This past weekend, I got to experience a sensory deprivation tank…also called Float Therapy–probably because it sounds a lot nicer than “sensory deprivation.” These things have been around for years. The isolation tank was developed in 1954 by John C Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist. During his training in psychoanalysis at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Lilly experimented with sensory deprivation. Of course, back then, he used LSD while floating. Unfortunately, that option isn’t available to us anymore (OK—LEGALLY not available). Floatation therapy tanks weren’t incredibly popular in the States, although the movie Altered States, which came out in 1980, garnered more interest in them.
They’ve gotten more popular in the past 4 or 5 years here in the US to help with stress reduction and overwhelm. This makes a lot of sense, being that you can’t take your cell phone or computer into the tank with you.
There are a few Flotation Therapy places around LA. Just Google “Floatation Therapy” and you’ll find one. I went to Just Float in Pasadena, which technically isn’t in LA county, but since a friend knew the owner, I got to try it gratis. (I’m nothing if not transparent!).
The place is incredibly clean and the techs take the time to show you around and give you a little film to watch so you know what to expect when you go in.
Since I meditate every morning for 20-30 minutes, the thought of being in a space where there’s no light and no sound was actually appealing for me. If you’re claustrophobic, this is definitely NOT for you.
Each tank has a prep area and shower. You have to shower and wash your hair before stepping into the tank so you don’t gunk up the machinery with hair goo or body lotion. Then, you step into the tank and close the door. The water is only about a foot deep, so there’s little chance of drowning! It’s filled with heavy-duty salt water. The side panel has two buttons for music and lights and as soon as you’re settled on the water, you push the light button to start the session. The lights go out, and the music plays for another 5 minutes or so to get you used to being without sight. (Your eyes are closed, anyway, so it really doesn’t matter!) Then, it’s all you!
Floating without sound or sight really brings you back to ‘you.’ All you hear is your heart beating and your breath. It took me a good 10 minutes to truly relax into the water and trust that it would hold me up. (I don’t weigh a lot and without a lot of body fat, I usually sink in water). I did a body scan meditation and allowed my muscles to relax into it. The chatter in my head continued for another 10 minutes or so until I could still it and go into a meditative state. The rest of the hour flew by.
After showering and re-washing my hair to get the salt out, I really did feel zen. I had a touch of “sea legs,” as well, as I dressed.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you might like this chance to unplug. Once a week, once a month, depending on your budget and time, it’s worth it. It forces you to be still. You have no choice. It also allows your imagination to come to the forefront and play! Who knows what great ideas you can come up with while you float?