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Why I float: Ed Hawley

Ed opens up about how starting a flotation centre – and floating itself – has shifted his perspectives on work, drive, and ego, and how the journey has led him to a more service-oriented way of being in the world.

My first float

I remember lying there for a bit, then sitting up out of the water. It was so incredibly quiet under the water, then when you lift your ears out, you can hear the water dripping off your head and it echoes all around the pod. It’s something that I don’t really think about it now, but the first time it was very weird.

I got quite disorientated. I kept thinking I was spinning around, which I quite liked. It does actually disconnect you from reality to a degree, which is something you don’t expect to be able to do in normal waking life; without dreams, without (some might say) drugs, alcohol, or whatever. It’s an altered state of consciousness without anything else happening.

I was thinking quite deeply in there about some personal relationships, stuff just crops up in there. When I left, I felt extremely calm and clear.

That was in Docklands, and I remember walking around Canary Wharf afterwards, which is somewhere I know quite well because of my old job. I was just really crystal clear and calm, and looking at Canary Wharf and thinking god, this is so busy and hectic. That was my first experience.

Time for a change

At that time, I was working very long hours, burning the candle at both ends in a big way. I was working 6, 7 days a week, but still going out 3 nights a week, still boxing and going to the gym, still going on mad party holidays, still being a little bit of a loose goose. But I was still successful in my job, one of the top salespeople making loads of money and all that. But I’d had two episodes where I’d been in hospital, basically with burnout. I always felt invincible, but that shook me a little bit. I wasn’t a bad person, but I wasn’t as pleasant to be around as I am now. I was a bit too egotistical and a bit too intense. I was thinking of starting to do something different.

When me and Plow were looking at starting a business with floating, that really was a change. I got right into floating, and consciousness, psychedelia, mindfulness and meditation and everything surrounding it. Then I really started to change and look at that area of life more closely.

I’ve got quite an obsessive personality, but I’ve started to obsess over different things now – healthier things. Business and wellbeing rather than money and partying and training relentlessly.

My relationship with floating

When Floatworks opened, I floated a lot. It was very hard in the beginning, I was again working 7 days a week, I used to be in here on my own at 2 o’clock in the morning, after having cleaned with the team, troubleshooting stuff that was going wrong. I lived in student shared accommodation next door to the float centre, didn’t have much money as I’d put it all into Floatworks – I was pretty wiped out, but it had to be done. I felt like I had to be close enough to Vauxhall to be ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.

We were under an awful lot of pressue at the beginning. I had to learn an awful lot. Starting a business is difficult. I saw it as a romantic story of being an entrepreneur starting a business! I enjoyed it, but I was absolutely knackered, and floating really helped to get me through. I was excruciatingly tired, we were under a lot of pressure at the beginning, the team wasn’t as big as it is now, we didn’t have cleaners and had to clean ourselves every night, there were a lot of teething issues with getting the tanks into the building… I had to learn an awful lot. Starting a business is difficult.

It’s become a tool for personal development and creative thinking, but also letting my mind run wild. When you’re working that hard, floating can be magical. I’d float 3 times a week and finding that was keeping me very level. I’d be exhausted, I’d float and get out and be calm and clear and refreshed.

After 6 or 7 months, I started floating less regularly, because I was in the centre less. One, maybe twice a week. In the evening I would use it for winding down, and I could get into a dreamy sory of landscape, and in the mornings I would use it for problem solving. I’d go in there and work with some issue I was having, then I’d focus on my breath and clear my head. It was a two-tone thing. Think about the thing, work through the thing, then draw a line under it and breathe your way through the rest of the session. It’s become a tool for personal development and creative thinking, but also letting my mind run wild.

At the end of the day, it helps me sleep as well.

Battling my ego

On a personal level, I used to want to be someone who ran a big successful business. I saw Floatworks as an opportunity to express my ambition in a more positive way than I had previously, but the plan was always how big can we get, how amazing can we make it?

But recently, I just don’t have as big an ego about it at all. I don’t really need to be seen as that person. I do still want this to be an awesome business. The level of ambition hasn’t reduced, but the drive has – it’s much less to do with my ego now, and more to do with serving others. The most rewarding thing about doing this is seeing customers that are genuinely happy, and having a team that genuinely enjoy working here, and helping them and mentoring them inside and outside work. It’s not all about me anymore.

I know I’ve got a set of skills that can grow this business, but the thing that rewards me are the people. If you read about happiness, really happy people are those who do kind acts for others, ae of service to others, and don’t have an ego they carry around where they want to be seen as something.

The culture of floating, and the act of floating itself are very service-driven things, and really can help people.