I have long been very curious about the concept of ensconcing oneself into a sensory deprivation tank to see what the experience was like. Self deprivation tanks are usually a tank that allows you to float in salt water without sound, or light. The water is heated to your own skin temperature and external stimuli is kept to an absolute minimum.
Sensory deprivation tanks were in vogue back in the 70s to mid 80s and are not making a resurgence again. As we are a society who is near some kind of breaking point with stimuli, so much so that we can barely read a string of text without skimming-- it makes sense that some of us would opt to retreat into a space where there is, well, nothing. And when there is nothing-- what does one encounter?
I have been keeping my eye on the East Coast Float Spa for some time now, waiting with baited breath for the facility to open in West Chester, PA. East Coast Float has 3 rooms and while not having a “tank” as many places do (which would trigger my claustrophobia) they have a large glass door allowing you to step into the wide, shallow pool filled with ultra salted water, at 10 inches deep and with its level of salt, anyone would bob on the surface like a cork (trust me if you are the type where you don’t float you WILL float in this.)
The higher sealing definitely helped with initial anxiety about the process but when the automatic light turned off I was left in pitch black darkness. Also, don’t worry about falling asleep and then drowning, you are bobbing really high up in the water, it would be exceptionally hard to drown in this float room.
The experience of floating is vastly different for everyone and highly personal. Some people fall asleep, get bored, meditate, have spiritual experiences and even hallucinations. For the first 20 minutes or so my brain did her normal thing, randomly chittering from one thought-tree to another as I lay there in the warm quiet, then something shifted. At points in the process I realized, “hey, I was not thinking anything right then, and I am awake!” for those who struggle with obtaining that theta state one gets in meditation, floating definitely helps you to reach it faster.
East Coast Float also has a handy booklet with guided meditations and the like to help you get started if you are not sure where to begin. I went in and ran through my standard meditation process in between the monkey mind and the quiet mind, then something very weird happened… it might have been towards the end of the float, I am not sure but as I was laying there in a very quiet state all the sudden I saw a flash of bright white light out of the immediate left side. It was so bright and so...real…
I actually jumped as it scared me. Of course, “nothing” was there at least not physically. I laid back down to settle in and about 10 minutes it happened again. But soon after the real light came on and my time was over. There were other things, too, but they are just for me, dear reader. But I cannot WAIT to go back and tune out again.
They say the first time is just getting used to the process and subsequent floats take you deeper into your process. I left the first experience feeling very relaxed, invigorated, deeply aware of the present moment and excited to float some more. It felt deeply luxurious in our over extended world to take an hour to be just about the inner life. I highly recommend you give this a try…
What do you think would happen if you didn’t have your phone, your ipad, your everything? Who is the essential focal point that is you? Taking time to give our senses a break helps us get to know that part of ourselves better. I certainly hope you give it a try.
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