I decided to try Restricted Environmental Stimuli Therapy, also known as sensory deprivation or floatation therapy. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s an easy way to trick you brain into a meditative theta wave state; or a cruel form of torture.
It was invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly to test the effects of sensory deprivation. He had some pretty interesting ideas and also seemed to be a little weird.
“In neurophysiology, there had been an open question as to what keeps the brain going and the origin of its energy sources. One hypothesis was that the energy sources are biological and internal and do not depend upon the outside environment. It was argued that if all stimuli are cut off to the brain then the brain would go to sleep. Lilly decided to test this hypothesis and, with this in mind, created an environment which totally isolated an individual from external stimulation. From here, he studied the origin of consciousness and its relation to the brain” –Wikipedia
Not really surprising he progressed into ripping high doses of ketamine and LSD before floating to try and connect his mind with the heart of the universe.
I have no desire to try either of those drugs, especially while floating in a dark, coffin-like vessel. Something about that screams potentially terrifying experience.
I started reading reviews on the subject and found a whole range of hilarious testimonials. They ranged from really interesting to the totally deranged. A large proportion of the testimonials seemed to come from people who smoke dandelions and post daily updates regarding the crisis at Fukashima. Not all the reviews were positive; I even found one person who didn’t seem to enjoy themselves at all.
“The second I switched off that glowing blue light, my pleasant flying feeling vanished and my mind turned to thoughts of snakes. Hundreds of tiny snakes writhing under and around me. I wasn’t on drugs and I’ve never before had a pronounced phobia of snakes, but there I was, trapped in a bathtub filled with snake fear, tepid water, and the sound of my own terrified panting.” – Stranger
Other reviews seemed to be more sincere and thought provoking.
“It’s like a million annoying voices whinging inside your head 24/7 finally shut the fuck up. And for the first time you realise that those voices existed at all, because you had never heard the sound of them not being there. You realise that noise that fills your head are not your thoughts. It’s just the echo of the shitty outside world seeping inside your head making you believe the things it wants you think.” – Reddit
All of them made me want to try even more.
I remember hearing Joe Rogan rant about how awesome these tanks were a couple years ago but forgot about the topic due to the scarcity of float clinics in Canada.
I came across my first float clinic while on my daily pilgrimage to find the best sandwich in Seattle. From the outside it looked like a cross between a sensual massage parlour and a yoga studio.
Although I had heard about these things before, I fucking lost it when I looked at the pricing. For a 45 minute float, you pay them $95. Yes, you pay almost a hundred dollars to sit in a glorified, enclosed bathtub for less than an hour.
So instead of getting some ol’ fashion cock work at the rub-n-tizzug, you can have a salty bath. My favourite part on their promotional brochure was that they are open late on weekends. That means if timed properly, and set up in advance, you would be able to hit the tank at 2am and release all the toxic liquor sludge out of your skin and meditate for a good part of an hour. To me it sounded like a potentially good way to stay healthy while offering a rare opportunity to reflect on your poor decisions before passing out.
I walk away laughing, trying to picture myself telling da boys I scheduled a salty bath for the way home.
I got back to my office and found a different float centre near my house that offers a $40 first time package for a 1hr float. I checked their schedule and lo and behold, an opening for 9pm. Before I had a chance to think rationally, I booked the slot and paid for it in advance.
I have to admit, the concept of tossing 1000lbs of salt into a little pool of water to simulate the sensation of floating in space is a pretty cool idea. Especially if you are doing so wearing earplugs, in complete darkness, in a giant sound proof coffin, in water set to the same temperature as your body.
I was led into a small room with a shower and a large meat freezer looking tank by a friendly attendant who gave the impression he works full time at a float clinic. He explained all the things I was supposed to do. You have to shower before and after the tank. He explained what shampoo and soap were along with some kind of wax you can place on open cuts and a small vile of an alcohol and vinegar solution which I can only assume you are supposed to drink. He said a bunch of other stuff too but I was too excited to pay attention properly.
I wish I was better at listening.
I peeled off my clothes and had quick shower before getting ready to get in the tank. I shut off the lights in the room and opened the door to the chamber. Soft blue LEDs illuminate an interior of what looked like garbage bags glued to the walls. As I try to ignore the dexter-esqe potential of the murder chamber I’m entering, I gracefully slip in and flip onto my back.
