I Tried Sensory Deprivation
Ever lose your senses? Well, I did.
At SacredWaters in Long Island City, New York, I checked them at the door.
It was a brisk fall Sunday when I made my way to SW. A friendly woman greeted me at the front desk and escorted me to the floating room located in the back of the spa. I took off my shoes and placed my bare feet on a real moss mat situated outside of a small room. As made my way into the room, I observed a showerhead and little shelves filled with toiletries. To the right of me, was the enclosed tank which looked like a tub.
I had signed up for something called floating. Floating therapy is the utilization of a "flotation tank" which is also known as a "sensory deprivation chamber." Floating is a method of deep relaxation and stress relief, but it can also help you reach deep meditative states even if you have never meditated before.
As I undressed, I felt the serenity of the room. I could tell that considerable thought went into the design of the room. I was instructed to wash off all lotion and makeup residue before entering the tank. The temperature in the tank was perfect. I could also sense the high amount of salt content in the water. Think Epson salt, not sea salt. The high salt content enables the body to effortlessly float (word to the wise, don't shave prior to!).
I slipped in my earplugs which helps keep the water from reaching your inner ear and closed the door to the tank. The room went pitch black, and I mean pitch black. I let my body float, but my neck muscles were a bit tense because I did not fully trust that my head would stay afloat. Eventually, I caved to the experience and relaxed.
I was told to press a button to the left of the tank to activate music. It took a while for the music to play so; naturally, I frantically pushed the button about 20 times before I realized that the music was just gradually increasing in volume (what a freak!). The music was beautiful. Lot's of cave-like sounds and droplet sound effects. It was super cool.
“now what?” I thought.
As I laid in complete darkness for the first 10 minutes, I was utterly uneasy. I pride myself on being able to shut down the chatter in my mind, but for some reason, annoying little thoughts just kept making their way into my awareness. I couldn’t stop thinking of all of the things that needed to get done for the week ahead. I felt as though I was wasting time laying there for an hour. I kept reminding myself, to relax and enjoy the experience but those first ten minutes were tough.
The revelation was stark. I had committed an entire hour to this experience, and within ten minutes I wanted out. I was forced to be with my thoughts in a way that I had never had to be before. I have a lot of experience meditating, but this was different. When I opened my eyes, it was pitch black and unless I moved my arms or legs, had no awareness of my body. During meditation, I still have the vague awareness. I can hear cars and birds chirping out my window, the little creeks in the wood, my refrigerator, etc. When I meditate, I have a sense of my arms, my legs, and many different bodily sensations. Floating takes those factors out of the equation. As I live my life and go about my days, I do not realize how much work my brain is doing, how many thoughts are crossing my mind unsupervised, how much chaos is in there. Through floating, I learned that I have subscribed to the illusion that I have total control over my thoughts but really, I don't. Many of us don't.
The most intense part of the experience came up about 35 minutes into the float, or so I estimate. As I woke up from a brief nap more relaxed, I started to get the sense that I was flying through space. Don’t ask me how, but I felt that I was gliding like a bird. I was reluctant to fully embraced the feeling, so I moved my legs to make sure that I was still submerged in water. A few moments later I found myself completely letting go. I was curious about the feeling. I felt myself accelerate and slow down. It was quite fascinating. It was as though I was unbounded by space and time. It felt like I was gliding into nothingness.
And then, just when things were getting good, the reggae music came on…
I was told that the end of the float would be signaled by reggae music. I opened the door to the tank and closed it behind me and the lights turned on. I turned on the shower head to warm and rinsed all of the salt water. My body felt relaxed. Fully dressed, I walked down the hallway to the front entrance where SW has a beautiful little nook with books and incense. A cup of tea was left there ready for me. I sipped and savored.
I highly recommend floating. I recommend it to people who are always on the go. There is a lot that it can teach you about the current state of your mind. It’s quite a powerful tool
You need to go more than once! Although I haven’t quite had the chance to try it again, I feel that the benefits of it would become much more evident with time
I definitely experienced an unexplainable feeling of gliding through space
Don’t shave right before, it’s going to hurt like a MF
If you have a fear of enclosed places, floating may not be the stress relief modality for you
It is pitch black folks, so if you fear the dark, you may also find yourself a bit freaked
Mention INNERtia Project and get 3 floats for $250 (usually $300)