Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
In this second release of the Occasional Solutions Podcast, Juliet sits down with Angela McAllister the owner of Lucidity Float and Wellness Center in the Southside of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wendi Elmore, an employee at Float STL and graduate from the University of Missouri. She has since dedicated her time and efforts to spaces that support the self-care and economic empowerment of people of color, LGBTQIA and gender non-binary communities through tools that include yoga, meditation and now floating.
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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: Alright, welcome, everybody.
Graham: We have something a little bit different for you today.
Ashkahn: We were just out at Rise, the float gathering out in St. Louis. It’s a float event that happens every year, put on by Float STL out there.
Graham: And while we were off gallivanting around having fun, Juliet got a chance to sit down with all of the speakers after their talks and ask them a few questions.
Ashkahn: So, yeah, we have a couple speakers grouped together doing little group interviews that you’re going to get to listen to over the course of these episodes.
Graham: Yeah, so we hope you enjoy them. They’re definitely great to listen to even if you didn’t get a chance to come out to Rise and see the talks live.
Ashkahn: And you should definitely come out to Rise next year. It’s super fun. The website is risefloatgathering.com. They usually do it in the April/May timeline. We’ll definitely see you there if you decide to come.
Graham: And in the meantime, enjoy the interviews.
Juliet: Is this your first time at Rise?
Wendi: My second year.
Juliet: Second year.
Wendi: First time speaking.
Juliet: First time speaking.
Juliet: Cool, cool. And, Angela, we’ll start with asking you a question. You had a really interesting story, and it seems pretty rare that anybody would challenge the float center that they go to and just be like, “Okay, how about I just buy you out?”
Juliet: It’s a very…
Angela: It’s not nearly as aggressive as it sounds. It really wasn’t. It was… They were definitely in a place to where it was clear that they were wanting out. They were just looking for a means, and I think they were trying to make it… They didn’t have a plan B, and so they were trying to just make it as long as they could, but they were trying to put together things. I think they saw the writing on the wall that it was definitely not going to be working, and so I just didn’t want to see it go under.
Juliet: Mm-hmm. And you mentioned you have that very powerful story in your talk about the woman with the diamond earrings. It’s so rare at conferences or anything like this that we hear about those negative float experiences, but it does seem like they’re out there. It seems like almost a disservice to me as someone who has had very powerful, amazing, transformative floats and awful floats that we only focus on how great it can be and not some of the things that can be challenging about it.
Juliet: You said while you were up there talking with Kevin, that it hasn’t changed your practice or anything necessarily, but does it affect how you approach floating in general?
Angela: It makes me more aware of the path that people can go down and how vulnerable they really are in the tanks. I have had of those types of floats, but it wasn’t until I had been floating for a really long time. And to be honest, the float I had yesterday was very powerful in that way, you know where it was like half the time I was laughing and half the time I was crying. I actually didn’t mention that in there, but that was true. It was just I had tears running down my face, and then I thought, “No, you have to stop because Janna’s going to be out there and you don’t want to look like a crazy mess when you leave.”
Angela: But then I thought, too, “How often does this happen? Just let it go.” And it’s okay. You can have those amazing, fabulous, positive, fun experiences in the tank, but there’s another side to it, too, and those other ones can be just as powerful, and they can be just as cath-, not necessarily cathartic, but they can also take you to those places that you need to go as well. They can open up doors, they can make you realize things, they can make you see that you need to change and make some sort of a shift. Hopefully, that’s what the result was with that one.
Angela: A couple of folks have come up to me since and have mentioned some different ways that I can move forward with this one. I’m definitely going to need to do something with it because I felt too horrible to let it go, I can’t do that. We’ll see where it goes.
Juliet: Wendi, do you work directly with Float STL, or are you more in the community engagement, or do you work the shop?
Wendi: No, I do, I’m there on the weekends. It’s my part-time job.
Juliet: So you’ve seen all this, too.
Juliet: What’s your perspective on that?
Wendi: Just to make sure I’m clear, what’s my perspective on good-
Juliet: Yeah, the challenging floats, the good and the bad.
