13229983435_5c63df9b7c_zAfter shedding my clothes, I stepped into the foot-deep warm water, sat down, and pulled the heavy pod door shut with a loud “thunk.”  Easing back to lay in the unusually soft water, I felt completely supported as if I was resting on an under inflated air mattress.

As the salty water enveloped my body, I became acutely aware of every little cut that I hadn’t known existed a second ago. Extending my right arm, I switched off the faint green light which was casting an eerie glow in the watery cocoon. Total darkness.  Having already shoved the spongy ear plugs into my ears, I closed my eyes, relaxed, and began an hour without any stimulation in a sensory deprivation or float tank.

I’d planned to spend my session meditating, but, before I could get down to serious business, I had to play a little.  Floating comfortably spread eagle on my back, but not stretched to the max, I couldn’t touch the walls of the tank with my hands or feet. If I intentionally sank my leg, it quickly bobbed to the surface again. Settling in, I let my arms and legs land where they wanted as I began to focus on my third eye, the space on my forehead at the top of the bridge of my nose in between my eyes, and my breath.

I’d read that it was neat to hum or chant in the tank because of the cool echo effect.  When I did, the noise felt too loud and unsettling.  So, I concentrated on my breath.  In.  Out.  In.  Out. I’d read that a sensory deprivation tank experience can sometimes be similar to doing hallucinogenic drugs.  I waited for the show to begin. Nothing, but dark and quiet. After falling asleep a couple of times, I got into a good meditation state.  How long that lasted, who knows?  Time didn’t really exist.

Starting at my toes and working up my body, I performed a mental body scan.  Realizing that my torso and neck were tensed, I instructed my muscles to let the water do all the work and found a deeper level of relaxation. I then ran through a gratitude list, affirmations, visualizations, and found myself wondering how much longer I had and if anyone ever exited the tank early.  Soon, a voice came over the speaker, saying “Ms. Hampton, your float session is over.”

First developed by researchers at Washington’s National Institute of Mental Health, floating has been around since the 1950s and is making a comeback. The beneficial effects of floating have been scientifically validated for mental and physical health, resistance to addictive habits, accelerated learning, and elite sports performance.  Floating has also been shown to reduce stress and persistent pain with no side effects.

I just wanted to experience floating and didn’t have any specific ailments I was trying to improve.  I understand that, to see real benefit, you have to float a number of times with regularity.  A friend, sore from a car accident, said that a single float helped her tremendously. While I didn’t get the light show I had hoped for, my float experience was enjoyable, and I would jump at the chance to do it again, especially if dealing with a physical ailment.

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stillunusual/

14 Comments

  1. Debbie, thanks for sharing your experience in a sensory deprivation / float tank. I’ve read a bit about these, and they sound interesting (and fascinating). Is there a place locally (Greensboro, NC area) that has such a tank?
    Thanks!

  2. Hi Sis!

    I’m doing a float today at 6pm! Synchronicity abounds in the real world 🙂

  3. Sounds fabulous. I’ll have to see if there are places in Milwaukee that offer that experience. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Interesting indeed. If you can float for an hour and do this regularly, does it mean you can float through life the same way:) ? Seems so relaxing, serene and comforting. Thanks for sharing your experience with us Debbie. I’ll have to look out for float tanks out there – how is this different than floating in a pool let’s say :)?

    • I like the idea of floating through life!! Vishnu, the water in the tank has a higher salt content and makes it very supportive of your body weight. It literally holds you up. I couldn’t keep a body part submerged for long, even if I wanted to. You really should experience it. Great for introspection.

  5. This is why I always have a deep bathtub in my home. I turn off the lights and float. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s a cheap approximation of some value. Even partial sensory restriction improves focus. It also helps if I perform the “non-attachment” ritual of allowing thoughts to enter and drift through, without paying attention to them after noticing they are there. We’ve all got stuff we need to isolate from:
    http://youtu.be/AVKM33GSpYM

  6. Oh….thanks for the idea, Mikey. 🙂 I have a big garden tub. I’ll try that!

    Glad you’ve found something similar that works for you. Wonder if it would help to add salt to the water? I already add epsom. Maybe more?

    • Having looked it up, epsom is the salt used in commercial tanks. (I don’t know how much to add for buoyancy.) The other thing to regulate with a tub is the temperature of the water. It should closely match your own skin temperature, so that when your arms float out and away, it reduces the sense of touch.

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