I want it to be a surprise.
Sneaking a peek at her phone directions, I knew where she was taking us.
Having passed by the float center in Venice countless times, it was ironic that I’d do my first float in a small town outside Toronto. Kayla booked it for us to experience together. We were first time virgin floaters.
I’ve been curious about flotation tanks for a while. I heard Tim Ferriss and other lifehackers talk about the therapeutic effects of floating for an hour or more in a completely dark, silent chamber.
And I couldn’t have asked for a better first time.
Charles, who I’d later learn owns the place, gave us a tour of the facilities. There was a gym area at the front that made the place look like a physical therapy center, with foam rollers and yoga mats. There’s a rest area with water and tea just outside the hall, which led to the 5 private float rooms.
The rooms were huge, mostly to contain the large float tanks that contain 850 pounds of Epsom salt. They looked like cryogenic chambers from some 80s sci-fi film.
Opening the door of the tank, I saw a black void. It was kind of unsettling. It seemed much deeper than only 10 inches of water.
Well, here goes nothin’
The pool was indeed very shallow, such that I entered by kneeling into the tank.
Closing the door, I fumbled to turn on my back in pitch blackness. I started floating immediately on the water, which was exactly as they promised – at a neutral temperature such that you forget about it.
The experience of being in the sensory deprivation tank started tracing the arc of my meditations: first worry, second tripping and third a oneness with the world. A process of letting the ego dissolve.
PHASE 1: ADJUSTING TO NOTHING
It took me a few minutes to get comfortable. I had some claustrophobic feelings and fears arise about being stuck in the tank. I thought of the stories of prisoners being in the hole and how torturous that must be. I thought of Daniel Kaluuya’s character in Get Out, stuck in a never ending darkness.
My brain was running on overdrive.
Strange that my mind was so active when placed in an environment of no stimulation. When left with nothing, my brain wants to create something.
I tried to calm down.
PHASE 2: SPACE TRIP
It occurred to me that the only thing I could hear was my breathing and heartbeat. The water was temperature-controlled such that it felt neither warm nor cold, to create the feeling of immersion.
I started breathing deeply and meditating. It was easier to catch my thoughts now. Thank goodness I meditate, so I could be more ready for an experience like this. I had to let that thought go too. But I started to calm down.
As I settled into the experience, I began to see visuals.
Suddenly I felt like I was in out space in a star field. Beautiful, abstract streaks rushed past me.
It was like being Sandra Bollock in Lost, but much more pleasant.
I had experienced closed eyes visuals before, from sound baths and such. But this was something generated from within.
PHASE 3: I AM ONE
The whole experience became extremely relaxing to me. Meditative and calming, to the point that I found myself nodding asleep. It was trippy to jerk awake from sleep. My first instinct was to open my eyes, which welcomed no difference at all.
I wonder if those who are born blind “see” anything when they dream?
This vastness – in my visual field (or lack of) – lent to a deep sense of oneness. I began to lose my sense of self. I didn’t know where the water began and where my body ended. This is what I’d later learn to be one of the hallmark effects of flotation rest therapy.
For some blissful minutes, my ego dissolved in the buoyant, black cocoon.
This must be what it felt like in the womb, I thought.
The music came on earlier than I expected. It was a soft instrumental tune. I was a little disappointed it was ending, but satisfied with my experience.
Opening the float tank door, I was surprised that the light did not pierce me.
Even as I showered, dressed and went to outside to the living room, I felt a sense of deep calm that wasn’t there before the float.
Kayla and I caught up in the lounge with some peppermint tea, which was a nice touch. She had the glow of relaxation and ease. We both agreed that we would do it again, for an even longer float.
Before leaving, we signed the guestbook, which was filled with other people’s experiences and drawings. I tried my best to capture mine in that guest book:
We had planned to go dancing that night, but instinctively felt that a low stimulation, chill night would serve us better.
It’s hard to get a sense of what a sensory-deprivation flotation tank is like until you’re in one.
So go do it.
It is nothing like you’d expect.