Life. It’s a crazy thing, right? Full of ups and downs, good decisions and bad, elation and sedation. Humans have a way of living life in the fast lane. Always going, always on and always tired. We know it’s just the world we live in but isn’t it also healthy to take a break every once in awhile and examine ourselves to make sure we’re truthfully and healthfully living? This is a question I have begun to explore for myself.
I had been feeling increasingly overwhelmed lately both personally and professionally and knew I needed an outlet to sort through my emotions and upcoming decisions. A friend had told me a while ago about sensory deprivation (float) tanks and I had become infatuated with the idea. I began doing research and reading about others’ experiences. After research I decided that this just me the kind of outlet I needed to sort through the jumbled mass of emotions that had been floating through my head. So, I found a location near me in Southfield, Michigan at the Neuro Fitness Wellness Center and booked a ninety minute float session.
So, what is sensory deprivation or floatation therapy?
“Flotation therapy is a zero gravity experience that allows the mind and body to truly rest. It’s also been called Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy, or REST.”- Neuro Fitness website
You may also be familiar with Altered States (1980) a film based on a scientists deluge into sensory deprivation. Although, believe me, you won’t genetically regress and you don’t need hallucinatory drugs to have a good experience in these tanks. The real point is to alter your mind naturally as you would through meditation.
When I arrived at the center I was greeted by a warm and friendly employee. When my room was ready he took me back and explained the process thoroughly in a way that calmed my nerves. He left me there in a locked room to shower and then enter the pod. The water is inundated with 800-1,000lbs of epsom salts with a temperature regulated at or around 98 degrees. You have the option of entering the tank nude or in a swimsuit. I chose to go nude as I felt it was a more authentic experience.
Once inside the pod, you close the door and have the option of delving into complete darkness or utilizing calming lights and music. I opted for the complete darkness and quiet. Your body naturally floats at the surface and you’re left alone with just your thoughts, which for me was a somewhat daunting thing. But after a while I completely lost track of time and space and after a bit of anxiety and discomfort I had the odd sensation of being without my body.
I was able to concentrate on everything and nothing at all. I wasn’t hallucinating or having any real ‘Aha’ moments. Instead my mind and body were in a state of suspended animation of sorts. My emotions were able to regulate and syncopate themselves with my heartbeat. When the lights in the tank came on signaling my ninety minutes were up I came to feeling complete and open. My emotions were no longer ruling my body, I was thinking clearly and for the first time in a long time felt really, truly happy.
I went into the experience without any real expectations, which I think is important. If I would have gone in wanting to solve a particular issue I think I would have just been anxious the entire time. Being able to focus on nothing and everything ended up being a beautiful and validating experience.
This experience allowed me to be open and honest with myself about what exactly it is I’m looking to get out of life. I know that I have a winding road ahead of me, but I’m not afraid of what that future holds. I hope that it’s going to be filled with joy, sadness, love and heartbreak because those emotions and experiences will continue to shape me into a more fulfilled and whole human.