Floating away

No sights, sounds, or smells. Not a single distraction—except your mind.
Lindsay MacPhee, disgruntled with the ho-hum of nine-to-five life, cut ties with her engineering background in an attempt to, literally, float her worries away.
After moving back to Halifax for an engineering job that quickly fell through, MacPhee took a “calculated risk” and opened Atlantic Canada’s first floatation therapy centre.

That was almost two years ago, and as the Floatation Centre nears its second birthday, the King Street business is busier than ever. “I just want to do good stuff,” says MacPhee. “I want to be an enabler of positivity.”
Born in Shubenacadie, MacPhee spent her 20s living and working as an environmental engineer in British Columbia. After a divorce, she was looking for a change. She turned to meditation, and around this time a friend gifted MacPhee with her first float.
One’s first experience with the relatively new form of relaxation therapy is unforgettable. And even more so for MacPhee: she’s claustrophobic.
“I lay there completely terrified,” she recalls. “But after I settled in, and realized I was in control, I fully gave myself to the experience. It was during that float I had my first inkling to move back to Nova Scotia.”
Picture an enclosed bathtub, filled with 25 centimetres of lukewarm water and 350 kilograms of dissolved Epsom salt. You strip down, climb in, and close the door so you’re surrounded by darkness. For 75 minutes all you do is let your mind relax while your body floats.
After her first experience, MacPhee was hooked. The desire to move home was increasing, but she didn’t think she could do so until she had an engineering job. MacPhee never dreamed a few years later she would be back, owning Atlantic Canada’s first floatation centre.
“It’s funny how life works,” says MacPhee. “When the job I moved for fell through, I looked for a place to float. At the time, the closest centre was in Montreal. That’s when the idea really started to solidify.”
The practice of floating was invented in the 1950s by a neuroscientist named John Lilly. He discovered that if you remove all sensory input, the mind can reach levels of relaxation only obtained in deep meditation.
Peter Suedfeld, a Hungarian psychologist, coined the term REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) in the 1970s, and the practice soon exploded in popularity. Suedfeld says the meditative powers of floating can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, plus increase creativity. The magnesium content in the water helps ease chronic pain, arthritis, hypertension, and insomnia.
Jeremie Saunders, a host of the local podcast, Sickboy, says floating is one of the most effective forms of relaxation therapy he’s tried. After being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Saunders has tried various meditative practices. He says the weightlessness he feels while floating resets the muscle tension he gets from coughing. “I had my first float and I was like, ‘oh, I get it,’” he recalls. “’This is why everyone loves this.’”
Saunders and his Sickboy cohosts recently invited MacPhee into the studio to record an episode about the “awesomeness” of floating. As part of a new promotional plan, MacPhee dubbed the three hosts “float ambassadors,” along with a few other local personalities. She wants to work with people who are doing “good shit” in the community.
Ambassadors get to float once a month, and in return, they are educated about floating and share personal experiences that resonate with them with people they believe might benefit from the practice. MacPhee supports the ambassadors in their endeavours as well. “We’re continually lifting each other up,” she explains.
MacPhee says owning a business is the most stressful thing she’s ever done, but the rewards are exponential. The reciprocal support within the local and spiritual community inspires her. A membership at the Floatation Centre not only includes monthly floats, but a juice from enVie restaurant, a granola bar from Made With Local, and other collaborations with local businesses. Sheena Russell, the co-founder of Made With Local, has been a fan since day one. She was on maternity leave with her first daughter and looking for anything to keep her “head above water.” After the opening, Russell visited the centre, hands full of beer and granola bars for MacPhee.
“I started a business too, I knew it was exactly what she needed,” says Russell. They’ve been friends ever since.
Although their businesses are nothing alike on paper, they draw customers that share the same values, so Russell and MacPhee collaborate whenever possible.
“Lindsay is very involved with the community,” says Russell. “Halifax is small, there’s a lot of opportunity to raise each other up.” Saunders agrees. “What’s cool about Halifax is that we aren’t oversaturated,” he says. “When something new comes to the city, people get really stoked. It’s a really supportive, and also very curious, city.”
With two years under her belt, MacPhee sees lots of room to grow, but for now, she’s focusing on float education. “Different practices work for different people, but the bottom line is: I want to make sure everyone is happy,” she says. “Even if you aren’t a spiritual person, you never know how much floating could benefit you. It completely changed my life.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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