of how relaxing, emotional, and spiritual I had found it; I even told her that I had cried in the shower afterward. (It’s a good thing that she gets me). As I sipped at my tea, I felt incredibly exhausted, but in a positive and deeply relaxed way.
Once I had finished, Will and I chatted briefly about my experiences and said goodbye. I made my way out into the car park to find my partner fast asleep in the driver’s seat. He had been waiting almost two hours for me.
The evening was clutching onto its last slithers of daylight as we made our way home through the forest, stopping to look at the baby lambs and commenting at how adorable they were. I was so tired, but I managed to share my experiences from my time in the pod, although I felt that I couldn’t quite articulate just how profound the experience had been.
I slept so well that night—the best in a long time—and I woke up the next day feeling fresh, relaxed, and renewed. I feel that this is only the beginning of my flotation journey. My friend has informed me that it gets better each time she goes.
I look forward to what the ethereal watery darkness brings to my soul next time.
I believe it really is a journey to self-discovery and surrender and that everyone deserves to have this experience.