Wendi: Yeah, I try to tell people not to have any expectations because your mind is 1) programmed to protect you, so it’s naturally going to find some way out, especially when it feels like it’s being challenged by a lack of stimulation, it’s going to grab on to things. I think it’s only natural that things that challenge us come up. I think that’s a part of the healing process. I think that it’s very necessary.
Wendi: You can have an amazing float, but amazing could be defined differently. I’ve definitely had those floats where I’m like, “Whoa, that…” I cried a lot, “that was a great challenge.” What it actually showed me was a gateway to see where some trauma still lied, things that had not been processed, things that I was still in the process of letting go.
Wendi: I always say that floating is a process of letting go over and over and over again, and if you go in with expectations about what it should be like, then it’s likely that your mind is going to counter that. It’s just best to essentially go with the flow, literally. Both literally and figuratively. Whatever comes up, let it come up. I think that’s the biggest challenge for people in meditation. There’s a misconception that when you meditate that you’re supposed to stop thinking, or when you get distracted that that’s it, but no, the practice is when it comes up, you let it go. The same thing is for floating.
Wendi: I think all things are possible and it’s going to depend on your vulnerabilities. Are you exhausted? Have you had something on your mind that you haven’t tapped into? Did you have a great day? That’s going to impact your float. And that’s why I think that meditation and journaling are integral parts of the floating process because it allows you to get centered. It allows you to start practicing letting go before you even hit the tank.
Wendi: Journaling allows to do essentially a brain dump, letting everything go. Anything that could potentially distract you while you’re floating, you’ve already got it out. You’ve already written down your to do list. You’ve already dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s. I think practices like that are really important to floating. It’s really nice to hear that so many of us, like you, Angela, are finding different ways to make it better. I think that’s really the question is, “Your float was fine, but how can we have made it different? How could we have made it better? Is there different music that we can play? Can we change the temperature?”
Wendi: I think it’s all kind of like trial and error, but I think we’re all learning a lot, and it’s nice to see that we’re putting it into practice.
Juliet: Mm-hmm. And, Wendi, I thought what you had to say about community engagement and representation with the communities of color that you’ve been working with, I think that that’s really powerful. I think we saw even how quick it is for people who aren’t in those communities to see a blind spot in how they approach. While not exactly the same thing, I’ve personally tried to work on that kind of engagement in the queer community in getting people from there into float tanks and there’s a lot of hesitation because of the perception. I don’t work the shop directly, so it’s a little more challenging for me to just have someone there.
Juliet: Those are useful reminders. Since these conversations for people who aren’t here now, what would you say are some useful tips or takeaways for bringing in those communities that you would like to engage with?
Wendi: Sure, a lot of it does come from word of mouth. I think it comes down to the float center. I heard you, Angela, say that you have different ways that you’re trying to get people to come in.
Wendi: Whether it be free floats. Float St. Louis has an ambassador program, we have a referral program. A lot of engagement actually comes from word of mouth. So, it’s really about sharing those experiences. For me, I have the training and the knowhow, what to say and what not to say because a lot of people do fear the water. That’s across communities, that’s not necessarily isolated to communities of color. It’s just more impacted in communities of color.
Wendi: I would say just continue to share your experiences. Continue to share your learns. If it happens to be someone of color, or I’m very passionate about the LGBT community, too. I’m a queer woman as well. It’s just about listening and being present when someone is sharing what they’re going through or something that’s challenging them.
Wendi: The first step is to just listen, listen intently and not with the intention of speaking in response to try to fix it. Then, after you’ve listened, then you can introduce your tools and your mechanisms for wellness. I think that’s how I’ve been able to really pull people in. It’s really just sharing that I’ve had floats where I’ve cried. I’ve had floats where I was like, “Oh, I don’t think today, I’m going to get out.” Those things. And I stay in because I know I want to come out. I’ve had floats where I’ve gotten out.
Wendi: It’s sharing those vulnerabilities with other people that I think makes people feel comfortable because they’re not expected to be perfect. They’re not expected to go in and expect perfection or expect a quick change when they float. It’s all really a practice, so continue to speak with other people.
