Floating in Nothingness
I’m not sure when I wrote “floating in a sensory deprivation tank” on one of my personal cards of wishes — but it worked: last Monday I floated.
I first read about “sensory deprivation tanks” in a book about brain-machine interfaces. In the introductory carousel on the history of neuroscience, the author mentioned this genius-but-strange scientist named Lily. Besides being one of the fathers of electrophysiology, inventor of a ground-breaking technique to study how neurons talk among each other, Lily imagined and built sensory deprivation tanks and used them quite compulsively back in the days (maybe the ‘60s-70s?) to make experiments about consciousness and psychedelic drugs (here I may be messing up reality with the movie Altered States of Mind, which btw is worth watching and most probably took inspiration by Dr. Lily himself…anyway!).
In case you’ve never heard about it, a sensory deprivation tank is an improbable set-up precisely designed so that no visual, auditory or tactile sensation can reach you. Basically, it’s a huge bathtub with a huge lid filled with super salty water (much saltier than the sea — thus, with much more buoyancy) exquisitely heated at normal-body-temperature in which you enter naked and wearing earplugs.
With time, and the favor of scientific orthodoxy, such tanks left (forever, I’m afraid) neurophysiology labs to move into SPAs. Apparently, the total absence of any kind of physical stimulation is a desirable state of being, at the point that it’s worth paying roughly 50 euros to float for one hour into a “floating tank” (deprivation sounded so little marketable, honestly).
So. Well. What the f**k happens in there?
One hour? Does it even pass if you do nothing but nothing?
Believe me. It does.
I do meditate — I love doing it, actually. But that is not what happened in the tank. I didn’t think about the breath. I didn’t have any kind of plan on how to behave, honestly. But here is what happened: I started relaxing all the parts of my body; then exhaust all the thoughts in my mind; then drain out my emotions.
And finally there I met my self.
Once out of that tank I could hear my thoughts more clearly, fell my emotions more clearly, understand my body more clearly — but I knew very well how these things were not my self. And today — one day after — whatever this new perspective was, it is still with me.
I’m not even sure what this all means — but that’s the best description I have.
Next time you’re at the sea, secure yourself with a rope — wear sunglasses and earplugs — and try to meet your self. If it doesn’t work, grab 50 euros and ask to Google Maps where is your most proximate floating center. You may love it as I did.
And no, you don't need psychedelic drugs.