Depending on how you look at it, I’m either a prime or terrible candidate for a sensory deprivation floating experience. I am what people used to call a “workaholic” but now is just known as “existing in 2017”. I work three part-time jobs in addition to freelance writing and editing a music blog. “Calm” and “still” do not come naturally to me.
Floatation therapy offers an alluring prospect: complete relaxation. You lay down in a shiny white pod about the size of a double bed half full of salty water in complete darkness and silence. This is intended to help your body and mind enter a state of peace and healing unachievable in day-to-day life. This sounds like just the quick-fix stress release I’m after, so I visit Beyond Rest, Brisbane’s newest flotation therapy centre.
Beyond Rest’s founders, Nick and Ben Dunin, got started after meeting a man who’d achieved levels of physical and mental performance that were akin to having productivity “superpowers”. They tried flotation themselves and got hooked. The first Beyond Rest opened in Melbourne in 2015, followed by Perth and now Brisbane. I arrive at the unassuming warehouse after a short but sweaty walk from the train station. It’s 10am but I’ve been up since 6am to finish an article. I rarely leave my Paddington/West End/Fortitude Valley safe haven, so I’ve also been worried about finding the place. When I do I’m mildly frazzled, and again, hot.
This all changes once I enter the Beyond Rest lobby. I push open a large, heavy door that leads into a room that seems completely cut off from the back streets of Coorparoo just outside. The interior is a soft-toned mix of futuristic and comforting.
After being greeted warmly, I’m invited to take off my shoes and drink a glass of iced water. Then I’m taken to the room where I’ll be experiencing one hour of weightlessness.
The room looks like a space-age beauty spa. There are white-tiled walls; a large rainfall showerhead in one corner; and various lotions and products on racks. And the pod. It’s much bigger than I expected, big enough for at least two people. A mysterious blue light emanates from inside, flickering with the gentle movement of the 30-ish-centimetre-deep water. The perfectly Epsom-salted water should let me float so effortlessly that all my muscles can relax, leaving my mind free to calmly wander.
Friendly staff member Angela confidently runs me through the procedure. I’m to have a quick shower, plug my ears with clear putty, get nude and lie down in the tank. I can turn the blue light on and off whenever I wish. Music will play at the start to help me relax, and at the end to wake me out of my reverie. Then I can have another shower, using the supplied organic soaps and shampoos before moving to the chill-out room to prepare for re-entry into the real world.
The floats that Beyond Rest facilitate are a kind of structured meditation. When you do it right, meditation is supposed to have all kinds of mental and physical health benefits – as the millions of us who’ve downloaded popular apps know. But one of the biggest selling points for mediation is you can do it anywhere at any time. It’s equipment and cost-free, where visiting Beyond Rest is not. So is all this travel, time and commitment worth it?
I think the answer is yes, especially if, like me, you have trouble relaxing. The ceremonial aspect of it is extremely important. That you have to go to a place, spend some money, and go through a series of prescribed actions makes the whole thing more real and more important.
I can’t say that all this became clear to me as soon as I slipped into the pod. I spent some time twisting and turning in the water, enjoying the feeling of weightlessness. It takes a while for the novelty to wear off. You have to consciously relax your muscles, which are so used to holding your body upright or still. I became aware of how tense I had been. Floating allows you to communicate with your body in a totally new way – almost observing your own physical feelings from the outside. By the end, I did relax enough for my mind to be still. The time began passing without my noticing, until the gentle chiming music started up again, leaving me slightly disappointed that time was up. The thought of a long, relaxing shower with lovely bath products did soften the blow, though.
When Angela comes out to the chill-out room to debrief on my float, and asks me if I have any more questions, I can only smile dopily and say, “Oh yes, nice, Very nice.”
Holding the small cup of iced tea in my hands, in yet more lovely glassware, I struggle to describe what I'm feeling. I can't say I feel energised or euphoric, more like deeply unworried. I'm not thinking about everything I had to do today, what I'll write or how I'll get home. I'm just sitting still. That may not be a comic-book worthy superpower, but for many of us, for whom spare time has become a foreign concept, it’s pretty close.
You can book a 60- or 120-minute float at Beyond Rest via the website
3/58 Holdsworth Street, Coorparoo
(07) 3847 3545
Mon to Sun 8am–9.30pm
Madeleine Laing was a guest of Beyond Rest.