I’ve wanted to try a floatation tank for several years since reading a Joe Rogan article on the topic, but didn’t get around to booking it until this holiday period after my interest was reignited by reading Tim Ferris’ excellent new book; Tools of Titans.
I was not disappointed.
I was bought an introductory package of 5 floats at Floatworks near Vauxhall station in London for my birthday and rather impatiently booked my first float a couple of days later.
The experience at the centre was excellent and I suspect the facilities did strongly support my positive experience of floating. I won’t go into it in detail here, their website gives a good overview and the point of this post isn’t to review their centre, rather to give an insight into floating in general. I will say that it is probably worth looking for a well run, clean, established centre like this if you want to try it.
Once you’re in the tank with the canopy pulled down, naked except a pair of earplugs, the experience begins.
For the first ten minutes relaxing music is played and you are advised to keep the colourful lights on as you adapt to the experience. I found that I pretty quickly could completely relax my body and sink into the feeling of weightlessness. The main thing that I needed to ensure was that I wasn’t moving around the tank and bumping into the edges! It’s pretty easy to get used to this and just lie motionless and relaxed in the tank.
After ten minutes the music stops and it is time to turn off the lights.
I had presumed that entering a meditative state was the way to enjoy the experience and this was confirmed by the staff and the pre-float literature, although the advice didn’t specifically use the word meditation. I regularly meditate but I did initially find it hard to settle into the experience and wasn’t entirely sure what sort of meditation to try; it was just the excitement and uniqueness of the new experience that was making my mind race.
After a few minutes I settled on meditating on my breath with my eyes closed. A few minutes later I decided to open my eyes and then the real fun started.
Rather than having to concentrate on my breath as in a normal meditation, my brain just took over. I experienced sensations of rapid movement, mild visual hallucinations, unexpected emotions; i didn’t need to focus on anything as mundane as my breathing, my brain was producing more than adequate content on which to focus.
There is no light, no sound, no apparent gravity activating proprioception in your joints and muscles, the air and water are at body temperature, there is no movement of air. The sensory deprivation allowed me to dissociate from my body and be completely absorbed by the subconscious products of my mind. The sensations slowed in their incidence but if anything became more vivid and I could analyse them in their surreal beauty, sinking deeper into the experience.
I reached a point where I wanted to sink deeper still but I felt like something blocked me and if anything from that point on I felt like my experience was slightly lighter and more superficial, but still extraordinary.
Out of the darkness the music started up again, slowly bringing me out of the world within my head. Music plays for the last 5 minutes to bring you back into the real world. I turned the lights on which seemed more vivid than they had before.
Once I’d showered, dried and dressed I went to the chill room to get a sense of how I felt. My mind was remarkably clear, more so than after a normal meditation. I felt incredibly alert and creative. This sensation lasted for at least a day after the float.
I cannot wait for my next float. I’m sure that it will be as productive as my first and maybe I can sink even deeper into the subconscious multisensory experience – that is my hope and expectation. I think that repeated floating will be beneficial and I expect it to become a routine to me; an adjunct to meditation which provides even more profound effects.
From my first experience of floating I can entirely recommend it to anyone with an interest in improving their self awareness and cognitive ability.