After 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/