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The Reluctant Adventurer: The Flotation Tank at Float On

Saturday, September 20, 2014


entering the float tank at Float On

Guys. This week, I spent over an hour in a bath of warm water.

The lengths I go to for this column.

Okay, it was a little more involved than that. I spent 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank at "Float On," a 24-hour tank center at 45th and Hawthorne.

Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Oh, that sounds wonderful," and "Oooh! So relaxing!," but you are people who probably enjoy spending time with yourselves. Personally, I've had it up to here with my crap and the thought of spending 90 minutes alone with me is not the least bit appealing. 

Benefits of Floating 

But I've heard great things about the benefits of floating, particularly for creative people. Supposedly, when you cut out all sensory input, you can shut down that lizard part of your brain that's always on alert for a dude with a knife or a co-worker with a metaphorical knife or a lump somewhere a lump shouldn't be. Once that "holy crap I'm gonna die" part of your brain quiets down, the rest of your brain is free to imagine great things.

Or, in my case, wonder why so many people call it "expresso" when there's not an X anywhere near that word. But I'll get to that later.

Float On has six tanks to choose from - two "Oasis" tanks that look like space pods, two "Float Pools" that allow for a more open experience (great for claustrophobics and anyone who was once held captive in a car trunk!), and two "Ocean Float" rooms that are about 5 feet x 7 feet and allow you to stand when entering and exiting (this is what I chose). 

The entire place is exceedingly clean, warm and inviting. You have your own external room that houses the tank, including a shower. When you open what seems like a space-age pod door to the tank, you see a ceiling full of stars and glowing blue lights in the pool. This was comforting for me, as I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a little afraid of the dark. Especially pitch-black pools of water that could suddenly fill with tiny eels that try to get into your ear canals for no reason.

THAT DID NOT HAPPEN AT FLOAT ON. Just to be clear. That's just my overactive lizard brain.

The pools are filled with water heated to 93.5 degrees, which is "skin-receptor neutral," making it difficult to feel where your body ends and the water begins. COOL. It's also mixed with 850 pounds of epsom salts, which cause you to float in a decidedly “Sandra-Bullock-in-Gravity-but-without-the-terror-of-impending-death” kinda way.

For someone who has struggled with weight issues her whole life, I cannot stress enough the relief that weightlessness brings.

Sense of Peace

Floating is the strangest mix between being disconnected from the things that frustrate you about your body and being more connected to it than you’ve ever been. 

the lobby at Float On

Once you get in and turn the lights out, you’re in complete darkness. Well, that’s if you remember to turn the outside light off like Marshall at the front desk told you to. So once you get out sopping wet and risk electrocution for forgetting what Marshall told you, you get back in and you’re floating in black. 

All you can hear is your own breath. And when your breath runs out, you can hear your heart. For those of us who have trouble shutting off our brains and meditating, this is a tremendous help. The rhythm of your breath and heart almost force you to relax and disconnect.

And disconnecting is something we’ve almost all forgotten how to do.

Sherry Turkle said in her piece “The Flight from Conversation” that we’ve come, as a culture, to see being alone as a problem that needs to be solved. The second we’re alone for two seconds we pick up our phones so we don’t have to think. And what we’re missing out on is reflection. Actually thinking about our lives and the people in it.

For me, solitude is often a chance for my brain to go to places like the sea of eels I mentioned earlier, or my tax debt or, y’know, dying alone and stuff.

So I avoid it.

My experience with floating is that that stuff didn’t really come up. Or, it did, but I was able to shut it up a lot more readily. This could be due to reduced levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone released by your now-sleeping lizard brain), or just that my brain knew that floating in a sensory deprivation tank is an inappropriate time to bring that shit up.

Things it DID bring up:

  • I wonder if people masturbate in these things? 
  • Is that cracking sound MY SPINE? 
  • What’re those strange lights you see when your eyes are closed?
  • When does your brain ever get to rest? Even when you’re asleep it’s busy making dreams. Bummer job, brain.

I didn’t have a creative epiphany in the tank, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. I have a feeling it will take more than one float for me to break through my neuroses, but even with it, it was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life. More than anything else, it connected me to the body I spend most of time attempting to avoid thinking about, mostly because I’ve spent my life treating it like I have a spare one somewhere (I don’t).

My one complaint would be that the music they used to let me know my time was up sounded a little like the ominous BWWWWAAAAAHHHHH from Inception, which frankly scared the crap out of me in the blackness. So it was as if my lizard brain was awakened by an air horn, and he woke up ready to take off his earrings and cut a bitch.

But as I’ve said before, this is probably an issue that’s unique to me. Because I’m a little high-strung.

Go. Float. You’ll love it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who have trouble relaxing or need training wheels for meditation, people who want to get back in touch with their brain and body, people who will only disconnect from technology if they’re in a room filled with water.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who are afraid of nonexistent eels, people who thought "Altered States" was a documentary.

Float On: 4530 SE Hawthorne Boulevard. floathq.com

Courtenay Hameister is the Head Writer and Co-Producer of Live Wire Radio, a syndicated radio variety show distributed by Public Radio International. She is currently working on a book that will be released through Audible.com in 2015. Follow Courtenay on Twitter at @wisenheimer


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