The first in a series of articles chronicling new experiences and adventures
It’s dark. The kind of profound black-hole darkness that triggers a primal fear. That’s the first soul-test of the Sensory Deprivation tank “floating” experience. Will I be able to surrender to it (or just freak out)? We shall see…
Last week I tried “floating,” at Total Zen Float in Casselberry, about 90 miles from St. Augustine. Floating involves 90 minutes of lying suspended in 1200 pounds of Epsom-salt loaded water inside a Sensory Deprivation tank. The water is kept at the “skin-receptor neutral” temperature of 93.5 degrees designed to make you “lose track of where your body ends and the water begins,” according to the brochure.
Before going in, it’s hard to envision how floating works. If it’s as relaxing as it is touted to be, isn’t there a risk of falling asleep and drowning? I’d soon find out.
As my friend and I were shown around, we were first shown the older of the two tanks. Yikes. It had a bit of a tomb-like appearance, inspiring the claustrophobic creeps. The second one was obviously more modern, resembling a giant egg. We were asked to choose which one we each wanted and there was an awkward silence. My friend graciously said she’d take the older one and I sighed with relief. I owe her one.
We then each went to our separate float rooms. To prepare, I took a quick shower, then settled into the tank, dressed in only ear plugs. The experience officially starts when you press the ‘start’ button and the lights go out. Besides the limitless darkness, it’s also absolutely silent, save for the now-audible beating of my heart. And each breath. At this point, you’re supposed to close the lid and assume the prone floating position. I wasn’t quite ready for that, so I left the top cracked a bit. Then I settled in and stretched out like a star-fish to get a feel of the boundaries.
It took some time – who knows how long? – to allow myself to sink into the experience. I found myself making an effort to hold my head up or keep my legs tightly in a certain position. Eventually, I stopped fighting the feeling. At first, thoughts were chaotic and banal – the usual mix of things I need to do, ordinary worries and boring concerns. I chided myself to think better thoughts. Get in a meditative state! Be Zen! Right now! Some imaginary guru was shaking his head. Chill out, woman…
Little by little, it got easier to disconnect from the world and go deeper within. They say when the mind is free of all distractions; the brain begins to pump out dopamine and endorphins. I found this to be true. Among the swirling waves of thoughts, I experienced a sensation of flying. Not like a bird with wings, but more like a helium balloon joyfully bouncing, rising. So free. I went through a blissful euphoric state. I fed myself happy thoughts and encouraging mantras. Fantastic!
Then my mood switched and I covered my arms across my chest in a calming, almost death-like position. This position took me to unexpectedly deep surrender. And then maybe I fell asleep. Because somewhere between thoughts like “How long have I been in here?” and “it’s over,” I completely lost track of time. The light that came on when it was over startled me. I have to get out now? Why?
After a de-salting post-shower, I returned to the lobby with wet hair, a clear shining face and a goofy smile. They asked me how I felt and I answered “happy.” My friend responded with “relaxed.” We were told everyone gets out of it what they are supposed to get out of it. In our blissed-out state we nodded, yes, yes, agreeable to everything.
Was it life-changing? Was it worth $50? I believe it will be a different experience for everyone who tries it, so I wouldn’t presume to answer that on a general scale. But if nothing else, it is 90 minutes of total disengagement from your phone, computer, and environment. And that alone makes it priceless.