Today is my first experience stepping into a sensory deprivation tank.
I have always had a strong desire to reach deep down into the caverns of my mind. Whether that be dosing in psychedelics in my late teens and early twenties, or whether that be my daily mediation practice. Stepping into the unknown while simultaneously enhancing the senses is something that I encourage everyone to do at least once in their lifetime.
Now for the readers that have never heard of sensory deprivation tanks, check out some of these videos and podcasts by the flotation tank evangelist Joe Rogan. He champions the phycological and physical power of this type of practice.
Now, word on the streets is that flotation tanks simulate some of the same physical and mental stimuli of taking hallucinogens such as Psilocybin, MDMA or DMT. Additionally, it really is the only time in our life, post birth, that we can simulate what it's like to be in our Mother's womb. Completely weightless, sightless and with little to no audible sounds. Here is the wikipedia definition:
“An isolation tank is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature. They were first used by John C. Lilly in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation. Such tanks are now also used for meditation and relaxation and in alternative medicine. The isolation tank was originally called the sensory deprivation tank. Other names for the isolation tank include flotation tank, float tank, John C. Lilly tank, REST tank, and sensory attenuation tank.”
Quite interesting and I am thrilled to take the leap. Now mind you, this is my first experience and it's been made well aware, just like meditation, that this is more of a practice. The frequency of implementation directly correlates to the understanding and enhanced phycological effects.
Compare and Contrast
I am going to write a before and after post describing my preconceived notions of sensory deprivation tanks and then following it up with my thoughts on how my first experience played out. I have a 2 hour long session today at Float Lab in Venice, CA
There is a low grade anxiety that I am feeling prior to embarking on this journey. I want to step into it with none of the preconceived notions of a “trip” and I do have some concerns. It seems a little “woo woo” to me. Is this going to end up like a Miss Cleo commercial? Am I going to walk into a dank, pot soaked hippy palace and get fooled into thinking this will alter my consciences? I hope not.
Additionally, I am fidgety person by nature. I bite my nails and tap my foot constantly. I struggle with anxiety and my brain is hyperactive. Am I going to freak out in there? WTF am I doing... We'll see I suppose.
Okay, so I just got back home and couldn't wait to write about the experience. I went into Float Lab with a mild headache, as I don't think I ate enough and didn't get enough water in my system. This was a bad choice. Make sure you are in an optimal, healthy state of mind before going in. There was wasted brain cycles thinking about my headache and that took away from the overall experience. With that said, I was still able to slip into a deeper state of mind. Similar to drifting off into sleep. Similar to a deep state of meditation where the mind felt completely untethered from the body.
Once you first lie down and the door latches behind you, you slide in and immediately begin to float. There is a slight tingle from the salt in the water but nothing too overwhelming. The darkness is smothering and it's quite nice. I used to struggle with claustrophobia, so I was a little timid at first but slowly I found that to be the most pleasing quality. Complete darkness, not a sound….
Once you settle in, the effects really begin to reveal themselves. About twenty minutes in and you are in a complete state of relaxation. Fully left alone to your own thoughts. Most of my thoughts were pretty generic. Nothing too introspective, but that was to be expected. I understand now the next time I go, there will be less of the unknown and more introspection. Physically, you can feel each breath and heartbeat. There was something extremely visceral about that. Feeling each thump of the heartbeat brought me into my body and out of my mind. The first hour was pure bliss.
The second hour, to be honest, was a little fidgety. If you have any neck, back or shoulder pain (which I have from sitting in front of a computer for a living) it will definitely rear it's ugly head. We are so comfortable with gravity constantly pushing down on us. Once that is taken away, the body reacts. My neck and back throbbed quite a bit in the second hour. Luckily Jared, the really cool dude that works at Float Lab, suggested that I put my hands above my head prior to me going in – so I had that technique to fall back on and it certainly helped. The problem with that was, every time I alternated positions, it took me out of the experience. Although, there was something counterintuitive about the pain. A calming effect. I could feel tension being released. Very similar to mindfulness meditation, I focused on the changing sensations of tension and felt my neck, back and shoulders unwind.
Once my time was up, that's when the real enjoyment began. Jared yelled “Alright Alex, times up!”. I could barely hear it, really just a faint sound – like getting pulled out of a deep sleep. Still floating, I jarred the door open and the light was extraordinary. It was almost like a re-birth, seeing light for the first time all over again. A hot shower to wash off and I was done with my first sensory deprivation experience. Fuck yeah.
All in all, it's about what I expected – an amazing experiment with the potential of being something much larger. I will definitely be going back to Float Lab.