We have five primary senses: sight, sound, taste, feel, and smell. Each of these senses is experienced viscerally, through the physical body. As far as most of us can remember, ALL of our life experiences in this world are associated with some form of sensation, meaning that all of our experiences are then also associated with the body. The mere possibility of having an experience outside of sensation, outside of the body, is nerve racking or even terrifying to some. Remember, simply because something exists outside of your current understanding of reality, doesn’t mean it is something to fear. Rather, stepping into the unknown is a prime opportunity to grow, to expand, and to learn something new about yourself and life itself.
A sensory deprivation float tank is the most conducive environment we can enter to have such an experience, as sensory input is limited from all angles. While it can be difficult to create PERFECT conditions, the idea is to lay back in an odorless tank, with no light, no sound, and no gravity. The water is set to about body temperature so that after settling into a space of still relaxation, one actually looses track of where skin meets water and air.
While float tanks have only been around since 1954, this sort of practice is nothing new. Seers, mystics, and shamans from cultures all over the world have been practicing sensory withdrawal for thousands of years. For Yogis, Pratyahara or sensory withdrawal is a necessary step to meditation, described as mastery over the external sensations so that one may enter a meditative state. This is the fifth limb of the eight limbs of yoga. The first four limbs describe a variety of purification techniques that can be used to first cleanse and balance body and mind. Practicing Pratyahara then bridges and integrates the physical balance that is cultivated to the internal layers of being. When the body is open, relaxed, and healthy, it is easier to tune in to the more subtle aspects of mind and soul. This is why pairing yoga and massage with float therapy can help people to sink further in to stillness in the tank. In pratyahara, movement and effort can dissolve into stillness and simple presence. The last three limbs of yoga then further detail the stages of meditation, but we’ll save that topic for another day.
As in any new experience, both anxiety and excitement are aroused before a person’s first “float.” The key is to keep your cool and allow the experience to be whatever it needs to be. Know that you are in full control of your experience. Practice relaxing into your nerves under these strange and foreign circumstances while knowing and trusting that your experience is contained in a perfectly safe space.
You get your own room with a private shower, and YOU are the ultimate creator of your experience. When the body dissolves, one is left with a vibrant field of pulsating energy. When this energy body too dissolves with the epsom salts in the water, only the mind remains. With an infinite canvas laid out before you in the darkness of the void, the mind is free to create and explore freely. Pure awareness becomes your guiding light in the tank, walking you through thoughts and memories of past, present, and future. There is no concept of time in the tank. There is only concept of being and experiencing, making the experience and practice of meditation easily accessible to the average person. All that is created in this space is created through your own mind, making it a great space to practice visualization and manifestation.
Eventually, the mind also slows and sinks away. This is usually the most difficult layer for people to move through because we live in a culture that is overstimulated, intellectually driven, and addicted to doing. Few of us were taught how to simply be.
When the body, energy field, and mind settle into a space of stillness, all that remains is the sensation of bliss. Spontaneous releases of energy, of light, of thought, and insights may occur in this space, sometimes acting as a distraction from the space of bliss you’ve discovered. When you notice yourself getting distracted by the shiny lights, colors, and ideas, notice them and and let them go. Watch all thought and sensation rise and fall with your breath. As you exhale, let all distractions fall away as you slowly move beyond concepts, ideas, and memories. In this space of expansive freedom, one is predisposed to experience the divinity contained within.
If you ever experience pain, discomfort, or severe distractions in your session, consider exploring some of our other modalities, all of which can support release in the tank and offer an alternative path to the inner dimensions of self. Massage therapy, yoga, energy work, breathwork, meditation, sound healing and aromatherapy are all available as independent or complimentary services. Please reach out if interested in trying one of more of these modalities alongside a float.