Over this past weekend, a good chunk of the Float Tank Solutions and Float Conference crew ventured to St. Louis, MO for the first ever Rise Community Float Gathering. Beyond our excitement to see old friends and meet new ones, we were thrilled to be able to attend a float event that we didn’t have to plan. It was a joy to relax and fully immerse ourselves in the experience of this meeting.
First off, we’d like to congratulate the whole Float STL crew on putting on a fantastic event!
We know that organizing and executing a conference is a ton of work, and were incredibly impressed with both the style and content of the weekend. We came away feeling rejuvenated, connected, and motivated to continue to support this incredible industry.
When it comes to float tanks, we often deal with a lot of the “what” and the “how” of things – what do I need to do to open a float center and how to I make everything work? We write blogs and put out content. We spend our days thinking about conference flowcharts, water chemistry, detailed business plans, soundproof insulation, etc.
Rise, on the other hand, focused on the “why?”
Why are we engaged in this crazy industry where we convince people to hop in dark tanks? Why do we put in the crazy hours planning and constructing these epic build-outs? Why do we battle with salt messes?
The answer is simple.
We’ve all been touched by floating’s potential to heal, empower and connect, and we’re driven by a commitment to share this with the world.
So, off we went to St. Louis in search of the heart of floating.
For most of us, it was our first trip to St. Louis. After plopping our bags at our hotels and a quick flurry of naps, food, and work, we all met back up at the welcome party. While I already knew that the float industry is special, this intimate gathering helped remind me what a unique community we are.
It was a delight to meet new manufacturers, float center owners and staff, and even some passionate frequent floaters. You know you’re in a special profession when you find yourself in an amicable discussion between two “competing” manufacturers comparing their tank’s specifications with openness, kindness, and collaboration.
Later on in the weekend, we even brainstormed a brand new product with one of them: a bassinet/baby carriage shaped in the likeness of a float tank.
I know, you want one. Totally get it!
After a few hours, everyone began to split ways to prepare for the first day’s events.
The Rise gathering was held in a beautiful co-working space in St. Louis’ Central West End. On Saturday morning, volunteers greeted us with smiles, t-shirts, and coffee while a DJ spun morning tunes for inspiration.
After half an hour or so of wandering around the vendor booths and catching up, we all got seated, eager to drop into the journey of this new event.
Jake and Kevin from Float STL opened up Rise and helped frame their goals of facilitating connection, spreading joy, and creating space for the spontaneity and exploration that wanted to happen organically.
So there we were, sharing space, breathing air – waiting for the event to begin.
The inspiration is strong, right now, to give a full recap of every talk.
They were all different, exploring a variety of terrain related to where the industry has been, where it is now, and what it can and might be. Rather than diving in too deeply, here are some brief snippets and takeaways from each talk:
Stephen Johnson’s presentation, “Floating and the Broadening of Empathy, Altruism, and Love,” was an inspirational start to the day and a great way to frame why we care about the float industry. In the tank, we are “a becoming to be discovered [and we] begin to perceive oneself in relation to self and the world.” Floating isn’t just a trend or a health modality – “it’s a deeply contemplative, explorative, and spiritual practice.”
Lee Perry, introduced as the “godmother of floating,” brought a deeper history and connection to the discussion. Among other topics, she focused on the importance of treating the float as sacred, and the importance for float center operators and staff to hold this reality in their hearts in the midst of their work. Rather than immediately asking someone, “How was your float?” Lee encouraged us to honor each floater’s experience by staying present and rooted in our heart rather than our heads.
Our own Graham Talley & Ashkahn Jahromi threw the baby out with the saltwater by proclaiming that they are “probably wrong about everything.” They framed this assertion within a discussion of psychology and behavioral economics, focusing on the very-human tendency to appeal to the context of authority, tradition, and accomplishment rather than content and facts. They also highlighted the “availability heuristic” and the tendency for humans to not see a broad spectrum of reality, ultimately connecting these concepts with the adventures of running a float center and the industry at large.
