Recently I floated in a sensory deprivation tank for the first time. I’ve been curious about trying it for awhile, and oh my goodness I’m so glad I did because it was magical. It was absolutely fascinating to be in an environment with no immediate boundaries (I mean yes the tank has walls, but the point is you don’t have to be in contact with them). At times it felt like being in the womb, at times it felt like floating among the stars, and at times it felt like being immersed in nothingness. It was beautiful. And to make things even better, I had a spectacular revelation in the tank…
When I first got in and laid down, I couldn’t find a comfortable resting position for my head and neck. I’m so used to having a place for my head to rest when I’m supine, that I (the voice and movement teacher!) couldn’t figure out where neutral was. I kept moving my head around trying to let my neck muscles go, but every time I tried to let go my head just moved through the water. So I grabbed the inflatable neck pillow and rested my head over that. Better.
Next it was on to my hips. My hips are perpetually tight so I was really excited about this opportunity to try to let them go. I thought to myself “Elissa, let your hips relax” and my right leg shot through the water. “Okay nope,” I thought to myself, “that’s not letting go, that’s moving.” I tried again and this time my tailbone nearly hit the bottom of the tank. Nope, that wasn’t letting go either. This all went on for a bit… me trying to let go and finding that I was doing an action instead. Then finally I sent the ‘let go’ message down to my muscles, and instead of an action there was this gentle, subtle, easy adjustment and my hips settled. THAT was letting go! And suddenly I had this massively huge revelation about something I already knew:
Letting go is not a doing. Letting go is letting go.
I’d known this conceptually, sure, but being in a floatation tank I got to actually embody the concept. When you’ve got a boundary you’re in contact with, like when you’re lying down on your bed or standing on the floor, it’s easy to think you’re letting go when you’re actually pushing against a surface. I study a movement approach called Body Mind Centering, and in that practice we talk about how yielding has to come before pushing. Yielding is letting go, yielding is allowing yourself to give over to the boundaries of your environment. When I was trying to yield in the tank, I found I was doing too much. Having only a boundary of salt water taught me how little it took to give over. And how the giving over was not about effort – in fact, it was about the opposite of effort. It was about letting go.
The opposite of effort is not nothing. The opposite of effort is letting go.
Eventually I took the neck pillow away and my head found a resting position in the water. I lay there feeling the slow, incremental, unwinding of letting go. I think this unwinding of tension must be a progression that can continue ad infinitum… it just keeps getting more subtle and profound as you find the ability to yield more. To me this is such a blissful thought, because it means I’ll always have more letting go I can do.
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