First Posted on 9/25/2018
I began floating in sensory deprivation tanks about a year and a half ago. While first lured by tales of psychedelic insight I stuck around for the profound physical and mental relaxation. The float tank environment is a combination of conditions humans do not normally encounter – absolute darkness, silence, weightlessness and solitude. Ideally, sensory input does not exist inside the float chamber. The user is left free from distraction and alone with their thoughts, perhaps for the first time since they left their mother’s womb.
Float Lab in Westwood Village is my first choice for floating. In my experience, Float Lab is simply the best. The tanks are nice and big, tall enough to stand up in and long enough to lay back and stretch out with arms fully extended overhead. Other float tanks and pods may give an option for colored lights and music, but these things only detract from the experience. Nothingness is my goal. The staff is always friendly and professional. The facility is kept spotless. And to top it off the prices are way less than the other places I’ve seen. I have paid more for a 90-minute float at another facility than I paid for my seven-hour float on this day.
The float tank is not such a mysterious contraption. It’s a large metal cube filled with about a foot of water made super-buoyant by magnesium-rich Epsom salts. The concentration of salt keeps the user’s head and body safely hovering above the water line. You do not have to know how to swim and can even fall asleep without fear. Once you have stepped inside you will understand, drowning does not seem possible.
My one recurring nightmare centers around being trapped inside a small, dark place. Once, while dreaming of being trapped in a storm drain, I was brought back to reality after I pushed over a stack of books that came tumbling down around my head. So as you might imagine claustrophobia was a concern before my first float. Fortunately, this phobia has never bothered me while floating. I’ve never felt trapped inside a float tank. There is a single door which opens with little effort. Yes, it opens every time. When I began floating I struggled with a couple of other irrational thoughts which I hope won’t needlessly worry you. The tank has fresh air pumped in every few minutes and isn’t airtight, so you will not run out of air. And you will not be forgotten. Enjoy your time away from conflict and drama. But what if some catastrophe takes place in the real world? You are in the safest place you could be – in a basement, in a locked private room, inside a metal box. Should the World end, the few remaining survivors will probably be crawling out of float tanks.
You will be given simple instructions on what to do before and after you float. Use the restroom, shower, dry your face, etc. One piece of advice I do ignore is to wear ear plugs. I never wear them. If sound creeps into the tank it will be an occasional deep thud. Ear plugs are great for muffling all sounds except these thuds, with which they make no difference. Also, ear plugs actually amplify your internal sounds – your heartbeat, breathing and digestive processes are less pronounced when your ears are full of water. In the tank you wear nothing but your bare-naked skin. Don’t worry, you are completely alone. Embrace the freedom of ditching those restrictive garments. Return to your natural state.
I was led down a long hallway to the last room on the right. I showered, set up my gear in front of the tank and crawled inside, closing the door behind me. I slowly lowered myself into the water, lay back and let go. My body was swept up like a cork. It felt like laying on the most comfortable bed in the world, every contour perfectly supported. I let my ears fill with water. I could hear my own breath so I softened and slowed it down until it was barely perceptible. My heart pounded but this too would eventually fade.
The magic of floating comes in stillness. Stillness of body and stillness of mind. Don’t make the mistake of tensing your muscles to keep them still. Breathe and relax.
The amount of tension my body holds always amazes me. The second time I floated my stomach muscles released, maybe for the first time in my life. My stomach literally caved in. Normally flat when laying on my back, it became concave like the shape of a bowl. During my seven-hour float, my chest opened wide to the sound of pops and cracks. I felt tension melt away from the back of my neck, shoulders and throat. After five hours even my face relaxed, and that’s the one area that isn’t cradled by water. It was such an incredible relief to finally feel at peace.
I let my thoughts flow but did not engage them. I did not struggle to keep my mind empty and held on to nothing. Soon my thoughts became random and distant, bouncing gently through the echo chamber of my mind like they do before I drift into sleep. Upon entering this state of sublime calm I felt spacey, euphoric sensations. I was lifted by some invisible force. I rose, suspended in darkness. Ethereal warmth blanketed my body. I rode this transcendent feeling and, like a wave, it crested and softly crashed. I began the cycle again.
One interesting note; I’ve never been able to effectively visualize pictures. If I listened to a meditation tape, for example, and was told to imagine a mountain lake, the only thing I could ever see was the blackness behind my closed eyes. But on this day I suddenly saw images in my head, crystal clear like watching a colorful slide show. It was truly amazing.
I heard a knock on the wall of my tank. My time was up. Going into the float I gave myself permission to leave early if I got bored or wasn’t feeling it in any other way. But that never happened. I honestly had no desire to leave the tank even after seven hours. Maybe next time I’ll go even longer.
After rinsing off I headed back out into our cruel and chaotic World. But after my float people seemed friendlier somehow, and the World a better, more hopeful place.
Float Lab Westwood
Website: Float Lab
The post Peaceful Tourist Presents: Ascending to Oblivion: Seven Hours in a Float Tank first appeared on Silent Hiker.