As we come together again as a community to celebrate the tenth year of the Float Conference, we are overwhelmed with joy from all the hugs, laughs, and excitement about the future.
This is a live blog that will be updated as the Conference progresses. We will be covering presentations as they happen.
Friday, August 27th, 2021
1:00 – Stephen Johnson – Official Conference Opening
We open the Conference with our emcee introducing the Board before sharing a few words himself. The room swells with excitement as we sink into the reality that we’re back together.
Stephen then preaches on the power of floating and how it enhances our minds and bodies. You can feel the gratitude in his sermon and the crowd. We are being prepared for the rest of the weekend.
1:15 Laura Allen – Growing a Thriving Wellness Center with Strong Professional Boundaries
Working in customer service, it’s incredibly common to become fatigued and burned out. Even in the float community, it’s incredibly common to be spread thin.
Laura shares her expertise on how to establish professional boundaries to help prevent being overextended. Boundaries need to be set between yourself and your employees, the customers, and the business itself. Boundaries are often things that cause anxiety.
A great example of boundaries with your customers is not responding to emails outside of your working hours or refusing to engage in debate regarding company policies.
Identifying your boundaries can help you prevent feeling fatigued and allow you to bring your whole self to your work without compromising on your values.
A valuable and important discussion in any industry, but one that is especially important in a business that is filled with passionate people who are dedicated to serving their communities.
1:35 – James Ramsey – Superior Resilience & Innovations
As the founder/CEO of Superior Float Tanks, James took the opportunity to share some updates on the company and what their new production space and demonstration area will look like in the coming years.
1:45 Dr. Sahib Khalsa – Impact of Floatation Therapy on Body Image and Anxiety in Anorexia Nervosa: a Randomized Clinical Efficacy Trial
While the first virtual speaker for the Conference did experience some technical difficulties (including the presentation dropping partway through!), but it was still exciting to see what future Conference talks might look like.
Dr Sahib Khalsa is the head of the Float Lab at the Laureate Institute of Brain Research (LIBR) and specializes in treating eating disorders.
Dr. Khalsa started by sharing the past studies on floating and Anorexia Nervosa, a rare but deadly disorder characterized, in part, by high state anxiety and distorted body image.
The safety study had 21 patients who completed the entire 4 float trial and they showed a significant reduction in anxiety and even normalization of body image.
After the success of this study, they proceeded to a randomized study with inpatient subjects at the LIBR Eating Disorder Laboratory, with a follow-up in 6 months and to one year.
They separated patients between usual care and the float group. While they didn’t show a significant reduction in body image in this study, it did show some major improvements to state anxiety.
The follow-up studies are not yet complete, but they have been having a good response.
The future of the studies is very promising but needs more research. The float being able to impact body image is exciting, but it’s still unclear if it’s sustained after floating.
Potential applications for floating could be to incorporate floating with psychotherapy or with meal-related anxiety treatments.
3:00 – Laura Witte & Ania Kubicki – Bridging the Gap: Floatation and Medicine
Laura Witte has lived in academia for years in addition to owning and operating a float spa for years (until recently when she sold her business). Ania’s background is in community outreach and PR. This talk was inspired by looking into the available medical research on floatation and what’s emerging in the world of floating.
They started by dissecting research studies and showing what to look out for when comparing studies. Things like sample size, treatment duration, clinical vs. non-clinical populations can have a big impact in the results of the studies.
They then went on to explain some of the benefits of floating from pain to depression and anxiety, stress, sleep.
5:00 – Jake Patten & Abby Ziebell – Floating into Veterans Treatment Court
Jake and Abby have shared how the Milwaukee Country Veterans Treatment Court is targeting the challenges faced by veterans in the community. Veterans are twice as likely as the general population to experience houselessness. Many resort to criminal activity, including drug use. They’ve recently been focusing on holistic approaches to their veterans. Health outcomes in the US are generally pretty poor, so finding ways to integrate mindfulness and awareness into their day-to-day lives. They’ve found that in addition to pain management, veterans have experienced weight loss, stress reduction, and other significant benefits.
