Jerry Garcia was an avid scuba diver. He picked it up later in life, after the Grateful Dead’s wildly successful run in the ‘70s. It’s said that Jerry loved scuba diving so much because at the time he was feeling very self-conscious about his weight gain and being in the salty sea water made him feel weightless.
And that is largely why I decided to spend my Tuesday night floating in a tank full of water with 800 pounds of salt dissolved in it.
I’ve always loved that Jerry Garcia story. When I heard it for the first time (I think it was in “The Other One,” the Bob Weir documentary if you’re interested) I literally screamed “ME TOO” at the screen. I don’t scuba dive, but I do have a thing for bodies of water, large and small. Pools, hot tubs, oceans, lakes, bath tubs, I love them all. I love being in water.
In my 28 years on this earth I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body. It went from being a vessel through which I danced ballet and modern to something I was ashamed of and hated, deeply. Currently, it’s complicated. I’m still working on healing that. My yoga practice has helped. Seeing a therapist and a nutritionist has also helped. Some days I wake up feeling like a goddess. But there are still days where I wish the whole fleshy thing was different.
Which brought me to floating. I had heard about float tanks, but always thought that I would get too claustrophobic and that it probably wasn’t for me. But desperate times.
This past year has been a lot about healing for me. Healing my relationship with food. Healing my mind, body, spirit. The whole thing. It’s been a lot of work. A lot of baby steps that felt more like giant leaps for mankind. And so as I began to resurface, feeling more in control of my life, I was looking for things I could add into my healing toolbox that were also slightly outside of the traditional box. I lowered my cholesterol and blood sugar by eating mainly plant-based. I lost weight and got stronger through my yoga practice, kickboxing and dance classes. I started meditating regularly, but what else could I do to bring down my stress and possibly my blood pressure?
And the answer became pretty obvious: submerge myself in salt water.
I did a 60-minute float at Floating Lotus in midtown Manhattan. I wasn’t expecting much from my first float. I have a hard time shutting my brain off in a quiet room, what was a float pod going to be like? I put in my ear plugs, stepped into the pod and shut off the light. At first I panicked, searching around for the light switch. It was so dark. When they say sensory deprivation they really mean it. But after a minute or so I calmed myself down by repeating my two main mantras to myself:
Inhale: I am safe
Exhale: I am allowing myself to feel.
And I calmed down. And I floated. Weightlessly.
The 60 minutes felt like five. The lights in the pod went back on and I stepped out into the shower area feeling like I just got back from a two week tropical vacation. Moving was easier. Even wiggling back into my yoga pants felt graceful. I got on the F train during rush hour but didn’t feel stressed or rushed. I walked, slowly, home down Bedford Ave in Brooklyn feeling at ease in my own skin.
And even now, two days after I left the float tank, I feel more at home in my body than maybe I ever have in my life.