Print

Observations from a first-time floater at Laguna Beach’s only Float Lounge

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Freelance writing is a good gig. Because I’ve developed a reputation on the Stu News staff as the one willing to try anything, I get a lot of interesting assignments. So when an opportunity arose to experience the Float Lounge, I’m told my name floated to the top of the list. The editors were right – I didn’t even have to think about it – I was all in.

It hadn’t occurred to me to be nervous until I started previewing my upcoming adventure with friends who fell into two general camps: “I’ve always wanted to try that!” and “I’d never do that!” The term “sensory deprivation” came up quite a bit, though I’ve since learned that’s an antiquated phrase. 

No one I knew had actually floated, so I was left with few expectations and more than a little anticipatory excitement. I researched the basics – I had to get naked; I had to get wet; it would be black; it would be silent; and I would be alone. I also knew it would last 60 minutes, which sounded equal parts luxuriously languid and terrifyingly eternal. 

Debunking the myths about floating

Several of those things turned out not to be true. You can float in a bathing suit, although there’s no need since you have the space to yourself and a suit can feel constricting. You can request music, although in the interest of silent solitude and unplugging from stimuli, the experience is best enjoyed without. You can leave the hatch door open and let the light in. And you can get out whenever you wish. First timers often do some, or all, of those things. 

Owner Rosanne Ramirez told me she tried to bail three times during her first float. Her husband and co-owner, Jeff Brion, only lasted 45 minutes his first time. 

But I was writing as a reporter, and figured journalistic integrity required the full experience. So I went the distance.

Rosanne and Jeff have owned the Float Lounge for six years, three in its current location on Coast Highway, across from Active Culture. The lounge contains two spacious rooms, each equipped with its own private shower and tank. The rooms are dimly lit and relaxing, and Rosanne spends ample time talking with first-time clients, letting them know what to expect.

Click on photo for a larger image

The vibe is peaceful and relaxing, a boon when you’re about to be buoyant

First fears first. The Float Lounge is extremely sanitary. Once I saw the space, it never entered my mind to consider hygienic issues. Everything felt pristine, and I’m a bit of a neat freak. There’s also an emphasis on going green, organic and holistic – from the cork-backed floorboards to the insulation in the walls – Rosanne and Jeff are committed to chemical-free health and wellness. 

“I won’t ever get into a chlorine pool anymore,” Rosanne says. “The skin is your biggest organ. We’re careful about what we let touch it.”

What touches it is 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts and pure filtered water. Even the showers are equipped with filtered water, as well as organic shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. You’ll want to shower before and after your float. And after, you’ll notice the Epsom salts make your hair and skin feel very soft.

The water holds steady at 93.5 degrees, our skin’s natural temperature, making it difficult to distinguish between your body and the water. 

Rosanne recommends consistent clients float once a week, but more frequently at the beginning as they get used to the experience.

The many benefits of floating

Before talking to Rosanne, I didn’t fully appreciate the why of floating. It sounded relaxing - a compelling way to fully unplug from our frenetic world. Beyond that, I figured it was simply a strange new experience to tell my friends. Wrong.

Many use floating as a physical remedy, recommended for sports injuries, back problems and spinal compression. Most people use it to mentally release from the ego-driven world. Floating facilitates meditation and is used by spiritualists and others as a consciousness-expanding tool. Artists use it to accelerate their creative process. 

The brain typically enters the theta state, the place between sleep and consciousness that allows for deep meditation. The same state where creative and subconscious ideas bubble up. Rosanne says many people refer to it as a “think tank” or “feedback machine.” 

Finding your flow

Knowing the logistics – the what, when, where and why – didn’t tell me what I really needed to know. How would I react? The idea of being left alone with my own thoughts for an hour seemed daunting. Would it be like my usual 2 a.m. insomnia, when every fear I have surfaces and magnifies? Or would I simply fall asleep and miss the whole thing? A therapist once told me that being in my head was like being in “a dark attic full of knives.” True. So how could this turn out well? I didn’t know.

I rehearsed what I would say to myself once I got in there. But, like any new experience, you never know until you’re inside it. Talking about it doesn’t help. It’s your mind, after all. Your thoughts and ego, your fears and anxieties, in the tank with you. No one else.

Then again, talking did help

I sat with Rosanne for a long time before going in. She said a few things I knew to be true: “It’s challenging to be with ourselves at the beginning. Most of us aren’t comfortable with quietness, stillness, and aloneness.” No kidding. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Co-owner Rosanne Ramirez offers wisdom along with comforting words

She said some things I hadn’t thought about: “Fear is just your ego making up excuses,” and “How you do anything is how you do everything.” 

“It’s not the tank, it’s you,” got me through many of the literal dark moments. And Rosanne’s observation that, “If you’re creating fear and anxiety in the tank, you’re also doing it all day long in the real world” rang entirely true for me. And so, when the dark got exceptionally dark, these were the things I told myself. 

Just like in meditation, thoughts rush in. The key is to let them go. So I kept Rosanne’s final words of wisdom with me: “Then I let go…and it was beautiful.” 

I had pockets of that beautiful experience. For a first-timer, it was equal parts relaxing and terrifying. A work in progress, just like everything. But when I did let go, it was pretty surreal.

A study in contradictions

For me, a first time floater, the experience felt like a study in contradictions. How could something be equal parts relaxing and terrifying? How could I crave quiet time with my thoughts, and simultaneously want to run away? It struck me that those who might benefit most are the least apt to seek it out. 

“It’s a matter of learning to be with ourselves,” says Rosanne. Which is, after all, one of life’s largest and most challenging paradoxes. We’re always with ourselves. And we’re often the ones we most want to escape. “Floating,” Rosanne says, “is one of the best tools we’ve found to integrate the mind, body and spirit.” While that’s something many of us might want, getting there can be scary.

“Before floating, I couldn’t meditate to save my life,” says Rosanne. “That is true.” Truth is what float therapy is intended to reveal. 

For more information about The Float Lounge, call 949-715-5565 or visit www.thefloatlounge.com.  The Float Lounge is located at 1031 S Coast Hwy.