FROM THE DESK OF: Deo
Ever since I read this article on float tanks last year, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to be inside of one. If you don’t know, a float tank is a pod (or a room) where your body floats on 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt and all of your senses, including gravity and your physical body, are deprived, allowing you to experience nothingness. Last month I found out there was a float place in Brooklyn and decided to finally experience it for myself.
To do some further research, I went to the website’s FAQ and kind of got an idea of what I’m dealing with:
For an hour—or more if you’d like—your mind is free of distraction and your body is free of gravity. The nothingness of that experience, is everything and more.
In total darkness and with your ears just below the surface, nothing can reach you. The outside world is now non-existent. Your focus can turn inwards where amazing things will happen.
Giving your body a break from gravity’s hold, can be transforming. The stimulation of no stimulation allows usually otherwise occupied parts of your mind and body to completely focus elsewhere.
I had so many questions. What would I think about in there? Would it allow me to come to some kind of deep awakening? Will it change the way I see the world? Will it unlock some kind of latent mental powers, like telepathy or the ability to control metal? Or will it be totally dumb and a complete waste of time? Either way, I had to find out. Here is my account of what happened.
On my way to the float, I decide to get in a meditative mood. The float tank is already like meditation but on a deeper level, so I figure, why not try and get to that state beforehand? I play the most meditative, hypnotizing song I on my iPod: Olsen Olsen by Sigur Ros. It always calms me down. Turning off my brain and just listening.
On the train (while it’s still above ground), the doors open and cool winter air rushes in and hits me. It feels so good. I think maybe the intention of being mindful caused me to be mindful. Whatever that means. I’m expecting to relax so I’m actually relaxing.
Out of the train, about to exit the turnstile when an old Asian lady asks me for a free swipe to enter the platform. I have a monthly pass and it costs me nothing to swipe someone when I’m the station, so I always do it if someone asks me. It’s probably good karma, if there is such a thing.
I walk up to the second floor. Inside: blue lights, some candles, a few people in the waiting area which is designed to look like a living room. Three people sitting on the couch describing their experience. Their conversations in whispers. A very tranquil vibe. Tea and water are offered. The receptionist hands me a bunch of papers to fill out and sign. I take my shoes off and use the bathroom.
The lady on the front takes me to my own private room. Inside there is a shower and the float tank pod. I am to shower, put the ear plugs in, then jump in the pod and close it. Once inside, the lights in the room will automatically dim to complete darkness. Inside the pod, I can control the lighting and the music. She suggested that I first let the ambiance music play for 5 to 10 minutes just to get the feel for it and then turn it completely off.
Oooo lavender shampoo!
Getting in the Float Tank
I jump inside and imagine I’ve been eaten by a big fish. I close the pod and lay on my back and adjust and slowly dim the lights. The music is still playing. I decide to just turn off all of it.
When all of it goes completely black and I am weightless, something weird happens. I feel like I’m floating in outer space. I feel like I’m moving, even though I’m completely still.
After a while, the novelty of being weightless, the pitch blackness, all of it wears off. It’s just me and my thoughts now. I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking at this point, but I know it was rapid fire things—one after another. Nothing serious, just trivial stuff. None of it lasted, thoughts would pop up, go away, and another one will take its place. I lose track of time. I’m reminded of that mindfulness mediation exercise where you picture a river and your thoughts are on leaves floating on the river. Each one comes but floats away.
Sometime in the middle of session, I lift my hands up and touch my head to comb my hair back. This was a big mistake as the salt gets into my eyes. It burns for about 3 minutes. Meditation is over. My eyes are literally tearing up.
Once my eyes are back to normal, I get back to the habit of random thoughts popping up. This is relaxing, but I think to myself maybe I was expecting too much from this.
At some point, I stop thinking so much. They’re not coming one after another anymore. I thought about one of my earliest memories: me as a four year old, waking up in the morning, looking outside of a window and thinking about how beautiful the light coming in was, except that I didn’t understand the concept beauty. I just knew I liked it.
Then I wondered what everyone in the world was up to. Somewhere in Tokyo, there were thousands of people crossing the streets in Shibuya. There had to be people playing volleyball in Brazil. Tourists climbing the Great Wall. Penguins in the arctic. Whales eating seals. All this was happening while I’m inside a pod.
I don’t remember what else I thought about after that. I don’t even think I had any thoughts. I just remember the feeling. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to get at? Not having any thoughts at all, just feeling, total peace. Maybe that’s what nothingness is?
Then, suddenly, it ends. Purple lights slowly turn on and I’m reminded I have a body again. I get out of the pod and think, oh yeah, I have to physically interact with the world.
Post Float Activity
I relax in the living room area and drink water. I feel out of this world, almost detached, but in a good way. I’ve never been more calm. The receptionist talks to me about how it’s the year of the monkey. I tell her it must be why I’m always craving bananas.
I feel like one session will not really take you to whatever high expectations you think it will take you. I can see why people sign up for this. I can see how the experience of being completely separated from the physical world can give you perspective. But it’s not like some kind of drug where you take it and it has immediate effects. I think it’s more like you’ve got to take yourself there.
So something like 60% of people have a deficiency in magnesium and being in the Epsom water really helps with that. Symptoms of poor magnesium intake can include muscle cramps, poor sleep, facial tics, chronic pain, and resting bitch face. Okay, maybe not RBF, but I do think that getting all that magnesium exposure has made the experience worth it.
My skin was like Kenny G on Christmas Eve: So smooth. I felt like a baby, I wanted to hug myself.
Speaking of babies, I definitely slept like one that night.