A whole new world

There’s something about floating in the dark, in a space, on a small island in a big ocean that’s worth talking about.

For many years I have heard about this concept of an isolation tank. Now the time has finally arrived. I have walked over from nearby in Kilauea on a sunny afternoon on Kauai to find the Float Pod Zone, already feeling a relaxing shift in my frame of mind and emotional state.

I see the little Pod sign and arrows pointing the way to this amazing oasis of a cozy garden. Water flowing in the background creates the feeling of a sanctuary, a private, safe place. Sunlight sparkles on turquoise stones sprinkled on the path of lava rock, and little magical signs peek out from abundant foliage. There’s a gorgeous bamboo-framed outdoor shower, luxurious at any time, and especially in this setting. Everything is here to complete an experience that is transformative.

What is it about floating in a space? Dana Ross welcomes me with friendly energy at Floating Tranquility Kauai.

“The water is body temperature, so it’s neither hot nor cold. That way, when you float in it, it’s like the water disappears and gives you the sense of floating in space. The experience is definitely a combined body, soul and mind experience,” she said.

Guests will float in 1,000 pounds of pharmaceutical grade Epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfide. Floating in the pod helps to boost the immune system by increasing the levels of magnesium in your body, she said. The skin will only absorb what it needs, versus taking a pill.

“It’s a great way to also lower your blood pressure, soften your muscles, and activate your right brain, which is the creative side of your brain,” she said. “We are in such a functional mode with our minds, activating that right creative side we learn a lot about ourselves and our potential of going in different directions in our lives.”

Some people have a very busy mind and can’t handle being alone by themselves in total quiet, so there are options to accommodate them, like music and colors of light, and you can leave the lid open, Ross said.

I learn that the Float Pod I am about to experience is the current evolutionary stage of Flotation Therapy developed in 1954 by neurophysiologist and psychoanalyst Dr. John C. Lilly. Through his research, he studied how the brain reacts when denied external stimulation.

Dana described how she first became aware of the flotation tanks.

She tried it 20 years ago in California,where they had a massage place and what they called tanks at the time, not as big or nice as this pod is here, she said.

“I tried it and even though it was very small, I emerged with a whole different feeling. Everything was brighter. It was like re-booting my system. I had a greater awareness in myself,” she said. “I was very impressed with that, and I said some day I’m going to get one of those tanks.”

She does massage therapy and thought it would be a beautiful fit with that. She has a book in the float room and people write their journeys and where they go during the float.

“People have out-of-body experiences,” Ross said. “One guy wrote that he turned into an amoeba and became the water, another that it was the most relaxed state I’ve ever been in; this is like my sanctuary, I can’t wait to come back again. It’s a very peaceful thing.”

Ross went to a Float Pod conference in Portland and they did a session with artists. They gave free floats to artists who did drawings of what they saw, what visions came to them while they were floating. They also did this with musicians who wrote songs regarding what they heard.

“It truly is a whole other world,” Ross said.

And now her earlier vision of adding this facet to her practice has manifested.

With the water being body temperature, there is no breeding ground for bacteria. It has three different types of cleaning devices on it. There is a filter that is continually in cleaning mode with UV and ultraviolet lights 24 hours a day except for when it shuts off during float sessions.

Dana says that for people who consider themselves to be claustrophobic, it’s a lot bigger than they think. Even couples can float in it, feet to head, head to feet, and have a very bonding experience.

Alone, it’s more of a meditative thing. Each is unique. A total mind, body, soul experience.

And now it is my turn.

Dana turns off the pod’s cleaning system and everything is very quiet. Before she leaves me in the Float Room in the Garden Shed, Dana tells me there is an intercom push button inside the pod to reach her, if I need help, or would like music or lights.

And then I can even push a button to return to silent darkness if I choose. I put in my earplugs, and step carefully into the Float Pod, pulling the lid down, to find myself in this new experience of floating in about 10 inches of water, and I am unable to compare it to anything else.

It’s a gift to have an hour’s interlude from “regular reality,” easily suspended in the silent darkness, beyond gravity. I am generally comfortable with myself, and certainly thoughts are going on, which is OK, it is the “flavor of the day.”

I am grateful, after all these years, to have this experience — it seems so amazing. As I stretch and feel my body relaxing, I think about something Dana said, about how our bodies are always in a compressed state, so this is an opportunity for the body to have true rest.

“The whole purpose was to create a really peaceful sanctuary and place of rejuvenation on the beautiful island of Kauai,” Dana said. “How often are you in an enclosed watery environment? It feels like the womb, a very safe place, with no intrusion, peaceful. Comforting is best word – cradled.”

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Lynn Thompson is a resident of Canada and an occasional visitor to Kauai.

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