Parkinson's Patience


Robert: Float SNJ guest sharing about his experience with Parkinson's and float therapy. This is the first of four posts.

I grew up in the 70's and floats were pop culture and in movies. It had always been something I had wanted to experience. A little bit to satisfy a childhood curiosity and partly because of a progressive neural disease; the processor is failing, Parkinson's.

Symptoms started 15 years ago. Before I recognized what was happening to me I was drawn to good food, foraging medicinal mushrooms, and drawn to extreme sports for dopamine production. So a Float? Of course. Fits right in with my current path.

I don't drive much and gave myself time to be comfortable. Going in and greeted pleasantly at the door permission to sit anywhere is given. A comfortable lounge where the tension begins to get peeled away. I was tense going in and PD amplifies social stress. The staff kept directing the conversation gently back to the beginnings of the meditative process. Something they must see all the time. I allowed myself to be led.

After the paperwork is an introduction to the float room and hygiene protocol. The staff guides you with what to expect in the float pool and their personal preferences.

Shower. Close the door. Two buttons. Unusual meditation. Got it!

As soon as I locked the door I stripped and showered. I had scrub brush shower before coming so it was cursory. I slid the door to the salt saturation room. Music was calming. Lights were soothing. I was so excited to block out the sensory input. I climbed in and thought I would get right to it. Wrong. This new weightless medium has a slight learning curve and made a little more difficult with the PD. My symmetry of movement was affected and made it feel clumsy at first. The incredible buoyancy is very forgiving though. It was actually kinda fun.

After settling in I tapped the light button. It went dark. The music still on my goal became stretching and slowing breathing. That worked, so I turned off the music. After some more stretching the new goal was to clear the mind and see if I could turn off the tremors in my arm and hand which was still "pill rolling". I started with a candle flame in my mind. Didn't work. As I lay there weightless, my body began to relax more than I had never felt before. The second attempt at meditation I focused on a bonfire. I slipped into a meditative state and the tremors stopped in my arm. The head tremors took longer to control. I learned that forcing my head down and pushing down with my legs relaxed those muscles too.

Drifting in and out of deep meditation it began to be hard to know where my arms and legs ended and the water began. I even had a slight sensation of drifting on a current. The gong sounded. I had lost all sense of time. The soft lights came on. I was so relaxed you could pour me into a glass. I stepped out and washed off in the warm shower and slowly dressed drinking in the relief. Wow. That was something. Looking forward to the next session.


Robert's Experience: Post #2

Tom Bazis

March 30, 2018

Written by Robert: Float SNJ guest sharing about his experience with Parkinson's and float therapy. This is the first of four posts.

I had different goals going in the second time. I had the meditative experience the first time. I had been thinking about it since the first float. The knowing that I would slip into a meditative state without forcing it was comforting. I was going to use this float to work on stretching and breathing.

I showed up early so the drive would be comfortable. Sat in the car for ten minutes to decompress. Gathered my soaps and salves and headed inside. Before I got in the door I spotted a good and kind friend that works with wildlife. How cool is that. We greeted each other warmly. Then we began to talk gardening and permaculture. Some of my favorite things. I no longer question why my like minded friends are drawn to the same places. It's obvious. There were two sisters in the lounge also - one was a first timer and had some reservations. She had sat next to me and quietly questioned what to expect. I told her I was a novice and that she would enjoy. Which only seemed to quell her worries a little. You could see the free floating anxiety in her face.

I was called by staff that my room was ready. I excused myself from the conversation. The room was different then last time. Same earth tone tiles and wood furniture. It sets the mood well. Stripped - showered - and slowly made the shower cooler to make the saturation pool nice to snuggle into.

When I opened the salt saturation room door there was a hurricane formation of steam with a well-defined eye hovering above the water. It was mesmerizing. I slipped in and the hurricane started to disintegrate. It wasn't steam. It had been salt crystals that had formed in the saturate. That was something.

As soon as I was settled - tapped the light button. Centered myself and began with deep, full breaths. My parky hand was tremoring like mad. I ignored that as much as possible and concentrated on emptying the diaphragm with each exhale. I alternated between holding breathes on the exhale and then on the inhale.

Next up was stretching. I began by tightening and relaxing major muscle groups. Then focusing on smaller groups, then just random tightening and loosening. By the end of that muscles felt like weightless jello in a warm bed. Tremors had mostly stopped. Instead of going into a meditative state I used the opportunity of a relaxed body to push the envelope of my rigid side by stretching. It was painful. The tremors would begin a new but were easier to make them subside.

I relaxed and let my mind drift. I began to drift on a current that was in my mind. I imagined myself on the Red Sea. Then a faint tone brought me back. End of the session. Showered again. Slowly with lots of heat. That was so needed. Used some salve on my skin I had made heavy with beeswax. Spent some time in the recovery lounge and then headed out front.

I talked again with staff and my friend. We made some return plans. The two sisters joined us. The one that had been wound up was loose as a wet noodle and without the tension she had held coming in the door. That was nice to see happen.

Tom Bazis