Before I took my two months off at the beginning of the year, I had heard about this place in Float Boston in Magoun Square that has sensory deprivation tanks. You essentially float on very salty water in a sound-proof, pitch black chamber. I was intrigued, though I never got around to it before I took off for the west coast. Upon my arrival, I similarly failed to make time to try it.
Fast forward more than six months and I found myself thinking about Floating again. Rather than trying to find time during the middle of a day on the weekend, I signed up for a 60 minute Float on Tuesday night at 9pm.
Upon arriving, I entered into a small room with a shower and a bench to hold my things. After rinsing off, I inserted silicone earplugs (though not well enough, because I still have salt in my ears today). I entered the tank and was surprised to find it was only about a foot deep. It was about 7 feet long and 4 feet wide with the ceiling taller me. There was an ambient blue light coming from the bottom of the tank and small star-like lights on the ceiling.
The biggest shock was the sensation of Floating. The saltiness of the water buoyed me up much more than I was expecting. I could lie completely relaxed and still have my entire face and most of my ears well above the waterline. The water was also rather cool—93ºF, I’m told, the temperature of skin.
I floated for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to relax. I’d read that sometimes people see colors or even hallucinate. I was hoping for an experience like that, though I had some minor concerns that I would get panicky in the dark, quiet space. I turned my palms from face down to face up, and that helped a bit.
I still couldn’t hear my heartbeat and felt rather awake so I pushed a button to turn off all the lights. That changed everything. It was pitch black. Whether my eyelids were open or closed, it all looked the same. Suddenly, I could hear my heartbeat loud and clear, along with any other sound in the chamber. Losing sight made all my other senses hyper aware.
I started to drift off a bit. I can’t say I entered a trance, but I was emptying my brain. Thoughts would come in, I’d note them, and gently let them pass through. Many memories from college surfaced. I thought of my cat, and how much she would hate this.
Sixty minutes seems like a long time to do nothing. I wasn’t sure how long it would feel to me. After some time, I started to hear faint music, my queue that the hour had passed. Having drifted further from reality than I thought, I sat up awkwardly and accidentally splashed some water in my face. It’s difficult to describe just how salty the water was. It almost felt thick and slimy. My eye began to burn, which was unsurprising given all the warning signs about keeping your face completely dry.
I pushed open the chamber door and got a towel to wipe down my face. I rinsed off in the shower and got home around 10:30, whereupon I found myself exquisitely relaxed and ready for bed.
The experience was different than I expected. It was a completely unique feeling to Float, unlike anything I’d experienced before. I was a bit disappointed that I did not have any revelations or supreme changes in my state of consciousness. Likely I set the bar too high. It was enjoyable, perhaps as enjoyable as a nice bubble bath, though notably different. It’s something I’d definitely recommend anyone who is interested to try.
Strangely, the my next day was the opposite of relaxing. In fact, I’d say it was my most stressful day since returning to work in May. I had various stressors coming in from all directions on a variety of different projects and from different people. Generally, I handle stressors well in that I don’t actually experience anxious stress. It’s a feeling that I have generally banished from my life.
But today I felt stressed. And I didn’t deal with it well. Rather than simply absorbing it and moving on, I cast it back out, creating stressors for others. Which is really the last thing I want to do. I made some hasty decisions and communicated them poorly. So now I have some cleanup to do. But that is OK. These things happen. They can be fixed. It’s good to acknowledge them, so I can take the steps to make them right.
And I’m less than a week from being on the beach in Florida.