I am an open minded, malleable person even in my late thirties. A recent transplant from RI to San Diego, I pride myself at trying new things, pushing my limits, and meeting my fears face to face. That is why I have travelled to the 7th tallest structure in the world and stood on a glass floor being petrified of heights, joined Toastmasters to Public speak, and write. That is also why I decided to immerse myself in a sensory deprivation tank.
I found a blue Oceanic postcard at my yoga studio explaining the health benefits of floating. Not just any kind of floating, this is a serious endeavor, this float is sans light or sound and in a tank heavily loaded with salt. For many the idea sounds ludicrous; at the office when asked “ What did I do this past weekend” I explained my past excursion most people asked “what is a sensory deprivation tank? And more importantly why on earth would you want to go in one”
I will admit when I figured out I would be in a black, quiet tank alone in heavily salted water, I really got uncomfortable. A wave of anxiety and doubt came over me, “would I be able to do this? Could I really stay in a tank for a full 90 minutes for the hopes of some health and Meditative benefits?”. I looked around for support from friends, they said “let me know how it goes”; looks like I was alone in my desire to float.
For this adventure I travelled to OB or Ocean Beach, San Diego to RESET.
This process of being weightless helps reduce high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and premenstrual tension, ALL of which I suffer from. Most of all I wanted to discover the meditative benefits and was affirmed by one single co worker who has done it and said it was a pleasant, comfortable meditative experience. “The main benefits I receive are total relaxation of the mind, body and nervous system, enhanced creativity, idea generation and problem-solving and recovery from jet lag,” says Be Well Health Coach Jenny Sansouci, a frequent float tank user (along with, ahem, the New England Patriots—the team had a float tank installed in their training room at the start of the 2014-2015 seasons). Being from New England, if the Pat’s are floaters then so am I.
Sounded good enough for me, so on I went. I was greeted by a friendly bearded dude and he instructed to sign a waiver, get completely undressed, shower, and put earplugs in. He told me to listen for the sound of his voice, since this was a 90 minute session, people tend to get lost in their own thoughts while sensory deprived. I rushed through and admittedly did not read the full waiver, which I later regretted. I entered into a private room, followed instructions and soon found myself in the tank floating. This experience was soothing for some time and I was able to escape into my thoughts and let me mind drift into meditation state.
I think I lasted all of about thirty minutes when I decided to come up and take a break, I found the handle to the door on the inside of the pitch black tank. I pushed on the door, and to my dismay it wouldn’t open. I tried not to panic and then remembered rushing through and not reading the full waiver, do they just lock us in for the full 90 minutes? How can they legally get away with this? Is this a trick?
I decided to bang on the side of the tank to let the kind gentleman manning the single tank that I have had enough. I banged on the door and nothing, I took my earplugs out, I swam around the tank. Nothing.
This is when the women are separated from the girls, I can’t say exactly what time but the rest went something like this:
40 minute mark- panic sents in that whether I like it or not I am stuck in this cold, wet salty tank
50 minute mark- bruised my hand from banging on tank
60 minute mark- crying asking myself WHY? Will this ever be over
70 minute mark- deep breathing and telling myself it will be OK
80 minutes- back to floating
90 minute mark- the distant voice is heard, it is a miracle. It is over!
I had been locked away in darkness so long that I could not figure out that I had floated and spun around so that I was banging the opposite side of the tank. The man was in disbelief that I lasted the full 90 minute time period, if he only knew I was practically in tears wanting to get out. I chose to keep that a secret, and wear my big girl pants the whole time.
Did I have an enlightening experience, YES. I am proud of myself that although I was scared and wanted to get out, I proved to myself that I can get through discomfort and anxiety in darkness and in light.