Mike Boeger, from the PQ Corporation, explored the “Healing Power of Epsom Salt,” and dove into the issue of transdermal absorption of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) and its potential role in the healing process. He stressed that, beyond the effects of buoyancy in the tank, there is still much research to be done regarding the impact of Epsom salt on the human body. Aside from direct transfusion, floating may be the next best way to absorb magnesium, which holds promise for those with magnesium deficiency.
After a brief yoga session, replete with slow-jammed guitar, Kevin Johnson explored the use of the tank and it’s ability to connect with one’s highest self, dampen destructive habits, and ultimately change one’s own (and collective) reality. In particular, he explored the big question of ‘Can we change the world?’ Through a methodical exploration of our cognitive, feeling, emotional, and energetic layers, Kevin suggested that we can connect to our original energy, potential, and soul and, ultimately, leverage that to engage with the world in a more fulfilling and authentic way. Beyond this, he proposed that it’s each person’s responsibility to explore and express their own potential and that the float tank is a perfect tool to do just that. Beneath the masks of our conditioning lies our deepest self.
Richard Bonk examined how floating induces a deep calm (samadhi), which is the space in which a person’s real work can be done. He talked about floating as a middle ground between contemplative practices and psychoactive substances, as a perfect environment to be safe and relaxed while letting go completely. He discussed how floating helped him move through deeper fears into a space of “energetic lightness and feeling of choice,” and how this ultimately led him to connect with the float tank’s potential as a reliable inducer of lucid dreams.
Capping off Saturday, Gloria Morris talked about how her first floats rapidly propelled her to change professions and open Float Sixty in Chicago. Beyond her personal story, she led a broader discussion about “meeting people where they are” and the importance of not creating expectations when it comes to floating. The conversation bubbled up into a broader discussion of the sacred nature of working at a float center and how special it is to support the transformational work of others.
After one of the Float STL crew mesmerized the Sunday morning crowd with a luxurious half-hour of singing bowls, Dylan Calm and Amy Grimes took the stage to talk about their unique journeys as well as their podcast, the Art of the Float. Dylan shared how profound and paradoxical it is that spending 60-90 minutes in isolation instills a deep desire to connect with others. Amy discussed how her relationship to floating has developed beyond pain management and running her own business to a desire to fully connect with her center and community.
The Rise Gathering ended appropriately, with three float “ambassadors” taking the stage to answer questions from Jake and Kevin as well as the audience. All three are frequent floaters at Float STL, and their presence truly helped ground the conference in the “why” of our industry.
One is a visual artist who uses floating to help manage a serious health condition, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Another is a small business owner and community organizer. The third uses floating to help manage emotional and physical stress from their job as a head chef and cross-fit enthusiast.
By ending with this panel, Rise brought the discussion back down to earth and focused our intentions. We’re here to help people heal and grow.
The conference culminated with the Q&A session of the ambassador panel constructively derailing into deeper and broader questions about the future of the industry. Specifically, conversations arose related to getting floating covered by insurance and the influx of larger organizations beginning to take interest in our niche field. It was incredibly clear that there is a deep hunger for communication and connection in this industry, and Rise played an essential role in furthering these conversations.
Our Portland crew took an extra day to explore the city of St Louis after the gathering. On Sunday, some of us perambulated the Gateway Arch (seriously big arch!) and took in the last few innings of a Cardinals game while others floated at Float STL’s new location and hung out with their crew.
On Monday, we all went to the City Museum, a found-object playground of epic proportions, replete with a ten-story slide, giant ball pit, rope-swing skatepark, and endless stretches of indoor and outdoor tunnels, nooks, crannies, and hidden joys. It was a perfect ending to a fantastic weekend in which we engaged through play, joy, and connection.
Thanks Float STL for an amazing weekend. We’re proud to drift side by side with you in this salty industry, and we can’t wait until next year!