This was my first trip into a sensory deprivation chamber.
Insert your own lyrics from Jefferson Airplane here, or some lines from the Beatles about turning off your mind and floating downstream.
I’ve read about sensory deprivation for 20 years, and always wanted to experience it. But I never could find a floating tank close enough.
Then Still Point Wellness in Asheville, NC, built one.
The second I heard about it, I had to go.
I walked in the front door and everything was very relaxed. The owner, Corey, explained the process and what to expect very well. I experienced no anxiety during my prepping for the float. I was excited, but also a bit skeptical. Not about all the wonders of the human mind this experience could unlock. About the fact that I would just float seamlessly on the top of the water because it contains a high saline concentration.
Well, I floated just fine.
Here’s the idea. Your mind is constantly taking in data from the world around you, processing it, analyzing it, discarding it. It’s busy all the time, even when you sleep. Most of it is stuff you’ll never ever need to know or think about again. The cool feel of a doorknob. The color of the lady’s hair driving the car in front of you. How many ice cubes came in your soft drink yesterday? Meaningless stuff. But your mind is taking it all in. Keeping itself busy by churning all that data.
In the 1950s, NASA scientists began to ponder what a human mind would do when all these sensory inputs were dimmed. Light, sound, touch, smell. Sort of like the environment humans would soon encounter in zero-gravity space.
This is what a sensory deprivation chamber does. You float in body-temperature saline water, in a completely dark and soundless room. Suddenly, your mind is responsible for its own sensory input. This sometimes results in the mind producing Theta waves, or in other words, wakeful dreaming.
Everything at Still Point Wellness is pretty luxurious. Calm lighting, serene surrounding, it all puts you in the mindset to forget the world for a bit and take a dip.
I closed the door to the chamber, sort of like a stainless steel refrigerator door, and laid back in the saline solution. I immediately floated which amazed me. I’m a big guy. The chamber is a little room, maybe 10 feet by 8 feet wide. It’s tall enough to stand up in. The walls are black and nonreflective.
For about half an hour (only a guess because you begin to lose track of time and surroundings), my mind tried to reject the experience. The mind wanted to remain my center focus. It just kept reminding me of my to-do list and playing rock songs in my head.
Eventually, I acclimated to the experience. Suddenly, in my head, I heard a drum beat. Just one thump. I think this is when my brain began emitting Theta waves. My breathing became different. I was in a state of wakeful dreaming.
The chamber was completely dark. It’s the same if you close your eyes, or leave them opened. Eventually, your mind begins entertaining itself and you do have some slight visuals. Mine were funny, and personally meaningful. They began with tiny goldfish swimming in front of me. I tried to reach out and touch them, but they were only specters. Except these fish were not made of flesh and blood, but of television static. They reminded me of the old MTV days.
I’ve always wondered what lies past the edge of the universe. Perhaps my mind knew that this question, tucked away in my subconscious, has always bothered me. My mind answered with a vision. A giant Komodo Dragon appeared to me. It was chewing through the perimeter of the universe, like it was an eggshell. I thought to myself, ‘So that’s what lies beyond space and time,’ then smiled.
The layers kept peeling away. Deeper and deeper I drifted. I eventually lost ‘touch’ with my body, in a sense. I could always hear my heart beating. That’s one audio stimuli that is really hard to cancel out.
Shortly before my 90 minute session ended, I could just feel my consciousness, in a purer form. Not through my body, not through my prejudices and constant worldly inputs. Just awareness. The idea that I am me and that is all.
I’m going to stop there before I get too far into that ethereal realm. I’m not really one of those writers. But people who have experienced deep states in sensory deprivation will know what I’m talking about.
I’ve long suspected the universe is not real, per se. That it’s really just a matrix of information being processed through our biological computing machines called brains. And going into sensory deprivation only strengthens my belief in that. We’re all looking at the same stuff, but seeing it all very differently. The chamber melts away the layers until it is only your mind observing the mind. This is an interesting state to experience.
There were no big negatives. Some of my friends thought people go crazy in sensory deprivation because you would lose touch with reality and go completely insane. I think they’re wrong. It was a wonderful experience in a serene setting. Every now and then, I would float to one of the edges of the pool, tapping the side with my arms or elbows. This brought me back into my body temporarily. Not a big deal, but when you’re in that waking Theta state, you may not want to be disturbed with such silly things like remembering your own body.
I’m recommending this experience to my interested friends. I’ve wanted to ‘float’ for years, and I’m glad I finally did.
This experience leads me to believe the deeper you go, the easier and better it becomes.
I didn’t get to meet the Beatles, but who knows what will happen next time?