Using Change and Floating to Create Change

joyous self reflection

joyous self reflection

Our focus has always been on providing a customized, clinical massage experience, in a relaxed setting. The clients at Seattle Massage Pro often ask why we have a float tank in a massage therapy clinic. The reflexive response is “Floating changed my life!” So, how can we use floating to create change that complements massage?

The simplest answer is body awareness—becoming aware of postural holding patterns and learning to let them release.  This, of course, directly improves the client’s progressive journey throughout their massage therapy. Though this direct relationship is most obvious, there are deeper reasons to explore.  The journey of personal change is the bigger picture, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, change is something we can all relate to.  While those in the field of physical therapy or meditation, for instance, understand the process of and importance of personal change, many people may not realize that disruptions like the pandemic are opportunities to alter our day-to-day behavior.  That’s right—opportunity.

Humans are creatures of habit, and, unless we are actively looking to identify and understand them, our habits will show up before we even realize it. If we aren’t careful, as “normal” returns, we’re ripe to fall right back into all of our habits —even the bad habits we’d rather not have. We’re looking at you, postural holding patterns.  But we need think bigger than the immediate, more physical, ways we can use floating to create change that benefits us.

Floating can help you focus on and understand bad habits, as well as program new ones that better align with your life goals. In fact, Dr. John C. Lilly, the inventor of float tanks, developed an entire system around using float tanks to alter unwanted behaviors, or “programs”, by intentionally focusing on these negative aspects and where they come from in a controlled environment. This is why we have our Intro to Floating package.  We need repeated float sessions to fully get into the routine of change—an approachable invitation for floating to create change and become habit.

Is Normal Really Your Goal?

Over these past few weeks, you’ve probably heard at least a few people wishing that things would go back to normal. You may have even wished it yourself. But what are we really wishing for? Of course we all want to be able to hang out with friends and hug our loved ones again, but the desire for things to go back to normal is much more than that.

We are creatures of habit. Not all of that is bad, obviously. Getting more comfortable safely backing out of the driveway, being able to effortlessly play a scale on the piano, and shooting a three-point shot blindfolded are all results of habits. Our habits stack on top of each other to inform our behaviors and before you know it, our routines start to determine who we are. This is our new normal. Unfortunately, this disruption causes distress.

But when there’s a hiccup in the rhythms and routines of daily life, it becomes much easier to bring things into focus and implement change. We are in the midst of the largest collective “hiccup” in modern history — so let’s take advantage of it.

Rebuild it Better

Drawing of woman floating surrounded by plant growth to show that we can use floating to create change

Each of us has had our habit stack toppled, and we’re at a point where we get to rebuild. But more importantly, we’re at a point where we have a chance to decide how we want to rebuild. Your old habit stack was likely put together haphazardly. Your new one can be built to your specifications. If you have to rebuild anyway, why not build something better?

Some of the most fascinating work that Dr. John C. Lilly did was related to how float tanks might affect our ability to “metaprogram”(Check out Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer for more on this. It’s fascinating stuff). 

If we think of our brains like computers (or “biocomputers” to borrow Lilly’s phrasing), then all that we express: our thoughts, feelings, opinions, emotions, etc. – they’re all programs written by code. However, our code is not written by a freshman computer science major trying to create their first web app— it’s written as a reaction to everything we experience. Lilly believed that if we focussed on how our programs were written, we could pull that code apart and adjust it to improve on the programs (which would be programs writing programs, hence, “metaprogramming”). He found that floating can help immensely with this process (also LSD — he was an interesting guy).

We Need Awareness, Not Distraction.

Floating is an environment that isolates from the outside world. This encourages our brains to develop a better connection to our internal world — a mind which is more attentive to itself.  When you are more aware of your internal world, you’re in a better position to analyze yourself. This includes your habits, physical holding patterns, health, work-life balance, needs, wants, triggers, deeper motivations— and on the list goes. 

Recognizing our programs, and what causes them, is the first step towards changing them for the better. When you are present, and attentive, your habits and routines don’t just take over mindlessly— you gain awareness of not just your day-to-day, but of your moment-to-moment. This awareness allows you to be cognizant of how the world is affecting your programs. Being at the helm again gives you the opportunity to steer the course of your choosing. After all, we all want to be more present and live in the moment. 

Tend the Garden, and It Will Grow

floating above new growth to show how we can use floating to create changeWe invest in quality foods, exercise equipment, massage, and other healthy lifestyle activities because we know our bodies need them and our investments in them will encourage continued good habits. Like everything else, you can make it a habit to be present — your brain will get better at being present. But, you have to practice it and invest in it.

Dr. Lilly isn’t the only one to come to these conclusions. Similar ideas are found in ancient Buddhist meditation practices and in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy textbooks. Many of these are gaining more traction in the scientific community as tools to improve our mental well being.

It may sound simple: “Pay attention and you’ll notice more about what you’re doing”. But actually putting this into practice is more difficult in the modern world. We are constantly pulled in every direction, distracted by constant changing technology, and overburdened by our responsibilities. We have a rare opportunity in that many of us are being more mindful right now. We’re less distracted, more present, and more engaged with the world.

As we improve ourselves, we improve the world around us. It can seem daunting but each of us has the ability to change if we choose to. Thankfully, we don’t have to figure it out all at once. Changing ourselves — and the world — is a marathon, not a sprint.