“I don’t have time”: A Tale of Chickens And Eggs
Here at Oly Float, we deal with time – or temporality – quite a lot. We live in a strangely dualistic relationship with time and temporal distortion. Outside the tank, we live and die, from a business perspective, by the clock. Our operations run on an essential 90-120 minute schedule. 12 times per day. 6 days per week. That’s how we have a pristine, cleaned, drained and double-filtered float room ready for you every time you float.
And yet, inside the tank … our aim is to make time disappear. And disappear it does, as most of you have no doubt experienced. When sensory input, gravitational forces, and all forms of stimulation are removed, people who float realize what a false and empty construct time actually is. When you drift away into that theta zone, the passing of time tends to vanish. You realize that time … isn’t real. Some days your float feels like it lasts forever; other days, it’s over in the snap of the fingers. All that controls the difference between the two is your mind. Not a clock that exists outside of you, but purely your own mind.
To put it slightly more scientifically, as Peter Hancock did in his study “On time distortion under stress“:
“We have a strong social imperative to consider time as a linear, homogeneous medium within which events occur. Such a conception underlies many information-processing models of human capability that each rely on the assumption of the equivalence of one time unit with the next that follows it. Yet for those who experience the phenomenon of time distortion, the fallacy of such a notion with respect to behavioral capability is clearly exposed.”
And so it’s interesting that time is usually the #1 reason people don’t continue to float on an ongoing and consistent basis. “I just don’t have time to float,” is what we would often hear from people who had been floating regularly, had been making progress, and yet could no longer find the time in their calendar for a two hour float session. For them, at that moment, the idea of “finding” time is just another stress-inducing item on their to-do list. To “find” the time for floating – as if time that was there before had somehow been lost, maybe behind the couch or in the bottom of a purse – meant going through the effort of re-assessing everything else that was “taking” their time and finding something that was less important than floating.
To play devil’s advocate, though … this is somewhat chicken-and-egg thinking.
Several scientific studies have found a direct correlation between stress and how we perceive time:
- Perception of time can increase stress
- Effects of Stress and Relaxation on Time Perception
- On time distortion under stress
In American culture, in particular, our perception of time is directly tied to our perception of efficiency. Do things within a given timeframe, and it is judged to be more efficient. Do it next time within a shorter timeframe, and it is yet more efficient. Keep cinching that belt of time in a notch with each consecutive activity, and one is viewed as increasingly efficient, and often rewarded for that ostensible gain in efficiency.
This is an insanity-inducing cycle, though, and a deep root of Americans’ perma-state of stress. Many other cultures do not attribute the same value to time-efficiency; they attribute quality with efficiency, originality with efficiency, differentialism with efficiency. For now, though, America is and seems likely to continue to be obsessed with time as a standard of efficiency.
So where is the chicken and egg in this as it relates to floating? The chicken is the stress that is induced by trying to make time in our calendars for floating. The egg is the dramatic stress-reduction that floatation therapy induces.
Or is the chicken the stress-reduction of floating, and the egg the stress that making time for it induces?
Either way, you see the point this is driving towards.
By floating and engaging in a practice of dissolving time on a regular basis, the reduction in your own stress levels will affect how your brain perceives time. By consciously choosing to engage in a regular stress-reduction practice, such as floating or meditation, you are re-wiring how your brain perceives the passage of time and laying a different foundation for how your mind gets into stress cycles that relate to the pressures of time, to that “linear, homogeneous medium”, as Peter Hancock described it.
A study conducted by Dr. Tejinder Billing, assistant professor of management in the Rohrer College of Business in New Jersey, found that those who effectively plan experience reduced stress in relation to the activities before them:
“Billings suggested that a key finding of the research is that people in the U.S. can manage and reduce stress more effectively by planning. “For individuals who emphasize planning and scheduling, the strength of the relationship between stressors and psychological strain is weaker than for individuals who do not emphasize planning and scheduling,” she said.”
So if you are experiencing that chicken-and-egg stress cycle regarding finding time to float … remember that time isn’t actually real and is only what you make it to be. And then make a plan. Set your schedule. Have a specific section in your week, each week (or however often you like to float), that is dedicated to de-stressing, letting time dissolve, decreasing your “fight or flight” chemicals (chiefly, adrenaline and cortisol), and increasing all your positive neurotransmitters – endorphins, serotonin and dopamine – that help you feel focused, relaxed and energized. Those who stick with floating for three months or more often see their lives change, and their perceptions of time and stress become re-contexualized to a new, more truly efficient state of normal.