Wendi: Get involved. If you’re already involved with your community, and like I was saying on stage, if you’re already involved in those communities or you know someone who’s involved in yoga, meditation, and they’re of color or they’re in the queer community, engage them. Let them know that you are intentionally seeking out these partnerships so you can have a greater impact on communities that you are not directly involved with but that you care about just as a human being. I think that makes a huge difference. You don’t have to be the authority, you just have to be a presence.
Juliet: Right, yeah, I think that’s really great.
Juliet: One of the things I did want to ask about is since we’re here as trying to build up the industry, how do you see the industry itself changing and what do you think the needs are for the future generation of floaters and float center owners?
Angela: Well that’s a big question.
Juliet: Oh, it’s got to be big.
Angela: It’s a huge question, yeah. Let’s see… I do see this growing quick. Clearly, it’s a very fast growing industry, and I do see that we need to be very careful because, my opinion is that if you’re in this business for the wrong reasons, it can come toppling down pretty quick. I think if you have places where people are literally just signing you in and pointing you to a room, and those clients are not being prepared and given the tools to handle their experience, it’s not going to work, it just isn’t. And that’s exactly what I saw happening at my float center in Chattanooga which is what spurred me to take action.
Angela: I think what is needed is just simply being aware of that and not thinking that this is a business, that you’re just here to make money, it’s a fad that people are going to jump in and make a lot of money and then they’re going to take off. That’s not what this should be at all. It’s so much more than that.
Angela: I think there needs to always be that mindfulness with it. And I think that everyone who is here understands that. It’s getting those who aren’t involved in the float community, those who are not involved in the float collective or who don’t pay attention to the podcasts or who don’t come to the float conferences. I think getting those guys to understand this concept, too, is kind of important.
Angela: I’m not really sure. I’ve already taken over one float center, I think that’s enough.
Wendi: That’s a good start, yeah.
Wendi: I’d like to add that it’s like you said, I think that people right now people are jumping on this opportunity and seeing it as a great business opportunity. Eventually, it’s going to plateau and then we will learn what’s a float worth, you know? How do we market to other communities? How do we continue to engage? I think, I really believe that the more we talk about it, the more engaged we can get other communities involved, people who aren’t thinking about floating.
Wendi: I think the biggest thing is is that a lot of people are afraid to be by themselves. Whenever someone says that to me, “Oh no, I don’t think I can handle being by myself.” That’s the practice. You have to get there. And the more that we’re sharing our vulnerabilities, the more marketable it becomes because people feel that it’s more accessible to them, it’s not some luxury that you can only get here and there as ambassadors grow, as referral programs grow, and different float centers around the nation. I think that that’s going to be a great benefit to the growth of the float centers around the nation.
Wendi: I definitely think it comes down to accessibility.
Wendi: Who are you trying to market to? And that can change. One minute you might be marketing it to a specific demographic of a specific income, and that works because it’s exclusive. But if you really want to make sure that floating centers continue to grow, then it’s going to come down to changing who your target audience is. And that means that the target audience has to be more accessible. That might mean cutting costs because, again, you’re going to find out. I mean, tulips are not what they were worth as they were back in the day. You know, they were exclusive, you could only get…
Wendi: Things change and I think as long as people remain open to that and remain open to the idea of accessibility, then float centers will grow and benefit many more people.
Wendi: I mean, marketing is everything, too. How are you marketing, who are you marketing to? For instance, I’ve seen Float use my image, and I’m okay with that because I told the guys when they hired me that my intention is to make sure that people who look like me know that they are welcome to float, they are welcome to take care of themselves. In addition to the other tools and resources that I’m providing them, they know floating is also a part of that.
Wendi: I think it’s being very intentional, like you said, being very mindful, being very vulnerable, being okay with that. But also knowing what to say and what not to say because certain things can be triggering. When somebody tells you that they are claustrophobic you don’t necessarily want to say anything that will trigger their claustrophobia, right?
Juliet: For sure.
Wendi: So it’s just being intentional, yeah.
Juliet: I think that’s about all the time that I have available for this. We do want to try to keep these conversations a little short and accessible. But thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it.
Angela: Thank you.
Wendi: Thank you, yeah.
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