They are actively working to integrate floating into their integrative approaches to promote mindfulness.
5:30 – Kim Hannan – Getting it All Done with ADHD
“There’s something magical about float therapy and ADHD” is the statement that Kim opens with while pointing out that roughly half those in attendance have ADHD. If you have ADHD, there are two times: Now and Not Now. If it’s not happening in this moment, it basically doesn’t exist. One thing that can occur is if things don’t get done doesn’t happen, it can cause paralysis.
Kim has a long background of living with ADHD while also being a project manager, aka, making sure things get done. Kim shares a bunch of tips that have helped her stay productive.
Saturday, August 28th, 2021
9:00 – Beth Jones – Pandemics and purpose and profits – oh my!
This has been a year of drastic change. How do we take control of our journey during so much tumult? Beth Jones shares her insights into how she maintained her ambitions with the chaos we’ve been inundated with. Maintaining steadfast gols, drawing down, and reaching out for network support.
Beth laid out how to clarify purpose, define goals and maintain vision even in moments of major upheaval and drive profits at the same time.
9:30 – Michal Hineline – Acquisition; shifting industries, learning markets
How do we protect ourselves from burnout? How do we find the balance of who to market to without alienating a larger base of clients. Michal Hineline of Float Brothers Float Spa gave his perspective on creating a balance between marketing your float center and building your own practice.
Finding specific groups that you want your center to cater to can help break through the noise of everyday life. If you want to have more veterans in your center, let veterans float for free. If a floater is pregnant, give them a free float for themselves and their child.
Don’t let your fear and stress define you. Take them to the float tank and free yourself from it.
9:50 – Jeff & Jack Caldwell – The Benefits of Floating with your Children
Jeff Caldwell discusses floating and its benefits with his son Jack. Floating can be really powerful for people of all ages and children can have surprising insights into what floating can do. Be open minded to having children come float and do it without expectation and see what they discover through the process.
10:30 – Dr. Flux – Floatation-REST and the Immune System: A Second Look
Dr. Flux takes a second look at his Floatation REST study from 2018 to tease out some new findings. Many depression and anxiety conditions have been on the rise in the last 50 years and those responses are linked to the immune system. Why are they on the rise right now?
In order to understand that, we’ll have to go back to the early evolutionary life. At one point, all life was single celled bacteria, and that didn’t change until some of that bacteria started working together to create multicellular life. In many ways, the microbiomes in our life are our oldest friends.
For example, the soil bacteria that we would ingest through our food and then quickly expel would have to find ways to cooperate with our immune systems. Over millions of years, we became dependent on them. Instead of thinking of our immune system as a warrior that fights strangers, it’s better to think of it as a bouncer that keeps out some foreign elements and let in the friendly ones.
These friendly microbes would also bring in other foreign elements like pollen, pet dander, and gluten. When we are separated from these microbes in the soil, we see an increase in allergies, autoimmune disorders and mental health conditions.
Our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), increases our heartrate, activates our lungs, slows down our metabolism, and activates the immune system. In a prolonged state, this can cause sickness behaviors. It causes fatigue, increased pain sensitivity, reduces appetite, social withdrawal. and increases anxiety. If these symptoms look familiar, it might be because they strongly parallel depression. It is essentially where depression comes from. These evolutionary strategies have become maladaptive when stress is more cerebral and nebulous in modern day society.
Floating is an important component in recalibrating our immune responses. Floating is fantastic in reducing stress, which is the driving force behind this overactivated immune response. In a recent float study at LIBR with anxious and non-anxious patients, with some anxious patients having a high anxiety sensitivity.
When looking at how floating affected the immune response, there were no consistent changes in the immune markers that were tracked. With the people who have the highest anxiety sensitivity, floating may lead to a decrease in inflammatory markers, a promising finding about how floating can impact chronically anxious patients. While this is exciting, more research is needed. Fortunately, there’s a study wrapping up now that should be ready to present next summer.
