From meditation apps to sound healing, I've tried many ways to meditate – and always failed in my quest for calm.
My mind wanders as soon as I settle down and my thoughts keep whirring until I'm forced to abandon my well-intentioned meditation session. So, when I was invited to try water meditation, I was intrigued.
I've always loved being in water, from swimming to splashing in the sea, to lounging in hot tubs, so wondered how it could help me find my inner calm.
What is water meditation?
"Water meditation is the act of using a body of water, the sounds it makes or the image of water, to relax both body and mind," explains Andrea Trillo, Marketing Director at Aire Ancient Baths Groups in London.
"Water has the ability to enhance the impact of meditation. It helps people who are not used to meditation techniques to unlock a whole new level of inner peace in a safe way while connecting with their feelings."
Why does water help us meditate?
"When our body is in water, our heart rate drops and we become instantly calmer," says Andrea. "This state of calm is exactly what we need to fully engage in our meditation sessions.
"Water is a symbol of the infinite flow that moves through blockages and unblocks our inner peace, and using this element in our meditation process makes it easier for us to concentrate on the sensations around us rather than on our thoughts and worries."
Plus, water at body temperature helps our muscles relieve accumulated stress and lets us sink into relaxation and introspection, Andrea adds.
What are the benefits of water meditation?
Just like traditional meditation, water meditation can help clear our mind and promote mental clarity.
"By focusing on the sound and sensation of the water, we can quiet the noise of our minds and achieve a more centred state of being, making it much easier for us to clear away the information overload that we all face in a world more connected than ever," Andrea says.
"It can help us manage stress levels, gain a new perspective, increase awareness of our own bodies, and reduce any negative emotions we may be feeling as it soothes our aching and strained muscles," she continues.
Does the temperature of the water matter?
We're always told a warm bath will help us drift off at bedtime, and the temperature of water in meditation is key.
"Hot and warm baths are known to reduce cortisol levels, while cold water stimulates the nerves invigorating and boosting circulation," says Andrea.
Because Aire has baths of all temperatures, each has a key property to achieve both body and mind relaxation, Andrea explains.
What happened when I tried water meditation?
Intrigued by how water meditation could help me finally get to grips with meditating, I donned my swimsuit and headed to Aire's Ancient Baths in central London.
The whole place was sublimely serene and I felt my shoulders sink down from my ears the minute I entered. Everyone spoke in hushed tones and the whole place was lit by flickering candles. Phones are forbidden (hence there are no photos of me there!) and you can't help but feel a sense of calm wash over you as you walk the atmospheric halls.
The underground baths are a labyrinth of pools, with everything from freezing cold plunge pools, 40-degree pools, tepidariums and floatation pools as well as super bubbly rooms which were like giant jacuzzis.
Every pool was blissful, with soothing music playing out over the speakers, but the floatarium was where I finally found myself able to meditate.
The floatarium is a pool with a high salinity concentration which increases the density of the water, which allowed me to float effortlessly while listening to soothing music even underwater, thanks to underwater speakers.
I felt held by the salty water. Even without trying, when I lay back I bobbed on the surface, drifting about the pool with zero effort. And I found my mind switching off. When I did resurface, I wondered how floating had become the thing that finally helped me meditate.
Why is floating so calming?
"Floating has been shown to have many benefits for both body and mind, as buoyancy allows us to relax our muscles completely as we are supported by the water," explains Andrea.
"This can help ease muscle tension and take the pressure off joints, reducing pain. Early research has also shown that floating regularly can help to reduce signs of anxiety and stress."
I for one agree, and while I loved the giant jacuzzi and steam rooms, it was the floatarium I kept coming back to during my two hours at Aire.
I've had floatation tank sessions before, but find being closed in the pod claustrophobic, so that fact that Aire's floatation tank has high, ornate ceilings was ideal.
For anyone struggling with meditation, I highly recommend taking a trip to Aire's sanctuary away from stressful life.