Several months ago, my friend Jessica started raving about float tanks. Jessica - like me raves about all her new discoveries - and she's usually right (ESPECIALLY about Christmas prep). She began describing a sensory deprivation tank filled with 10 inches of body-temperature water and 1000 pounds of salt. You float in the pure dark with no sound for an hour or so. She described as rejuvenating and relaxing.
I was immediately intrigued.
Apparently, float tanks were invented in the 1950s by neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly. Originally, people were submerged in an effort to relax their mind but the breathing apparatuses were too clunky so they moved to the floating model. Several studies have shown floating to have a positive effect on stress levels and many other stress-related conditions.
I live with three boys under the age of 7. They had me at dark and silent.
Unfortunately, there are no floating centers in Paducah. When Beth and I went to Philly for the Democratic National Convention, I decided to try it out while we were in a big city with float centers. Two weeks of political conventions seemed to call for sensory deprivation anyway.
Beth decided to try it out too and one morning we headed over to Halcyon Floats.
The prep is minimal, although they do advise you not to drink caffeine and eat about an hour before you come. That way you're not jittery or hungry halfway through the session. You shower, plug your ears, and hop in the tank. You can close the lid to the tank or not. I chose to close the lid because I wanted total darkness.
The ability to float so easily is amazing. I literally stretched out and tensed every muscle in my body and remained floating, which was a completely bizarre experience. Our session was for 90 minutes - which apparently is a little long for beginners - but I was glad because it took me a while to get comfortable in the water.
When I first laid back, I felt like my shoulders were touching my ear lobes. They give you a short pool noodle to prop up your neck. However, that felt too restrictive. Finally, I figured out if I put my arms up by my head my back and shoulders would relax. I stayed in that position the rest of the time.
I was pretty sleep-deprived so I fell asleep a couple of times but I have no idea how many times or for how long. Once I was comfortable the time passed very quickly. In fact, the only stressful thoughts I had were, "Hurry up and think through some deep stuff before your time runs out!"
Unfortunately, because I fell asleep I think my body temperature dropped and by the time the timer went off I was starting to get a bit cold.
Otherwise, it was a completely enjoyable experience and after I had showered and gotten ready I felt like my muscles were melted butter - apparently due to all the magnesium from the epsom salt.
I would absolutely do it again. Although not for the claustrophobic obviously, I'd also recommend it. Being alone with our thoughts can seem scary in a world where distractions are always a click away. However, I found it helpful and enlightening to challenge myself.
Peace and quiet are always what we're longing for but sometimes they come in the opposite order quiet... then peace. If I have to get in a float tank to find some, sign me up.