11:10 – Glenn Perry – Extended Distraction-Free Floating
Glenn presented virtually and opened by promising to share a secret he hasn’t shared in 49 years, but first tells us about his recent float and emulating Da Vinci’s Vetruvian Man. He is working on the design on his new float tank. The best yet. Without floating, the problems he has to organize and solve would be endless mental chatter.
How do we remain present? How do we focus on future problems, unresolved relationships, physical discomfort without letting it overwhelm us? Practice and making floating a practice.
The advantage of cumulative daily floats is that there is an effect that builds upon itself. It allows for a significantly altered state. Because of this altered state, it can be disorienting to ask “how was your float?” It brings them back into their body and forces them out of this altered state.
11:40 – Justin Feinstein – Introducing the Float Research Collective
Dr. Feinstein is in the process of forming the non-profit Float Research Collective and is eager to share some updates. Within the last few months, a study on the brain and floating was released, which has helped maintain the momentum of floating in academia.
The Float Research Collective is in the process of forming a 501(c)3. The primary need right now is raising funds for the FRC. A main goal of the Collective is to get floating to be an accepted medical treatment that is covered by insurance. Additionally, the FRC will be able to help facilitate float research and potentially collect data in the float centers themselves and publish it. Finally, the Collective can be an educational resource for the float industry.
There are several different areas of research happening in floating right now. LIBR has done the first inpatient study with floating (which was presented yesterday by Dr. Khalsa). New research is coming about surrounding pain, burnout, mindfulness, and consciousness.
Even with the massive increase in areas studying floating, the FRC needs more researchers, more research, and replication. All of this needs to be published in respected, peer-reviewed journals, which means the studies need to be rigorously maintained. It’s now possible to do this on a wide scale thanks to cloud computing and being able to collect data through tablets at recreational float centers.
Imagine if floating could benefit people with COVID long haul syndrome and we could track it right now across the country. If we could get funding for randomized control trials and get them replicated, we would have the tools needed to get approval for medical approval. Especially if we were able to get meta-analyses of the benefits of floating for pain, stress, and anxiety.
There’s a lot of areas we can focus on with the Collective, and the road ahead will take a lot of work. But the first step is coming together to do the work.
The Collective has joined social media and is ready to be shared. Search for @clinicalfloatation or go to clinicalfloat.com for more info.
2:15 – Shoshana Liebner – Remembering Lee: Pioneer, Mother, Best Friend
Lee Perry’s family shared some lovely memories about her life and how impactful she was in the world, especially by creating the float industry decades ago. She was a loving mother, a counter-culture provocateur, and an inspiration to many.
3:00 – Dr. Lydia Caldwell – Utilizing floatation-REST to enhance recovery and promote resiliency in sport
In the last five or six years, we’ve seen a major increase in high-performance people using floating to recover from the physiological and psychological demands. How do we quantify these benefits and how can we manage expectations better for how we present this practice to other athletes?
Lydia Caldwell has been studying floating in athletes and how they experience the tank. Most experience a massive reduction in stress and restorative. In a single float, there were significant improvement in stress-related symptoms, but an overwhelming initial discomfort, so it might be worth it to look at how we prime the experience.
3:30 – Gloria Morris – Salty Stories of Buying & Selling
Gloria shares her story of joining the float industry and expanding out to opening 5 float centers, including two other centers that she purchased from existing float centers.
During the pandemic, she opened and closed a center within two weeks while also maintaining four other locations. She shares some insights about what she looks for when looking at buying a float center to incorporate into her brand. This is valuable advice for people looking to purchase an existing center as well as for other float centers who may be looking for an exit strategy.
4:00 – Roy Vore – Basic Microbiology
Science works by building a model of understanding one kernel at a time. Biology uses a model that has 90% certainty in data, which means that the model is reliant on good data to have a decent understanding of the outcomes.
