A Dip into Isolation

Floating to nowhere

Ever since I saw the movie Altered States as a kid, I’ve wanted to experience a sensory deprivation or isolation tank. It is sort of a private hot tub of heavily salted water so that you float and it shuts out all light and sound. Things didn’t turn out so great for William Hurt in the movie but “floating” became a pretty big 80’s thing to do and even now there are quite a few spas that offer floatation therapy. This week, I finally took the plunge.

I simply thought it sounded cool and unique, and I’m always up for new experiences.

I’ve done a lot of personal and spiritual growth work this year with the Modern Mystery School and a ten-month program of Kabbalah, and I decided my first float would be a wonderful way to wrap up the year.

With the lid closed, the floatation pods look a bit like a computer mouse. Inside, it is warm, wet and peaceful. You can have subtle lights and music on to get started; then they shut off after ten minutes. My first thought after closing the lid and laying back on top of the water was, is this what life was like in the womb? My second thought was, I wonder if this next hour is going to feel like all day? It didn’t.

The tankI wanted the full “Altered States” experience, so I quickly shut off the lights and music. It was so dark I couldn’t see any difference between my eyes being opened or closed. At one point I was waving my hand in front of my face to see if I could perceive anything. I ended up smacking myself in the nose.

With the music off, the only sound was my breathing and a bit of a ripple in the water when I moved. The water temperature matches skin temperature which results in not quite knowing where you end, and water begins.

Our current society can feel pretty isolating on its own, thanks to not-so-social media, divisive politics and a general lack of empathy, so why would anyone choose to float alone in the dark? Glad you asked.

Some of the many benefits include:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Heightened production of endorphins
  • Diminished anxiety, depression, and tension
  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving abilities
  • Increased concentration, memory and mental clarity
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Quickened rehabilitation and recovery
  • Reduced blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced instances of neuromuscular aches and pains, inflammation and tendonitis, sprains/strains
  • Strengthened immune system

FloatingFloating is the sort of isolation that allows you to go inward and lose track of the rest of the world without using distractions or addictions. I found it to be very cool, well warm and wet to be more accurate. There is a feeling of complete weightlessness that allows body and mind to relax quickly and deeply, unless you have a fear of the dark or closed spaces.

Sometimes I felt like I was floating in space, other times I’d swear there was a current, and I was floating down a river. Both sensations were very soothing. I don’t think I ever fell asleep, but I definitely zoned out into some natural meditative state. A few times I wanted to roll over before remembering I was laying on water so had to remain on my back.

I live outside of Boston, and the place I visited, Frost and Float Spa, is also used by many professional athletes including members of the Bruins and Patriots. They also had nitrogen freezing pods that offer Whole Body Cryotherapy. They admitted it hurts like hell; then you feel better when it’s done. I was warned that if I heard screams, it was someone in the cryo chamber. The freezing makes all the blood leave your extremities, which hurts, then when they let you out the blood surges back to where it is meant to be, which is supposed to be beneficial and healing. I passed.

But I will float again. It was trippy being supported in nothing but water. It was a beautiful physical experience of how supported we are by life, the Universe, God…. Once I was zoned out, any little twitch I made seemed to create a tidal wave or anytime a toe touched the walls of the pod would be a shock to me. The hour went much faster than I thought it might. The calming, relaxing experience came on without any effort, just by giving over to the “nothingness” surrounding me.

It was like being an olive in the most blissful martini.


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