More Than An Internship
written by Terri Stangl, Quantum Floats, Bedminster, NJ —
I recently had a two-week residential internship at Art of Floating (AOF) in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. I ran a small float center in Michigan for several years by myself so I thought I knew how to run a float center. I was curious to see what it was like to be in a large, busy float center where the staff is applying the tools learned through Mental Arts.
Was I in for a surprise! The internship has been valuable to me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. It was not just about how to maintain and clean float tanks, or how to promote floating. Not only could I see lots of Differences between what I had done in my float center and how things were done at AOF, but the staff helped me to recognize and adjust many unresolved questions and holes in my thinking that I never saw when I was working by myself. This article highlights a few of the insights I gained during my internship.
The Tank Center Space – Everyone who comes to Art of Floating notices how beautiful the space is and how they feel as soon as they come in the door and spend time there. My clients in Michigan often said they felt “relaxed” in the space, but it was clearly evident I hadn’t thought through all the parts of the client’s experience at the depth the staff at AOF has done. They have thought about what every part of their space does.
The Difference at AOF starts from when the client pulls into the driveway and notices how the property is landscaped. It continues when clients walk in the door; what they see, what they do, and how they move throughout the space. AOF has thought through when and where and how the staff handles business transactions, their pre-float orientations, how they respond to questions and concerns, and what happens after the float session. The entire flow of the space, how clients move through it, and how the staff communicates graciously with everyone, is consistent. Everyone is welcomed as family. Clients often talk about how their experience at AOF is markedly different than what they have had in other float centers. Many drive one or two hours to come to AOF rather than go to a center closer to home because of that difference.
The flow of events – I thought I had created a relaxing space in my own tank office, but it was clear that my mental model of relaxed and professional was very different than at AOF. For example, I thought it was important to keep things on schedule. That it was my job to set a kind of pace. The AOF staff makes sure that no client ever feels rushed or that anyone wants them to move along for any reason. The office has lovely rooms where clients can talk or read or write, for as long as they like after a float. Everything meets clients where they are, and yet there is time for everything. The staff was able to show me where I was unconsciously insisting on my own ideas about time and scheduling and how things should be done. It made a difference for the clients when I slowed down and paid attention to where the clients themselves where. I couldn’t see it without their help. When everyone in the center does this, clients of all ages and backgrounds stay to talk after float sessions, stop by to visit and laugh with the staff throughout the day. They knew they were welcomed and accepted.
Unloading frenzy – When I arrived at AOF I was really concerned about doing things “right”. I had lots of ideas about what that meant, but I hadn’t really talked through my assumptions with anyone but myself. Since I had not resolved questions about what a float center does, my thinking was clogged up with worries and internal debates. That overload showed up in lots of ways. I forgot things. I misplaced things. I was taking too long to make even simple decisions. I second-guessed myself. I didn’t have enough circuitry to pay attention, so it wasn’t surprising that during the first couple of days at AOF there were some cancellations and not a lot of new bookings. The staff asked me lots of questions, and as I started to clear up things in my thinking, we started getting more calls and our schedule began to fill up. The staff said that was how it always worked. As the staff resolves things, they get more business. I saw how owning or working at a float center is not simply a job; it is really a lifestyle. I couldn’t do the job and have unresolved issues with my ex, my aging father, my coworkers and my clients bouncing around in my thinking. Compartmentalizing might be possible in other kinds of work, but certainly not in a float center. I saw what a huge advantage it is for anyone in the float business to talk regularly with float facilitators who have the training and skills to help me recognize and resolve things that were taking up my circuitry.
Observing and Finding out what clients need – One thing that the AOF staff excels at is paying attention to what the clients are looking for and asking about. I had assumed that when a client came to float they were looking to relax and perhaps for more advantageous ways to think. I had sets of questions I would often ask and ways I would try to steer the conversation or try to explain things. The AOF staff by contrast had the skills to observe how people carried themselves, what they talked about, and what they avoided. Instead of explaining things, the staff offered a different perspective and then to see what the client would do. It was never about what the staff wanted or thought about – it was meeting the clients where they were.
The differences at AOF I observed and experienced are not something that is easily summarized in writing. I think they must be experienced. It was too easy for me to tell myself that I knew what I was doing and what was going on around me until I was around people who could communicate effectively with me about what they did and what I was doing. They showed me what I was unconsciously transmitting through my words and actions, because of what was going on in my own thinking. I would highly recommend a residential internship with AOF for anyone who wants to understand and create the best of what a float center can be.