Float Your Cares Away
Story & Photos by Barbara Neville Wilson
No. I wasn’t feeling “weightless.” I wasn’t FEELING anything. Let me try again.
No. I wasn’t “awaking” because I wasn’t asleep, per se. It was more like I became aware again…but that really sounds daft, doesn’t it?
I’m usually pretty good with words. I can describe tangible objects: an amazing chainsaw wood sculpture by Carver Alex, for instance. Or how something looks, like the bird’s eye views of Winnipesaukee from “When Pigs Fly,” Richard Pierce’s Ultralight. But to describe how one feels when in a body temperature floatation tank? Words don’t suffice.
Well, how about an image? They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.
In the case of float tanks, however, no photos can do them justice. The photos shown here look strangely cold and otherworldly. When Float Tech Stormy Leroux first showed me the tanks at Meredith Whole Living, my mind instantly leaped to scenes from Star Trek. I imagined I was entering a new space and dimension, and perhaps that’s the best way to describe my adventure in the Float Pod: there is no comparison to anything you already know, but you immediately feel like you’ve been there before.
Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top and you think I’m a bit “off,” but follow me on my trip and maybe you’ll find some sense of my meaning…
I arrive on the quiet brick- and clapboard-lined Main Street of Meredith on a late summer afternoon. Having just turned away from busy Route 25 and the busy Winnipesaukee Dock, I am already primed for change, and the view of the quaint village of antique shops, barber shops, creative outlets, spas, and cafes brings calm. I cross an early 20th-century front porch, imagining the thousands of summer footfalls that have crossed these boards before, and enter a door at 48 Main Street, home of Meredith Whole Living Center on the second floor.
The soft carpeted stairs point me to a reminder to silence my phone, and the warm smile of Esthetician Carrie Reed greets me at reception. She apologizes. Float Tech Stormy LeRoux is working with another client, but how can she make me comfortable in the Relaxation Room as my Float Tank is being prepared?
I nod to another client looking cozy in terrycloth robe and sitting in a white-shaded Ekornes Stressless chair, sipping a caramel-colored beverage while reading. I glance at the credenza on the wall and see an assortment of herbal infusions with names like “Rejuvinate” made of wildcrafted applemint, hibiscus, and red raspberry leaf, and “Relax” comprised of lemon balm, chamomile and holy basil crafted specially for the Center by Sacred Tree Herbals, which is located downstairs.
Given the choice, I opt to relax before my float on the second-floor veranda just outside. Furnished with nostalgia-inducing porch rockers, welcoming planters and a breezy view of old-fashioned store fronts, it’s just the place for me to turn off my world and fill out my health and wellness profile the Center requires before I float.
The questions are easy and straightforward, leaving me a bit of time to rock and relax before Stormy invites me to follow her to the float stations. Lights are dim in the hallway and she keeps her voice low so not to disturb massage and esthetic sessions going on in rooms on either side of the corridor. She shows me the large private restroom where I can change and re-enter the world after my session, and then gives me the choice of Float Tank or Float Pod for my session. The Float Tank looks to be about 6 X 8-ft. and is situated in a high-walled room within a larger room with glass-enclosed shower. The Float Pod is a covered egg-shaped tub that sits independently in a room. Given a choice, I select the Pod because I’m still just kid enough to be intrigued by the otherworldly glow of blue that emanates between lid and tank wall when the “egg” is closed.
The concept behind the Float is the same in whichever environment I choose, she tells me. I will shower, then enter the Float Tank where 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts are infused in 10 inches of skin temperature water. A soothing mix of music will play at a volume I can adjust while I float isolated and uninterrupted for 60 minutes.
After a very short training (where is the button for the lights inside the tank? Here is a water pillow to help my neck relax in this new sense of weightlessness), Stormy closes the door and leaves me. I look around in the simple, undecorated room. There is a neatly tied terrycloth robe hanging on the door, an Asian-inspired table with towels echoed in a wooden mat on the floor, a bowl for jewelry, and a remote. The rooms are kept at a steady 92 degrees, which is generally a temperature of comfort for most people.—if, however, I find it too hot or cold, the remote is provided for adjustments. In the corner is a shower shaped remarkably like the Transporter in “Star Trek.” Is it coincidence, I wonder?
I slowly shower, mindful that the whole purpose of this session is to relax, then I step onto the warm tile floor and over to the egg-shaped Float Pod. I open the hinged hydraulic cover and blue light spills out. I step into the slightly viscous warm water. “It must be the effect of the Epsom salts,” I think.
I believe it’s the last logical thought I form for the next hour, for after that, I remember only shutting the cover, turning the tank’s light off, adjusting the music, and letting my feet rise of their own volition. Granted, there were moments when I bounced a bit against a side, or slit my eyes open to see what I was “looking” at (most often my head was listing to port and I didn’t even realize it had moved), or roused myself enough to try out the float pillow, but overall, once I entered the pod, I was happy to simply exist. The music rose to no climax, the water temperature did not fluctuate, and my mind just rambled aimlessly.
After a time I could never have estimated, the music trailed off and a woman’s gentle voice told me my session was over, that I should leave the tank where the cleansing process would soon begin. My mind slowly returned to the present, and I stepped once again onto the warm tile floor and returned to the shower and rinsed the salt from my skin and residue from my hair with scents of lavender.
As I toweled off, I heard a rumble. The tank’s circulator had come to life. I watched fascinated for a few minutes as the currents swirled to sanitize the water with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide, just as Stormy had told me it would.
Reluctant, I wrapped the robe around me, picked up my belongings and walked lightly down the hall to the restroom where I enjoyed trying the samples of herbal and natural lotions, deodorants and scents provided. If my hair were longer, I also could have tried exotic hair products and coiffed it with hair dryer and straighteners provided.
First brought to popular culture by scientist John C. Lilly in the 1950s, float tanks were forgotten for decades until they began to make a resurgence in the early 2000s. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, they have become almost a commonplace feature in upscale (read “very luxurious”) homes in Silicon Valley and throughout Europe.
But what if you want to try out the floatation experience without the…well…STRESS of installation and maintenance in your home? Head over to Meredith Whole Living and float in your choice of Float Pod or Float Room at times convenient to you throughout the year. Meredith Whole Living is open Tuesday to Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm, and Sunday and Monday, 9 am to 4 pm. Visit www.meredithwholeliving.com; call 603-279-0007.