23 June 2008
Sensory Deprivation Tank
Two days ago I floated in a sensory deprivation tank at a private spa in Tucson. If you're in Tucson, Teresa Wilke-Oved, at Still Waters is detail oriented and just the best guide for a first timer. The experience was so wide ranging in it's effects, I'm still digesting what happened during that hour.
Sensory deprivation tanks were developed by John C. Lilly M.D. in the 60's to examine the effects of the mind in isolation. Called a sensory deprivation tank, isolation tank, or floatation tank, the enclosed tank is fashioned with air circulation and a water/salt solution bath kept at 94F, or skin temperature. 750lbs of epsom salts dissolved in the water makes your body float higher than you would in a jacuzzi or swimming pool. The effect is like floating weightless through space. When the mind isn't irritated by the constant stimilous from the skin, eyes, ears, etc. it is totally free to exist on it's own. Although it is used for drug rehabilitation, stress relief or pain management, some use it as a creative tool. That's what I'm interested in.
So what was it like?
It took me a while to relax and get used to the environment. My arms and legs felt large and solid and then I couldn't feel them at all. I lost all sense of time which made me sometimes anxious. Once I relaxed, my visions ranged all over the place. There is no way you can't totally relax in this thing. At one point, I was floating above houses and streets. At one point I was looking down through clouds at a mountain top. At one point I was in a 50's modernly finished apartment building on about the 10th floor. At one point I was hovering near some sort of futuristic/gothic cathedral ala H. R. Giger. I specifically saw the detail of the architecture which was detailed infinitely complex like precious metal jewelry. At one point, err, lets just say things were erotic. At one point I had a flash of absolute fear and vertigo. Maybe I forgot where I was? Maybe I glimpsed a little death?
It's amazing that the mind can have these kind of experiences without the use of drugs. I am returning next Saturday, hoping the novelty of the experience will wear off and I have some more control over my exploration. I'm interested in exploring lucid states and using the experience as a creative tool. My plan is to float weekly until I sort of 'level out' my stress and can develop a controlled plan of exploration. Go into other worlds and bring back some imagination booty! Like a psychonaut pirate!
Even a couple days after the float, I feel more in the moment and relaxed. My creative mojo is also pumped up and I'm sketching some new imagery as a result.
Just as a little P.S.
Joe Rogan, not the person I would expect to be open to these sort of things, has a kind of video where he 'advertises' float tanks and is giving one away online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7tq0IwPao0
He has this other less finished video that is probably more descriptive of what you can expect: