Stress, stress, stress. It’s justifiably one of the most overused words in our society. Everything is overdone these days: work, study, play… We are taught to “go hard, or go home,” and more often than not, necessary breaks are feared, penalized or minimized to shear laziness. We live, therefore, in a society of overworked people trying to figure out how to run on time that feels like it’s spending us, right up until we’re truly spent.
From this was born the complex industry called health and wellness. Every month we learn about some new way to relax, some new brand of yoga, some tea, herb or method of calming our erratic thoughts and giving us the space we need to just breeeathe. A little over a year ago, I heard about Halcyon Floats, a “float spa” in Philly where you actually pay $70ish to submerge your body (and mind) into a dark tank, filled with 10 inches of Epsom salt water and just zone out for 90 minutes. As someone whose swimming skills can only truly be relied upon in the salty ocean water, floating is my go-to. I love hitting the beach and floating, allowing the water to spill into my ears and tune out the sounds of people, birds or whatever else might be present in those particular moments. My sister and my niece had already tried the float spa and recommended it, so I decided to give it a whirl!
I went to the location in Northern Liberties, which is cute and quaint…annnd right next to the train tracks! Thankfully, I was there during late evening hours when the trains are running less frequently, and the sound was muted pretty well in the tank, but I don’t know how that works in the daytime…just be warned.
Anyway, there was a nice young (hipster – I’m sorry!) guy at the front desk that, since it was my first time, asked me a lot of questions and entered my information in on the laptop. He went on about how much he loved floating and then gave me his only real advice: to put in the playdough-like earplugs they provide in the room BEFORE I go my hands wet in the shower. He also recommended taking a cold shower so that the water in the tank wouldn’t shock my body and set me up for discomfort. He gave me a small orb of light and led me to my room. They only have two, by the way. So, if you are coming with a pal, you need to reserve a time when both rooms are open. Otherwise, that was pretty much it. It’s pretty self-explanatory from there. You go in the room, put in those earplugs, take a shower, and light up your orb before plunging down into the depths of darkness…and wetness. I tried to give in to full elimination of stimuli and not light up my orb for the duration of my float. BUT…I had the tiniest panic attack after about 15 minutes – at which point I located the orb and clicked the button that changes the light colors, until I settled on a soft glowing purple. It’s a bit of a catch 22, though. The inside of that tank is certainly not a calming sight. It’s like you’re in a tiny space shuttle that’s entering another dimension, which for a claustrophobe like myself, was too overwhelming. On the other hand- being immersed in complete darkness can get scary, if you allow your mind to wander too far into the nonsensical…it happens now and then. I mean, you’re inside this thing
Yeah, floating is not really for the faint of heart, but if you allow yourself to relax into the water -on which you really are floating, by the way – you can enter a timeless, soundless, boundaryless space where only you exist.
And before you know it, you start to hear that soft music that gently stirs you awake. It becomes louder and louder, in gradual increments. This is so that you know your time is up, without being rudely rushed back to reality. At this time you can collect your orb and the plastic neck pillow that you probably won’t use and open up that heavy tank door to climb on out. After re-entering the room you take another shower, some obligatory selfies (that you can post on Instagram with hashtags for prizes)then exit the room and enter the small, welcoming lounge area.
In the lounge, you can enjoy cookies and different blends of tea. and different blends of tea. I grabbed my favorite nighttime tea, chamomile, and settled in to read some of the random and bizarre scribblings that are in these scrapbooks they ask guests to write in.
Some people had quite creative interpretations of their experiences here, and I was thoroughly entertained. (really…*sips tea*)
My favorite one was:
I also liked this:
Overall, floating is a great non-sensory form of meditation. I have not returned to Halcyon, because it’s not my personally chosen method of withdrawing from the world, but I recommend everyone try it. Go on and get your float on! It may be your new peace on Earth.