After one of our summer interns continually advocated for total sensory deprivation, I called up the local company that does it, The Float Spot, and made an appointment.
The idea is pretty straightforward. You get into a tank filled with Epsom salt water in complete darkness and chill. It’s supposed to be fairly meditative. Some athletes will use it because there have been studies supporting improved performance, musicians will go to boast creativity, and everyday folks will use them to relieve stress. For the first 10 minutes and last couple, there is music playing and a dim blue light to ease you in and out.
So, this morning, I went floating. Luckily, I wasn’t in a Steven King book and didn’t have to worry about Pennywise.
To start off, I had to sign/initial a form agreeing to various things, such as I didn’t have any major health issues and whatnot. There’s also a $500 fine if they find any bodily fluids in the water. There’s a reason they had to put that in. Ya’ll are disgusting.
Anywho, the guy walks me back, explains everything, and leaves me be.
I quickly rinse off in the shower in the corner of the room and go into my tank. Right after I close it, I realize I forgot to put in my ear plugs so I have to open it back up, try to will them to me, admit that The Force is not strong with this one, get back out of the tank, and put the earplugs in.
Okay, now I’m ready to rock. I close the tank again (for the second time) and begin my float.
At the start of my sensory deprivation attempt, I feel pain. In a boxing class yesterday, I cut my hands a little bit. Normally no big deal, but the Epsom salt is unforgiving. My legs are also stinging, due to shaving my legs the night before.
My face itches so I bring my hand to my face to scratch it. Now my eyes are also burning. Luckily, they anticipate such idiocy and have a spray bottle on the side with fresh water. I spray my face for a few seconds and lie back again.
So here I am, in this big tank, body and eyes burning, vaguely hearing seagulls and waves, a dim blue light revealing my naked, floating body, thinking, “Well, this is fun. I have to be in here for an hour?
The first 10 minutes go by very slowly. Then, around the time the Epsom salt stops bothering me, the light goes off suddenly. I am in complete darkness. There is no difference between my eyes open or not. I close them to reduce the potential of getting the water in my eyes again.
The music stops playing.
I lie in the water, waiting for some profound thought. The thing that comes to mind? I want to know what it feels like to do a crunch when you’re floating. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot easier. I do a few of those until I worry I’m wasting the experience.
It feels like there is a lot of pressure on my neck so I pull my head deeper in the water. Once again, I get that damn salt in my eyes. Only this time, it’s completely dark. I feel for the walls until I orient myself and blindly spray my eyes again.
“Okay, let’s do this!” I think to myself with fresh determination. I don’t want to be bad at anything, even if it’s just getting into a good meditative state. I take a few deep breaths.
Even though I rationally know I’m staying fairly still and in a small tank, my body feels like it is slightly spinning – almost like when you’ve been drinking and close your eyes, but not as extreme.
Worried I won’t be able to get out at the end, thinking I somehow managed to completely rotate, forgetting there is a panic and light button, I reach toward the sides to reorient myself. The rational part of my brain reminds me that the light will come on at the end so I’ll be able to get out easily. This is the only time in my life I’ve felt any hint of claustrophobia.
I take another deep breath and try again. The only thing I can hear is the sound of my breath, my heartbeat, and the sound of my body digesting the eggs from breakfast.
I’m not sure the exact moment everything started ‘working,’ for lack of a better word, but I eased into a wonderful state. It wasn’t a lack of full consciousness or elimination of thoughts, but rather, it felt like I could filter through them.
My description isn’t going to do it justice at all, but I’ll try. At work, we have our backlog of items we need to accomplish, current projects, and completed items. My colleague and I use sticky notes to easily transfer each item across the sections on the wall. That’s how my thought process was. It was wonderful.
I would take an item, think through it, come up with a decision, and push it away to go to the next area. It’s as if I would acknowledge the thought was there, give it the attention it needed, then move on.
What I really hoped to get out of the experience was clarity over the biggest point in my life right now that I’ve been stressing over. I went through a pros/con list for both sides. In this case, the decision was that whatever happens, happens. It’ll be great no matter what. There are some things out of my control and I need relax over them. Honestly, I already somewhat come up with that conclusion, but I am really confident about it now. So, in this case, my decision was a non-decision.
Another area, I thought about for a bit, figured out what to do. Done. Moved on.
This thought process continued easily through some areas I’ve been worrying about and I can genuinely say that I feel a lot better. Whether that is from more confidence in a decision or a new idea in the first place, I kept moving my mental sticky notes across to the completed section.
I had two breaks in the state. When I sneezed (only once because I’m a monster) and the other when I thought I was hearing some odd water rushing noise, though I’m not sure where that came from. Fortunately, each time I was able to go back to my thought cycle with ease.
After awhile, there was actual music playing again and the blue light lit the tank. While it was dim at the beginning, it was so bright when it came back on again. I had to keep my eyes closed for a minute or so until they adjusted.
The water started filtering – my sign to get out – and I pushed the tank back open. When I took the earplugs out, it was startling how noisy everything seemed.
I hopped in the shower to get the Epsom salt off. Once I got dressed, I walked out of the room and checked out. The guy asked me about my experience and deemed I was more analytical as opposed to creative. Can’t I be both? 🙂
I definitely want to go back and try it again. Though I had an interesting start, I got to a really good place. I assume I would be able to get there sooner each time I went….unless I really wanted to do more Epsom salt water crunches. Gotta get that six pack somehow, right?