I had first hear of it from my fiancé. He had told me about it and I hadn’t really been super interested in it at first until I did a bit of research. But, like most things in my life, I had forgotten all about it until one of my guy friends asked me if I’d be interested in doing a “float” as an engagement gift. Of course, being one who likes the idea of alone time and relaxation, I said yes.
Of all the places in the world to have sensory depravation float tanks, my little lakeside town was one of the handful in the Midwest to have not one…but two…at a local spa. I entered feeling a tinge of nervousness, as I often do for new experiences, but thankfully I had not felt any anxiety about the experience until I got in the door.
We were the last session of the day, so the owner of the spa was in no rush, and answered all my questions, had be sign the waver in case I was allergic to any of her soaps and washes from the showers or anything like that. She explained that the tank was completely dark, and had only about 12 inches of water in it with highly concentrated salt water to keep me afloat. I was instructed to wash myself through ally in the shower before I used the tank and that soap, shampoo, and conditioner were all provided. I was warned not to touch my face in case water got in my eyes…and with that much salt in it I was told it would burn and instructed what to do in that case.
She explained to me the multiple experiences that often happen inside the tank. She said in some cases people become so relaxed they simply fall asleep, and in most cases they have very lucid dreams. In others, the brain desperately tries to make up visuals in order to have something to experience because it is not used to being deprived of stimuli. So in most cases it comes appearing as small splotches of colored lights that the brain makes up, or as strange undulating and vague patters across the eyes. Much like one can experience briefly when they rub their eyes hard, but more prolonged.
I did what was instructed of me prior, and entered the tank.
While I had never been claustrophobic before, complete darkness seemed like it would be overwhelming. In my case it was the exact opposite. Floating in such darkness made the tank feel open and endless to me. Like I was in the middle of a large body of still water. Aimless and relaxed. I kept my eyes open for most of my float and experienced the phenomenon discribed to me, that combination of colors flashing and repeating patters that I’m sure I couldn’t have replicated with all my design skills, because they were ever changing and very complex. When I closed my eyes they would disappear, which made me question if I really was seeing things or if there was some kind of vague and hidden screen in the tank. Then again, it could have been that my brain was responding to the fact that I had shut my eyes and logic told me I shouldn’t be able to see anything. Besides, the patterns and colors were similar to those I had seen when rubbing my eyes, and the colors were the kinds of blues and purples I enjoyed seeing and found soothing, so it made sense to me that my brain would make up some kind of phenomenon like that. It was too dream like, and certainly not real.
About 15 minutes in I started getting a little bored. So I stretched and explored the tank a bit. I would allow myself to drift from side to side in the tank and lightly tap the walls until I drifted the other direction. I would reach my hands up to feel the ceiling of the thing, a dark rubber that lined the entirty of the tank and made an odd noise with my ears submerged in the water. I became very aware of how thick the water felt, and the slimy sensation if left on my skin while still wet. I felt the air pump as it filtered in fresh air. I contemplated the inner workings of that tank, the amount of machinery it took to keep the water at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. How it must work to counteract the air pump bringing in much cooler air from the outside.
Sudddenly I heard the music play that indicated my float was up. Not a startling sound. A soothing drone that one would expect to hear at a spa. Perhaps one of those singing bowls that I’ve heard of. It was very relaxing.
I got out, took a shower, and was greeted with a selection of tea and conversation while I waited for my friend to finish his float.