I Tried a Float Tank. Here’s What Happened.
Have you heard about the experience of float tanks recently? It seems to be a more and more popular practice as people are seeking better ways to get in touch with their own thoughts and break away from the busyness of the every day. Float tanks also go by the names isolation tanks and sensory deprivation tanks, which sounds a lot more intimidating than float tank!
Float tanks are closed tanks that are filled with a few inches of very salty water (epsom salt). It is so salty that it allows for your body to stay buoyant without any assistant. Once inside the tank, you have no sound and no light, just darkness and your body floating in the water. It truly is a huge change from our daily lives that are filled with lights, sounds, and physical stresses.
It was researched and developed by a neuropsychiatrist in the 1950s, but really has only gained popularity in more recent years. Floatation tanks are considered by many to be helpful for all sorts of ailments, including body pain and stress. But what is it really like?
When I showed up for my session, which was an hour long (what they recommend for first time users), I was shown down a hall to a small room containing a tank, a shower, and a small changing area. I first needed to shower off. It’s best to enjoy the floatation without clothes on to lessen distractions, but you are welcome to wear a swimsuit for comfort.
The tank looked like a giant washing machine. It wasn’t fancy, just a white rectangle with a small door on one side and hoses coming out the other. I stepped in and was surprised at how little water there was in the tank. I assumed I would need a lot more to support me.
I closed the door and laid back into the water. I closed my eyes and was surprised at how well the water supported me and how comfortable it was to just float without any need to go anywhere or do anything. I was barely into the session when I hit my first road block. I am a bit on the claustrophobic side and suddenly had a panic that I was surrounded in black without any idea of where an exit was or where I was in relation to a wall. There was no way to get my bearings when I had no light and no sound as my guide. Thankfully, I could easily sit up in the small amount of water and feel my way in panic for the exit. They provided a small noodle piece to use under your head, but I stuck mine in the crack of the door just to finally relax.
Then it happened again.
Unbeknownst to me, the lights in the room were on a timer and went out not long after I set the noodle piece in place. So the next time I opened my eyes for reassurance, no crack of light showed me an exit and I panicked yet again. It felt silly to panic knowing that I could easily sit up and probably find may way out, but my mind was in a constant state of panic for probably the first 10 minutes. Then it switched into, how long have I been in here? And more importantly, how long do I have left?! At this point I was thinking maybe this was a bad idea. All that had been accomplished was a series of panic attacks and a desire to just have the experience over with. But I am not a quitter and wasn’t willing to give up so easily, though I did think about it.
I was waiting for some sort of miracle moment. I thought that depriving myself of all distractions would give me a chance to truly get in touch with my inner thoughts. I wanted it to accomplish what I wasn’t able to do with my meditation. Then my mind went to a place I didn’t expect.
That’s when things got truly dark.
My mind became an accuser. I suddenly was standing before the judge of my mind and it wasn’t happy with who I was. It became a battle ground of all the negative thoughts that I carried around with me every single day. It felt like it was pushing me into the part of my brain that speaks into my life daily without me realizing it. The part that tells me I’m not good enough. That I should just give up. That I’m useless. I had never faced something like that head on without any way to run away. In my every day I hear those thoughts, but I’m able to look the other way and be distracted by something else. I had never dealt with them before. I guess they were a bigger part of me than I had ever realized.
Then something amazing happened.
My mind fought back. I hadn’t expected that. When I saw all the negativity and couldn’t run away, suddenly the other part of me (the part that probably doesn’t get as much chance to speak into my life) rose up to fight for me. It didn’t tell me I was the best. It didn’t say that other voice is wrong, you are so perfect. Instead, it told me what I should be doing. It gave me advice. In truth, that was exactly what I needed. If the other voice had said, no you have so much to offer and left it there, I would have quickly turned back to believing the darker feelings. But instead, it took the negativity and told me how I could make improvements in my life that would prove those darker feelings wrong. It gave me answers.
And that’s what we want, isn’t it? If in your mind you hear that you aren’t beautiful, it doesn’t help to yell “na ah” at it. Because the next time you look in the mirror, you hear the same thing again. But if you prove the voice wrong and start finding ways to be more beautiful and carrying that with you throughout the day, it fills those negative spaces with positivity. When you stop listening to the voices and chase after the answers, you find yourself in a completely new place of contentment.
I wasn’t expecting to find all of that hidden away in my brain. I hadn’t even been aware that I was so negative or that I had so much potential that was waiting inside of me. It was like the real me was screaming to get out but I couldn’t hear it because I wasn’t taking the time to really pay attention. I was filling up my days with work and errands and relationships and other distractions. And those are all good distractions, but sometimes we lose touch with that inner voice. The one who gives us good advice and knows us best. And we allow other voices to take control.
I honestly didn’t know what I would experience when I stepped into the float tank for the first time. I expected maybe a relaxing hour, maybe even a long nap. But I wasn’t aware that spending an hour with me and only me would be so enlightening. It was the ultimate meditation experience. The other positive outcome I wasn’t expecting was that the pains I went in with in my shoulders were gone by the next day. I guess allowing my body to float without any need to support it truly did give it a chance to rest, relax, and heal.
The float tank was a very unique experience. Is it for everyone? Probably not. But I definitely think it’s a great way to relax your body and get in touch with what’s going on in your mind. You may find it a rewarding experience or you may find it a harrowing one, either way I hope you find it as enlightening as I did.
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