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Floating at Still Life

Not long after we opened Heliotrope in May of 2017, one of our fellow hotel partners gave me a gift certificate for a "float" at Still Life, a massage and float spa in Bellwether. He had just had one and could tell I needed one, too. It wasn't until this last weekend that I scheduled my session, not sure at all what I was getting myself into.

As it turns out it was a great experience and the effects lasted all day. In fact, today (the day after my session), I was standing in the Lowe's parking lot thinking, "I am not going to go inside. I should go float instead." However, I did not. I went to Lowes and did what you do at Lowes (in this case, sought and purchased a Kohler toilet seat with Slow-Close technology).


On Sunday morning, when I arrived for my session, the friendly attendant gave me the rundown on how to float. As it turns out it's about as easy as it sounds and only involves disrobing in a nicely appointed private room, showering, putting in earplugs and slipping into a float tank.

The float tank looks like a combination of a futuristic car and a clamshell. With its undulating water and soft blue glow, it is otherworldly looking, and that is actually appropriate to the experience. You likely haven't experienced something like this since you were in your mother's womb (and we all can imagine just how good that was)!

To begin your float, you slip inside, close the lid, lie back in the water and instantly your body goes into a state...a state of...I'm searching for the right words...a state of where it just naturally should rest. Here's what I mean: all day long, for years on end, each one of us is constantly being affected – pulled, crushed, compressed – by gravity. But in the clam shell, er...float tank...you feel weightless, hear no sound, see no light, and the water is the same temperature as your skin, so you feel... nothing. 

And it feels so good.

Years ago I did a ten-day silent meditation retreat. You might think that meditating 12 hours a day for ten days in a row, one would be blissed out, but let me tell you, it's a painful experience in both body and mind. Really, the pain of folded legs, aching back, and crushing gravity, hour after hour is part of the ecstatic experience you end up with on day ten, but this floating world is the opposite. No pain, no sensation of the body whatsoever.

So, without sensation – without rushing stimulus packing your every moment – what are you left with? Your thoughts.

So, without sensation – without rushing stimulus packing your every moment – what are you left with? Your thoughts.

Before tackling the touchy subject of our thoughts, I want to explain a few things about the float tank. On your left is a button. In case you need an attendant you can push the button twice. On the right is another button. You can push that to turn the blue glow off. I recommend that. If you are going to do it, go all the way. No light. No sound. No sensation.

The tank is filled with 1200 pounds of Epsom salt (from San Francisco!) and pure water (from Lake Whatcom) and this allows you to float like you have never floated before. You'll be floating weightless, as though you were in space, yet warm and comfortable. Your body assumes a position that instantly allows total relaxation. It's like a hand to a glove, a bulb to a socket, a round peg in a round hole. It...just...fits. One stays this way floating, for about an hour, until soft music begins to play, signaling that it is time to emerge, refreshed, and to take a shower.

But wait, what about your thoughts? What happens while you are in the tank for an hour? Well, since all that exists in your world is your thoughts, you must deal with those. Your body is out of the equation, finally, after all these years, and you can just let your thoughts unspool. 

Now, this is going to be different for everyone. While there is nothing wrong with thoughts, they can be incessant, and there are plenty of reasons to let go of them. You know: 1) peace, 2) being in the moment, 3) true relaxation. I have a little technique I like to think of as the bedroom door method. Imagine you are in a dark room. When the room is completely dark you are at one, with no thoughts whatsoever, and totally in the moment. Then, the door to the room opens and light shines in. That light is your thoughts starting to stream in. Now, imagine you let that door close and the light is now gone. You are again at peace, without thought, in the dark and comfortable room.

So, sit in the dark and ask, "What's my next thought?". Be curious. "I wonder...what's my next thought going to be?". Inevitably, the door will open and light will shine in and you can notice it and say, "Oh, so that's my thought." And then, because you've noticed it, it evaporates, and the room is dark again, and there is a feeling of true peace.

Anyway, that's what I do, but I am sure your experience at Still Life will be your own to enjoy.

When the music comes up, you arise like the first human from the clamshell, as in Haida lore, and take a luxurious shower, thinking, "Whoa. That was amazing."

Once you are dried off there is no reason to leave immediately and join the fray. Stay in the comfortable chairs looking over the yacht harbor, sipping tea, getting used to coming back into gravity and sensation, still at peace.

Sure, go to that next meeting or even go to Lowes to look for that Slow-Close toilet lid technology. But the effects will last for awhile, as though you are still floating in the womb, warm, content, and confident as you go about your day. You can then float among the plumbing parts and the seasonal items, wondering gently, what is this all about anyway? 

Visit Still Life Massage and Float @ 19 Bellwether Way #101, Bellingham, WA 98225





Scroll through gallery below for photos of their beautiful facility.

Emerging from the clamshell.  Raven and the First Man, by Bill Reid  at UBC. This is a premier work of PNW art. Make sure you see it at University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology.

Emerging from the clamshell. Raven and the First Man, by Bill Reid at UBC. This is a premier work of PNW art. Make sure you see it at University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology.