Inside a Sensory Deprivation Tank

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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 to help us get out of our heads for a while.  We were looking for fun things to do and Larry suggested we try out a sensory deprivation tank.  For those of you who don’t know, a SDT is a type of pod filled with very salty water which makes it easy to float in.  No light or sound comes inside the pod and since you’re floating, you don’t touch anything.  This 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 and Larry along with his son who both had a little experience inside a tank promised me I would be fine. Larry 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 was picturing being in the tank for maybe fifteen minutes, thirty on the outside.  As we walk into the float center I find out we are going to be inside the tank for ninety minutes.  Holy Crap!  Even my longest meditation sessions never go over an hour.  I felt an unfamiliar trepidation about this experience closing in.

I’m not claustrophobic but the thought of being inside a tiny dark box for an hour and a half was starting to seem less appealing.  Before my trip I was telling a friend about our plans and she thought it sounded like what they did to the prisoners of war, back in Vietnam.  I wasn’t in ‘Nam, I was in Mom, but I understood what she meant.  When I get nervous or scared my go to defense mechanism is humor.  I started half joking with the owner of the shop asking if people could hear me screaming from inside the tank, asking how I’m supposed to read my comics when there’s no light and re-enforcing that I’m supposed to float face up once inside the tank.

There is the faintest smell of lavender coming from one of the massage rooms.

As we’re going up the stairs to the tanks my internal mental soundtrack starts playing What Does the Fox Say and then I imagine myself spending the next ninety minutes going “Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!”  As I took on my clothes I desperately tried to think of a new song.  My brain came up with the Meow-Mix jingle.  Sometimes I think my mind hates me.

I enter the water and get used to the floating sensation for a little while.  I was told at the end of the session, some music would start playing to let me know it’s over, however they also gave us earplugs so the salt water won’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 they pulled him out of the pod in The Matrix?   That’s probably not my best look.

Finally my mind begins to quiet down and I’m able to enter something resembling a meditative state.  The only noise is my heartbeat and my breath which is long and deep.  After a while I focus on my heartbeat and slow it down.  Soon I can actually feel the blood flowing through various parts of my body.  I’m sure this sensation is always present but the noise of the external world drowns it out.

Then comes the smell of lavender.

Since my sense of smell is the only thing that hasn’t been muted by the tank it kicks into hyper-drive and my world becomes nothing but lavender.  I feel like Wolverine in a Potpourri shop.

Occasionally I float into one of the walls but mostly it’s just connecting to the breath and quieting the mind.

My stomach grumbles at one point and it’s like the T-rex from Jurassic Park.  I probably should have eaten something other than a Voodoo Doughnut before doing this.

I take a few more long breaths and then music starts to play beneath the water level.

There’s no way it’s been ninety minutes already. It felt like maybe thirty.  I think there must be a mistake but then I look at the clock on my phone and see my appointment truly is over.  My fingers look like raisins and I don’t particularly like raisins so I imagine them as craisins because those are delicious.  As I get out of the pod and take a shower to get all the salt off, a large part of me wants to get back in the pod.  That was the most peaceful sensation I’ve had in a long time.  My mind starts planning ways I can build a pod in my basement but 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 and I highly recommend it.  Just make sure you eat more than a Voodoo Doughnut before you go inside.

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