Floating in the Dark

I have just had my first experience of a “float,” or what is known, a bit misleadingly, as a sensory deprivation tank. And I feel great.

I decided to try it out as a bit of a birthday present to myself. I went down to Lift / Next Level Floats, where I spent an hour floating in the dark inside of a pod filled with high-density salt water.

One of the things about being 41 and having lived an active life is that most things I do now, even if they’re new experiences, are like other experiences I’ve already had. So: a float in a tank is like lying in the Dead Sea, but in a dark room and against a smooth surface rather than in the heat of the desert and with sharp salt balls underneath you. A float in a tank is like getting a massage, in that it’s an hourlong sensory experience that lets you drift. A float in a tank is like meditating, except that no one has told you to keep coming back to the breath. A float in a tank is like an afternoon nap, except you can’t roll over or quite get to sleep. A float in a tank is like being in your bed awake at 3 am with jet lag, in that you’re motionless in the dark at a time when your mind thinks you ought to be awake.

What’s surprising to me is how good — how relaxed — I felt when I was done and out the door. I don’t think I felt that relaxed during the session. As I began to float, I noticed exactly where all the tension was in my body: I could feel it in my legs, my arms, as they seized up while I tried to hold myself up, hold myself in place — which was, of course, unnecessary. The sharpest tension was in my neck and shoulders, which began to ache right away, such that I used the neck flotation pillow to hold up my head for maybe the first two thirds of the float.

After a while, once the water stopped moving, there was a curious sensation of solidity, as if I were lying on a solid surface perfectly contoured to my body. And it might have been this easing of the body into the float, and the melting away of physical tension, that led to the relaxed feeling I have now.

Whatever it was, I came out of the water feeling calm and mellow. We’ll see how this feeling unfolds over the rest of the day.