Yesterday was another rainy afternoon in Florida – a good day, I figured, to try out a sensory deprivation tank. Floating was something I’d wanted to do for a while, so I called Sacred Floats and Gems in Tampa. They had a tank available immediately.
Before I could talk myself out of it (I’d read a few accounts of people freaking out in tanks), I was on my way to the shop.
What is a sensory deprivation/float tank?
Essentially, a sensory deprivation chamber is a large tank filled with about 10 inches of saltwater. The water is as dense as the Dead Sea, allowing you to float effortlessly when you lay down. With the hatch closed, the chamber is completely void of all light, sound (except for the slight hum of the pumps), and smell. I wore earplugs to help seal out all noise. The water and air inside of the chamber feel the same as your body temperature, giving the illusion that your body is one with the air and water, thus reducing awareness of your physical body.
Why the hell would I want to try sensory deprivation?
I remember coming across an article on sensory deprivation about three years ago when I went on a quest for spiritual awakening. I was sort of like a kid in a spiritual candy shop, trying out all sorts of things for the first time… meditation, astrology, numerology, psychic readings, tarot, past life regressions, meeting my spirit guide, connecting with my angels, you name it, I did it. At the time, I thought sensory deprivation would probably be a great experience, but I was also a little unnerved by the idea. Meditating at night in my bedroom was sometimes an overwhelming experience – I was concerned that a sensory deprivation chamber would be more than I could handle.
And back then, it may have been.
I went to the tank with an open mind and interest in whatever the experience would bring me, and I was not disappointed
My experience in the tank…
Some people float in swimsuits, but I went nude. I didn’t want to have anything touching my skin that could have made me aware of my body – the whole idea, for me, was to achieve a lack of bodily awareness. So I went back to the area where my tank was, closed the curtain, got naked, and hopped in. I put in my earplugs and closed the hatch before I had the chance to think about what the hell I as doing.
I immediately felt like I had entered a total void.
I laid down and bobbed to the top of the water, which sloshed around for a minute or so before everything became still.
I felt a surge of panic that is probably a normal experience for a first-time floater. I was virtually devoid of sensation for the first time in my life. For 35 years, my senses have been pummeled with information to take in, process, and compute… and suddenly, I found myself suspended in this space of nothingness.
I reached above my head to find the hatch but couldn’t feel it. I could see nothing in the total darkness. It took a few seconds to find the door, but once I did and was able to push it up to assure myself I was not trapped inside, I felt better.
After that initial spook, I laid back down and almost immediately began seeing an array of colors and lights that I usually don’t achieve until I work myself deep into a meditative state (which is, admittedly rare). I don’t know any other way to describe it than some sort of celestial light show. Lots of purples, deep blues, and whites that swirl and flicker… often sort of pulsing with flashes of white that lure me deeper and deeper into this enchanting state in which I feel absolute solitude and absolute connection – at once.
I thought the tank would feel claustrophobic, but it didn’t. It gave me the illusion of floating out in an expansive, unlimited space, like I was dancing on the edges of the universe. There were moments where I felt like I was spinning. Most of the time, I felt like I was floating through this beautiful, explanding void. I could hear and feel my heartbeat the whole time, which was the only real awareness I had of my body. I intentionally kept my arms out to my side, relaxed, with my palms up, in a position of receiving. The words “love, only love, only love, only love” came to me and I recited it as my mantra. Only love.
I didn’t go into the tank with any goal other than to show up and see what, if anything, there was for me to gain or learn from it. The feeling of suspension was spiritual for me. I believe that we’re all spiritual beings and the only thing grounding us to this physical plane is the physical body. Without the body, we’re free to dance in and out of other realms, planes, dimensions – and this isn’t something we have to die to experience. Therein lies the beauty of meditation. And meditation in a float tank is pretty easy and intense because you don’t have to spend time dulling your senses to get there.
I think the idea of experiencing body-less-ness is frightening for a lot of people because they cannot fathom what it feels like to be outside of their bodies. All of our memories from this life are based on experiences we’ve had in our physical bodies. For this reason, we tend to identify too strongly, sometimes absolutely, with our bodies. In doing so, we completely fail to understand that we are not, in fact, our bodies. We’re spiritual beings having human experiences via our bodies.
The sensory deprivation tank helped me get a taste of what it would feel like to be outside of my body. It was bizarre…but it was also fantastic. It was frightening… and it was also peaceful.
I’m glad I went. I will go again and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is curious about experiencing sensory deprivation. Try it… but try it with an open mind. Be willing to surrender your control for an hour and just go with whatever happens. Show up for the experience and see what comes through. Maybe you’ll have a revelation — or maybe you’ll just get the chance to achieve an hour of physical relaxation that gravity doesn’t normally allow for.