When I say graceful I mean flop on back like a fucking Nestea commercial. I took the plunge like a damn boss. As I smashed my head off the hard ground, I wondered why my friendly attendant didn’t mention the bathtub was only 10 inches deep. Perhaps this was his revenge for my clearly inattentive blank stare during his opening spiel.
I immediately shut off the lights to try and maximize my time in the coffin.
As promised, I am suddenly overpowered with powerful emotions. Unfortunately for me, it’s in the form of severe pain. I quickly noticed that I forgot to put the wax on my freshly skinned knuckle. I spent the first few minutes trying to block out the acute stinging before deciding I should probably get out. I felt like such a pussy having to get out after 3 minutes. I shit you not, those three minutes of pain were spent deciding whether or not anyone could tell I had to get out early. A small cut on my finger wasn’t about to ruin it for me. I turn on the lights in the tank and opened my eyes. The cut quickly became the least of my worries. After blasting my head off the ground, my face had become covered in super saturated salt water
Much like an open wound, I quickly learned how much your eyeballs dislike salty substances (sorry ladies). Blinded, I frantically waved my limbs around under the outside hatch looking for the emergency water sprayer. I sprayed the cold water directly in my pupils.
I still had the vision of an elderly dog with salty cataracts so I was barely able to stumble over to the wound wax. Blind and retarded, I obviously put way too much goop on my cut. I end up with it all over both my hands. I then remembered I didn’t have any way to clean it off other than my clean towel.
Naturally I say fuck it, and hop back in the tank. I slide back in carefully this time to avoid repeat concussions.
I finally got to relax for a bit and let my mind wander. I try and stretch out to find a good position where I am not using any effort to keep my eyes out of the water.
The first thing I notice as I lay there weightless is that my body has never felt that useless. It was a new frontier for my mangled up frame. My body seemed more eager to twitch and spasm than it did to relax. I also had a strange sensation of feeling the weight of the air above my body more than the pressure from below.
Next I decided to try and do some of the weird poses that my helpful attendant mentioned beforehand. He suggested I put my hands above my head and throw my back into one of those gold medal Chinese gymnast poses.
“You’ll never forget that first time when you’re looking behind you like that man. I swear it never gets old”
He was right!
As I arch my back and cock my neck back, my forehead dips into the water and I experienced some weird form of meditative vertigo that was akin to lying on the ground after receiving a hard blow to the head. I mean that in the best way possible.
The unforgettable part came after when I remembered reading a testimonial before my float.
“The most amazing part comes when you are able to open your eyes in complete darkness. Powerful, emotional hallucinations overpower your body and mind as you float in peaceful serenity.”
I obviously had to try this.
I slowly open my eyes, wary of the potential salt bombardment I faced early, and quickly found this review to be slightly embellished.
For the first 2 seconds I start to see some pulsating pockets of light not unlike the after effects of staring into a laser pointer or the sun. Much like staring at the sun, my eyes quickly erupted into a salty blaze once again. This time it felt as though there was rock salt being rammed into my tear ducts.
I knew the light wouldn’t help me this time. I sat up and blindly started reaching up for escape hatch. I was incredibly disorientated and managed to ram both hands into the burning hot space heater above.
Here I was, lucky enough to have all my fingertips burnt while Satan chucked loads of fire jizz into my eyeballs; truly an unforgettable experience.
I made my way out of the tank for the second time and attempted to clean out my eyeballs once again. This time the damage was done and I could feel the inflammation growing in and around my eyes. I decided to just keep my eyes closed the rest of the time.
I flopped back in the tank and got water directly in my nose. Like an idiot, I sniffed the water in further instead of blowing out. Don’t ask me why I did this, I have no idea. Regardless, the salt water was so potent it slowly rendered my nasal passages useless.
I was actually able to get reasonably relaxed listening and focussing on my breathing before the pulsating sensation of oxygen deprivation kicked in from not being able to breathe properly.
I got to spend the last bit of my float panting like a dog, enjoying my severely inflamed tear ducts with saltwater dripping into the back of my throat through my nearly fully constricted nasal passages.
The weird part was that once I got out and showered, I felt extremely relaxed and fresh. I felt content with the world around me. It feels like walking around in post coital bliss. I can only imagine this effect would be even more pronounced if the time inside the tank didn’t resemble a sadistic torture chamber experience.
Trying again soon