Misinformation is a growing problem that affects our understanding.
How do we control germs in our day-to-day lives? Is it more effective to attempt to control germs or to control human behavior?
Recent products like steam cleaners UV wands have been advertized to sterilize surfaces, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, while the principle that underlies their efficacy is good, most of these quick and easy solutions aren’t actually effective.
6:00 – Toni Basile – Floatation Therapy in the Australian context
Making floating a viable medical treatment that is covered by insurance is a major, albeit elusive, goal for most float markets right now. Toni Basile laid out the challenges in attempting to make this happen in Australia. Resources like the FTA, the ClinicalFloatation website, and multiple educational videos were made available.
Right now, Australia will cover floating as a disability therapy so if centers get registered as disability providers, it can establish a trend and credibility. Once that’s done, it’s possible to broaden the insurance coverage for floating.
6:30 – Graham Talley & Ashkahn Jahromi – Graham and Ashkahn’s 57 Pillars of Success™!
Stephen Johnson couldn’t contain his excitement when introducing this talk. The enthusiasm was well deserved. Grashkahmn have transformed into the world’s leading motivational speakers/models/innovators.
While we’re limited by an ironclad NDA to share much of the specifics of the 57 Pillars, we can say that on top of being edutainment, the presentation itself is mindblowing.
Sunday August 29th, 2021
10:00 – McKenna Garland – Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy and Cardiac Interoception in Anxious Individuals
10:25 – Peter Marsh – Floating Through the Years
1:30 – Jeremy Jacob – Growing Your Business Through Memberships
The pandemic has thrown our world into a bit of chaos. Memberships have been a saving grace for lots of float centers throughout the country.
Jeremy Jacob has had a successful membership program and wanted to share some tips for how to approach them that might help others.
Start by focusing on excellence in your center. Make the experience unique and worthwhile. Diversify your offerings. Adding infrared saunas and massage can help add perceived value.
Plant seeds early on in your clients. Check-in with them. You’re doing a favor for them if they’re planning on coming back. Memberships will save them money on repeat floats and also motivate them to keep coming back in.
Build your team with collaborators. Provide incentives like cash bonuses. Gamify the process.
Make your memberships flexible. Let people trade them, turn them into gift cards, or use them for other services. Worry less about how your system can be abused by bad actors and instead focus on getting more people in to float more often.
3:20 – Murphy Monroe – Floating and My Autism
Murphy shares how floating impacts his life. He’s no stranger to being vulnerable at Float Conferences. As an autistic person, Murphy finds it challenging sometimes to be seen and heard and understood. Small things like an automatic vacuum cleaner can be completely debilitating. In addition to the day-to-day obstacles that would be completely invisible to neurotypicals, autistic people like Murphy often experience intense and overwhelming panic attacks.
He found, however, that when he floated often, the frequency of his panic attacks greatly reduced. Autistic people often have troubles with interoception. and the float helps him hear, identify, and feel his breath, his heart, and every other sensation his body. As he floats, he is learning to listen to his body. He even took a journey to buy his own tank.
Now that he’s learning to take care of himself, he can also learn to take care of others. After his father died, he and his siblings have had to learn how to take care of his mother with Parkinson’s and Murphy has been taking care of her himself. It wouldn’t be possible without floating.
3:35 – Stephen Johnson – Closing Comments
Stephen Johnson brings the conference to a close by reflecting on complexity, disorder, chaos, and order. We are in a liminal state. Certain aspects of the self allow us to ease into this state. A static moment in an ever changing reality. Floating may be the most powerful tool in allowing us to access this space. We become attention itself. “Floating is a wisdom practice.”
In the float, we can recognize we are an empty awareness. Watching experience continuously. A profound letting go. Embracing change.
The poetry of his words and the gravitas of his delivery is something we will never tire of. Thank you Stephen and everyone for this beautiful weekend. Lead with love and embrace uncertainty.