Recently I took a trip to Oregon to visit with my friend and mentor, Larry.
There were some painful situations we were dealing with, so a weekend of goofing off was in order. We were looking for fun things to do, and Larry suggested we try out a sensory deprivation tank.
For those who don’t know, a sensory deprivation tank is a pod filled with very salty water, which makes it easy to float in. No light or sound can come inside the pod, and nothing touches you in your floating state.
The lack of sensory stimulation is supposed to be very calming and conducive to attaining a still mind.
I had never done this before, but I’m always looking for new ways to experiment with meditation. Larry had a little experience inside a tank and promised me I would be fine. He set up the appointments and the three of us were set. Guy’s night out. Living dangerously.
Since I didn’t make the appointment or do any research, I left a lot up to assumption, which never really works out well for me.
I pictured myself in the tank for maybe 15 minutes, 30 max. But, when we got to the float center, I found out we were going to be inside the tank for 90 minutes. Holy Crap! Even my longest meditation sessions never go over an hour.
I felt an unfamiliar trepidation.
I’m not claustrophobic, but the thought of being inside a tiny dark box for an hour and a half wasn’t appealing. Before my trip I was telling another friend about our tank plans and she thought it sounded like what they did to prisoners of war.
Whenever I am scared, my go-to mechanism is humor. I started half joking with the owner of the shop, asking if people could hear me screaming from inside the tank. I also re-enforced that I would be floating face up.
As we walked towards the tanks, my mental soundtrack started playing What Does the Fox Say and then I imagined myself spending the next 90 minutes going “Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!”
As I took off my clothes I desperately tried to think of a new song, and my brain came up with the Meow-Mix jingle. Great.
I entered the water and got used to the floating sensation for a little while. I was told that at the end of the session, music would start playing to let me know it was over—but they also gave us earplugs so the salt water wouldn’t go inside our ears.
What if I can’t hear the music? What if they have to come bursting in, and I’m all naked and looking like Neo when he was pulled out of the pod in The Matrix?
That’s probably not my best look.
After a little while, my mind quieted down. I was able to enter something resembling a meditative state. The only noise was my heartbeat and my breath, which was long and deep. I focused on my heartbeat, and slowed it down. Soon I could actually feel the blood flowing through various parts of my body. I’m sure that sensation is always present, but the sensory white noise of the external world drowned it out.
Then, I smelled lavender.
My sense of smell went into hyper-drive; my world became nothing but lavender. I felt like Wolverine in a Potpourri shop. I could feel the lavender particles inside my nose and lungs.
Occasionally I would float into one of the walls.
My stomach grumbled at one point. It sounded like the T-rex from Jurassic Park. I probably should have eaten something other than a Voodoo Doughnut before doing this.
I took a few more long breaths, and then music started to play.
I couldn’t believe it had already been 90 minutes—it felt like 30.
I took a shower to get all the salt off, and a large part of me wanted to get back in the pod. It was the most peaceful sensation I’d experienced in a long time.
My mind started planning ways I could build a pod in my basement…I want mine to be vertical like the one they put Luke Skywalker in after they pulled him out of the Taun Taun.
It’s definitely something I would do again. I highly recommend it. Just make sure you eat more than a Voodoo Doughnut before you go inside!
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