The Experience: Sensory Deprivation Tank
When I heard about sensory deprivation tanks, my first thought was absolutely not, not in a million years, that sounds like the epitome of my worst nightmare. Not only am I fairly claustrophobic and a-bit-more-than-fairly anxious, but the idea of being stuck with my own thoughts in a pitch black coffin with no escape sounded...masochistic.
To be honest, I’m not sure when it is that I did a complete 180 and decided to book my first appointment. Maybe it was reading more into the beneficial effects of the tanks, maybe it was feeling like my psyche really desperately needed to hit the reset button, maybe it was coming in hot off of an adventurous summer and feeling like this would be my new challenge to tackle, but slowly and surely I found myself talking, thinking, and searching for these torture chambers 24/7.
I eventually settled on Lift Floats in Brooklyn – the only space in NYC that is dedicated solely to sensory deprivation tanks. The website looked friendly, I had heard great things, and I am always, always down for wandering the adorable streets of Carroll Gardens
When I walked into Lift, I felt like I had walked into a hybrid between a modern spa and a minimalist Japanese garden, with plenty of warm vibes to go around. There were people casually lounging on plush couches in comfy sweats drinking tea, reading books, and writing in journals, their hair drenched from their recent tank session. Hush whispers, gentle smiles, and an overall wave of caaaaaalm, I felt like I was walking into a Cali medicinal marijuana lounge where a class of high yoga had just let out.
There were two tank options. One looked like an oversized tanning bed that closed down upon you sealing you
completely in darkness. The other was a rectangular “room” with a 3-4 foot door. Although I felt surprisingly at ease and ready to do this, I wanted to avoid a sudden freak out at any cost, so I chose the tank “room”. Both promised complete sensory deprivation with complete silence and darkness, along with detoxification from the 1,000 pounds of epsolm salt water your body peacefully floats in (yes, 1,000 pounds).
I showered according to the instructions (there were a lot of instructions), opened the door, laid myself in the salt water, and shut the door. My body effortlessly floated on top of the water, these tiny salt particles holding me up from the tip of my toes to the top of my head. I laid back and allowed it to fully hold me, trying to relax my muscles one by one. I left the ceiling “stars” on at first to get myself acclimated with the space (and because they were enchanting and beautiful), and, when I felt like I had my bearings, turned them off.
Pitch black. The type of darkness I’ve only ever experienced by shutting my eyes to fall asleep.
Absolute silence, except for the sound of my heart beating.
Although, my sense of time was completely made up and arbitrary over the next 60 minutes, this is a rough timeline of my experience:
0-10 minutes: eyes darting around...woah this is dark, woah my heart is beating fast, woah what am I gonna do here for an hour?
10-30 minutes: work, work, work, what should I have for dinner tonight?, does it matter if I keep my eyes open or closed?, relaaaaaaax muscles relaaaaax, oooo I really want to book a camping trip
30-60 minutes: breath, waves, silence, darkness, shapes, dots, lines, colors, space, heart beat….beat….beat….
60 minutes: Spa music fills my ears, colored stars start glittering in front of my eyes, I’m reborn.
I didn't want to leave my tank by the end of the hour. It felt like my friend, my cocoon, my home. I felt a sense of peace I have never felt before in my life, floating there staring at those twinkling stars. I felt like I had weeks of sound slumber, clean eating, and morning mediation under my belt, and my body & mind were officially on fire. I felt warm, safe, and loved. I felt like everything - and I mean everything - was going to be okay.
Yes, on the other side of my tank wall was NYC, and dinner, and work, work, work...but for that night, I was going to hold onto that high for as long as humanly possible.
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In an ideal world (where float sessions are bartered for hugs and the lobby area of Lift is filled with potty trained puppies), I would venture over to Carroll gardens weekly, exchanging warm hellos and small talk with my fellow avid floaters. Eventually we'd build bonds so tight that we'd schedule simultaneous float sessions together followed by kombucha dates at one of those nearby bars where they serve it on tap, discussing how floating has changed our lives. I do think a regular float practice would change me, softening my body, mind, and spirit in ways I have not yet imagined. But, for now, in this world where time and resources are short, I'll have to settle for that occasional treat.