Ever since Fringe brought sensory deprivation tanks to my attention I have been wanting to find a place and schedule an appointment, and as luck would have it there was exactly one place around where I lived that offered floating therapy. That's what they call it now floating, and while I didn't pop into another universe, I did have an interesting experience.
For those who don't know what floating is, you go into a sound proof, light proof tank thats filled with some water mixed with Epsom salt heated close to body temperature. When you enter you lay back and float in a sound proof light proof environment. You are not completely deprived of your senses but they are extremely diminished. The goal is to provide a place of reflection, ease body aches, and even meditate. What appealed to me the most is the idea of just shutting myself off from all the stimuli and that was the hardest part for me, more on that a little further down.
As this was my first time I scheduled a two hour session so I could give my self time to really experience the process . First the owner had me shower before hand at the facility for hygiene purposes. The tank water is filtered, but this adds to the cleanliness aspect and also you are extra clean so theoretically nothing messes with the epsom salt content. I was provided with a robe and instructions on how to float. Only rule is don't scratch your face because the salt will make it blow up and will distract from the floating experience. Other than that I was pretty much in control of the experience and time. If I at anytime felt uncomfortable in the tank I was welcome to climb out and finish the session. If I finished the entire two hour session music would be played to alert me and I was to make my way to shower again to rinse off the salts. The tank itself I was told was pretty standard: seven feet long, eleven feet tall, and filled with epsom salt solution eleven inches deep.
I will say that when I entered the tank I did feel a bit silly. I was buck naked climbing into what looked like a vault. The water was warmer than I expected and it felt nice. I didn't immediately feel the salt until I began to float on my back. They tell you to experiment with positions for your arms and I went with them straight up as if raising them to give a double high five. Once I got comfortable there was no sound except the thudding of my heart and the my breathing. It was so dark that when I closed my eyes and opened them white spots would appear as if my brain was trying to make light happen. And the only thing I smelled was the slight tang of the salt. I was also very aware that I was floating in water.
My brain though refused to shut off and I tried and tried but it didn't happen. In fact I was overcome with a sense of boredom and frustration. But then I realized I didn't feel my body anymore. To be more accurate my body had reached the same temperature as the water and was one with the salt. I was very aware that if I moved my arm I could barely feel it all. All I really felt was the water. I did have an overwhelming sense of relief and peace after this happened and then my mind really wandered. I didn't hallucinate, but I did feel as though I was lucid dreaming. I wasn't completely asleep but in that between state where you might fall totally asleep and don't. What struck me following this phase passed was how I really freaked out internally about not knowing what time it was or even tell how much time had passed.
The urge to look at my phone was strong but passed. Then the urge to play some music in my earbuds came and passed as well. This is when I realized that I never learned how to just sit and turn off my brain. I mean I can sit in silence but I'm always over thinking things, thinking about what I'm going to do tomorrow, reading or listening to music, or other wise keeping my mind occupied. I didn't have any other emotional or mental hurdles but it was very nice to be cut off from the world and stimuli. I also did not expect to have any as I never have done this or any time of meditation that could be related to this.
The other thing I noticed towards the end of the session was how I began to feel only my joints. It was a very strange feeling to not feel anything but this and when I got out of the tank at the end of the session my muscles all felt like jelly. It felt good though. My back pain was definitely reduced and the soreness from all the running I have been doing was subsided. This part of the experience I was very happy with. Although I don't know how it would compare to getting a rigorous massage, it did feel really amazing. The other thing I noticed was how disoriented I was. It took me about fifteen to twenty minutes to get my bearings. Once I had my second shower I paid and left.
I would recommend this to people who could afford it because while not always pricey it is going to cost between 40-70 dollars an hour, though most places reduce the price for two hours. Although I wouldn't advise people who have problems with total and utter darkness or claustrophobia to try this without some major preparation. All in all I was very pleased with my experience. It really did lower my stress levels and I will try do it again in a month or so if I can save some money up.
If you have any specific questions I'd be happy to answer them in the replies.