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Time in the Tank
Floatation Tank
by Mink Snopes
From Erowid Extracts Collection
Citation:   Mink Snopes. "Time in the Tank: An Experience with Floatation Tank (exp68367)". Erowid.org. Jun 18, 2012. erowid.org/exp/68367

 
BODY WEIGHT: 200 lb


I became aware of floatation tanks through an interest in John Lilly. After a few years messing around with psilocybin-containing mushrooms, cannabis, and Salvia divinorum, I expanded my techniques for altered learning by including meditation, yoga, and using the I Ching. When I discovered that float I I became aware of floatation tanks through an interest in John Lilly. After a few years messing around with psilocybin-containing mushrooms, cannabis, and Salvia divinorum, I expanded my techniques for altered learning by including meditation, yoga, and using the I Ching. When I discovered that float tanks were offered by a nearby massage center, it seemed like a perfect extension of my interests.

The first experience was two hours; I went into it sober and well-rested, having primed myself the night before through detoxification tea and light eating. Naturally, I was unsure of what to expect: on the one hand, I was sort of hoping for extreme, alien encounters; on the other hand, I was healthily skeptical and just as interested in simple physical relaxation.

For those who are curious about the logistics of visiting a place where a tank is offered, it's quite simple: you shower beforehand (and afterward), insert ear plugs, settle into the tank, and spend your allotted time in a fully relaxed horizontal position. It's important to avoid getting the highly salty water in your eyes, and it requires some care when crouching down to close the door, but for the most part I experienced it as an entirely passive affair--that is, until the alterations in awareness began.

For the first half hour, I was jostling all over the tank and often bumping up gently against the sides. It took me a while to learn how to surrender entirely to the fact that I would not sink. Once I learned to properly relax, situate myself in the center of the tank, and settle down mentally, I began to feel like my body was being tilted into a vertical position: a sense of ceaseless momentum forward and upward. This subsided and I then felt as though I were being rotated horizontally 360 degrees. There came a point at which I lost all sense of direction and physical bearing. This was mildly unsettling but did not provoke vertigo or nausea.

Slowly, I began to realize that my left eye felt like its muscles were focused more tightly and pushing harder into the darkness than my right eye. I began trying to 'attune' my eyes, and there was an accompanying sense of centering and calm as I tuned in to the more minute ocular muscles. Perhaps it was a way of fidgeting with the 'third eye', or sixth chakra, located in the region between and behind the eyes. I then began to have a clear sense of gathering up and clarifying all my thoughts and experiences from the past few days. Even mundane details took on a distinct sense of importance. I reflected back to childhood, when there was no such thing as the 'mundane' and all experience was intense and a portal to insight. I recalled a few vivid childhood experiences, but I wouldn't say there was anything dramatic about the recall; rather, I was thinking very coherently by synchronizing my own imagery, memories, and day-to-day experiences in a relaxed but deeply engaged manner. As a writer, this was extremely useful for me, and it allowed me to reach a state of mind that is hard to achieve outside of the tank.

I know all these effects can be attained without a floatation tank, but as I deepened into this aspect of the experience, I began to sense that I was participating in a special story within my psyche. It felt psychedelic;
I began to sense that I was participating in a special story within my psyche. It felt psychedelic;
that is, it seemed like a trip, with its own shape and narrative arc. The process of getting into the tank became clear to me as a sort of weird, modern ritual, and I was glad I had chosen to seek this out for myself.
I felt empowered and gentle. At this point, the activity of my mind dulled a bit and I began to feel as though I'd 'peaked', and I wanted to get out and celebrate and shout or something. I felt euphoric and was filled to the brim with benevolence, clarity, and insight. However, a substantial annoyance then set in: salty condensation from the tank's lid dripped into my eye and burned like mad. I had to emerge from the tank for a towel. It turns out that wiping off the inner roof of the tank before going in can prevent the dripping. When I got back in, the water jostled me around some, but I more readily found my center; nonetheless, I couldn't maintain it for long.

Up to the point of the eye-stinging drip, I would estimate that approximately an hour had passed. It is my understanding that the emergence of theta brainwaves is largely responsible for the cognitive effects in the tank. I assume I achieved a plateau of theta waves, but because of my inexperience, I was unable to maintain it. Usually, theta waves are but a prelude to sleep, and the mind isn't used to functioning within their frequency for very long before they initiate deeper levels of unconsciousness. Much like sleep cycles, it seems brainwaves in the tank run in 15-minute cycles, with a slow build-up and an extended 30-45 minutes in the theta realm occurring before a leveling-off occurs. The salt stinging my eyes was just the final straw in my attempt to maintain the somewhat trance-like state.

After recovering from the drip, the remainder of my time in the tank was disrupted by an ache in my neck that I simply could not relieve. Much like in meditation, such pain can be a major setback if one simply can't do anything about it. Surprisingly, my neck was more limber for a few days afterward. This seemed to be the result of fascia stretching into its right place, much like with a massage. All I can assume is that one should be willing to give in to some discomfort for purely therapeutic purposes in the tank and trust in the fact that it is doing one good in the long run. Perhaps if a body in full relaxation experiences pain, it's because it needs to learn to adjust to a completely relaxed state. It felt like a kind of learning on a somatic level.

Curiously, there was quite a bit of visual activity going on for me while in the tank. However, none of it was representational or really all that interesting. It seemed like phosphene activity, much like pressing on my eyeballs, with mutating smears of formless color and light. At one point, a very distinct image of a lamp from my childhood home emerged, and it was so vivid, and clearly seen--not imagined--that it seems worth noting as a cognitive effect.

I think that, as I gain experience, I'll be able to more effectively delve into submerged areas of my psyche while in the tank.
I think that, as I gain experience, I'll be able to more effectively delve into submerged areas of my psyche while in the tank.
As a tool for mental exploration, this has immense promise; however, if one is used to the overwhelming visual spectacle of psychedelics, the tank experience might seem a bit tame. Nonetheless, the potential physical rewards shouldn't be overlooked; it was as relaxing as a massage or light yoga. I suggest that anyone interested in floating find a local float center and check out Michael Hutchison's The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea; it is an amazingly comprehensive and exciting book on the subject.

Exp Year: 2007ExpID: 68367
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: Not Given 
Published: Jun 18, 2012Views: 16,481
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Floatation Tank (369) : Alone (16), General (1)

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