My force multiplier: Floating - Technical.ly Philly

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Dec. 3, 2014 7:34 am

My force multiplier: Floating

Why RJMetrics UX Designer Matt Monihan, and many other technologists, are so into sensory deprivation tanks.

A float pod.

(Photo by Matt Monihan)

The room is already humid when I walk in.

I step around the tank to shower up and rinse off any dirt or oil clinging to me before I get in. Stepping in is precarious, the bottom of the tank is slippery from all the salt. Once I’m in, I close the lid, lay down, extend my body. Gone.

In water filled with 800 pounds of epsom salt your body floats effortlessly. And, with the water heated to 93 degrees, you can’t tell where you end and the water begins. When you notice this, it can be disorienting. It can feel like you’re floating down a long, calm river when in reality, you’re in a box in Kensington.

I thought, “I guess all that’s left is my mind.”

Like this.

Like this.

I got interested in floating after hearing about it on the Joe Rogan podcast. I had just started meditating once a day. That is, sitting on the floor and focussing only on my breath for about 20 minutes at a time. After a few weeks I was pretty impressed by the results. I was sleeping better, and, more importantly, I became very slow to frustration. I found if there was an obstacle in my way, it didn’t bother me as much as it did in the past. This sounds small, but had a pretty profound impact on my personal and professional life.

Floating takes the benefits of meditation and lowers the activation cost required to achieve them.

I also recognized that I stopped comparing myself to others. There appears to be a broader trend of a sort of “comparison anxiety” amongst millennials. If you read Hacker News, you’ll have noticed many articles like this about the feeling that you’re not doing enough, that you should have accomplished more in your life by the time you’re 25. On Facebook and Instagram, the endless wedding and vacation photos you see might have you start to think that everyone must be having a great time, all the time. And, it makes people unhappy. The Onion, of course, nails this.

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The truth is that your perception of someone else’s progress is only that, your perception, and not their reality.

With meditation, this becomes easy to recognize. It doesn’t matter how you compare to anyone else. It never mattered to begin with. That is the true power of what’s called “being mindful.” It’s not the actual practice of meditation that is what’s so powerful, it’s the ability to, in the present moment, realize that some of your thoughts are useful, and some simply aren’t. Imagine the focus you can have when you can discard everything from your mind that slows you down.

It isn’t until you’ve showered off, looked around and come back to reality that you realize you’re slightly different, and definitely better.

I’m not alone. Many other people in tech are using meditation to not only manage stress, but have an edge at work and supercharge productivity.

All this from sitting in one spot for 20 minutes, and trying to think about nothing. Floating takes these benefits and lowers the activation cost required to achieve them. When the only thing left is your breath, it becomes vastly easier to focus on it.

This may sound weird, but my favorite part of floating is getting out. It isn’t until you’ve showered off, looked around and come back to reality that you realize you’re slightly different, and definitely better.

90 minutes. Some music comes on. We’re done here. And so, out of the tank I emerge, I shower off all the epsom salt and walk out on to a busy 2nd and Girard from Halcyon Floats. I feel refreshed and razor sharp. I’ll be back in two weeks.

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Matt Monihan is a Drexel grad and UX Designer at RJMetrics, an analytics company in Philadelphia. He spends most of his time thinking about lifestyle optimization, mountaineering and monetary policy.

  • Shannon Sofield

    Very cool. I looked for a place that had sensory deprivation tanks since moving from NYC, glad to have found this article.

  • Ben Garvey

    Just so you know, I’m actually have a great time, all the time.

  • Jeremy Galloway

    I highly suggest reading http://www.samharris.org/waking-up which uses science and reason to explore meditation and spirituality.

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