Float Tanks: Meditation on SteroidsReading Time: 10 minutes
If you haven’t heard of float tanks, let me introduce you to a game changer.
If you have, stick around. I got some juicy shit share with you.
Over the past eight months, I’ve delved into the unorthodox world of floating (AKA sensory deprivation tanks). Since jumping down this rabbit hole, I’ve experienced some profound changes in my life that are so noticeable and significant that I feel somewhat of an obligation to share them with the world. The floating world is currently experiencing a boom of growth, and for a good reason. The benefits speak for themselves, and first-hand experience in the tank has shown me the vast potential of floating. Unfortunately, floating gets associated with a weird new-agey-hippie-mystic-vibe that has discouraged some from exploring the tank. Let’s get this shit cleared up once and for all: floating fucking rocks.
My first introduction to floating came while tuning into an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Joe is absolutely bananas about float tanks, and he raves about them to everyone. Any listeners of his podcast have probably heard him go on a rant about the benefits of floating more than once. Rogan articulates the benefits and process of floating very well, and his podcast was enough to make me give it a whirl. Check out what he has to say in this short clip.
Seriously. It’s like 4 minutes. Watch it. I’ll wait.
What Is Floating
Sensory deprivation tanks (float tanks) are merely a way to de-stimulate the body, relax, and immerse yourself into a state of let-go-y-ness. The tank is filled with about 10 inches of water heated to your body temperature. The temperature is necessary because it means you don’t really “feel” the water after a while, and you sort of dissolve into it. The pool also has about 1000 pounds of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) dissolved into it, causing you to be entirely buoyant. No muscle engagement at all is required to float. Add some earplugs to the already quiet environment, and you’re in total silence. In addition, the tank has a lid that you close behind you as you get inside, creating a totally quiet, dark, and weightless experience.
I’m sure you claustrophobics are sweating already. No need. Tons of space and oxygen so you can chill way the fuck out.
Early versions of the floatation tank have been around since the 50’s. The practice was invented and pioneered by a wacky neuropsychiatrist named John C. Lilly. His work may have been brilliant and ahead of his time, but he didn’t do himself any favors by portraying sensory deprivation in such an absurd way. People might be looking for an hour of relaxation, but probably not a way to communicate with aliens and explore the more profound mysteries of consciousness.
The popularity of floating took a hit in the 80’s with the AIDS scare, as people weren’t sure how the disease spread, and weren’t about to jump into a tub of water with potential AIDS floaties. Don’t worry though-nothing is living in 1000 pounds of salt water, and the tanks are filtered continuously and cleaned regularly.
The psychological and mental benefits of floating are amazing. To me, floating is like meditating on steroids. With absolutely no distractions, I can dive deeper and deeper into my mind, pulling back layer after layer of cluttered thoughts, confusing emotions, and background noise. After just breathing and observing each cloudy thought that passes over the sky of my mind, I find myself deep in contemplation or having epiphanies unexpectedly.
Just one hour in the tank seems to clear my head and recharge me in more ways than one. In addition to sorting through thoughts and letting go of unneeded background noise, floating makes me feel amaze-balls physically as well. Magnesium has been shown to have many benefits physically on the body, so laying in 1000 pounds of it for an hour seems like a no-brainer. Some benefits include: bolstered cognitive function, lowered stress levels, decreased levels of anxiety and depression, helping to treat addiction, and of course- a decrease in physical pain and tension. This is just the beginning of a long laundry list of awesomeness.
It’s good to see some legit studies finally coming out that show the vast benefits of floating, but most of the evidence is still anecdotal. There are countless accounts of individuals reversing diseases, healing significant injuries, and even curing PTSD. I’ve got my own crazy story from floating, but we’ll get to that in a sec.
I do a lot of wilderness backpacking and hiking which tends to really give my body a good ass whooping. I always try to get into a float tank when I get back because it makes me feel like a completely different person after. It’s my favorite tool for recovering from high-intensity activities or injuries. This is all in addition to the fact that I feel like it makes me a more chilled out dude, increases my awareness of my thoughts and actions, and provides me with an incredible resource to sort through any complex decisions or problems that are troubling me.
Floating and the Wim Hof Breathing Method
Ok, so here is where this shit starts to get weird. I’m sure many of you have heard of Wim Hof, AKA The Iceman. This guy has set 26 world records and has become renowned for his breathing method. This method consists of controlled hyperventilation and breath retention, which leads to interesting effects including lightheadedness, tingling sensations, and even hallucinations. Hof uses this method along with cold exposure to achieve the impossible. The reason I’m going on about this is simple: using the Wim Hof method is fantastic, but using it in the tank is a game changer. Here is a quick tutorial you can follow to perform the method to see the results for yourself. Also, here is an excellent article if you want to dive deeper into Wim Hof and his method. This guy climbed Everest in fucking shorts, so it might be worth taking a look. He’s legit.
When following this breathing method in the tank, I feel as though I can separate myself from my ordinary waking consciousness and move my awareness into other parts of my brain/body. I know this sounds crazy as hell, but Hof has proven that humans are capable of exercising control over systems in the body that we thought were utterly autonomous before. After a few rounds of breathwork, I slide deep into a meditative state where I feel as though I can shift my awareness to anywhere in my body that needs attention or correcting. It’s almost as if I’m running diagnostics on different systems of my body and consciously correcting anything off or out of balance. By doing this, I maximize my time in the tank and come out feeling like an energizer bunny.
Floating and Cannabis
Alright Alice, down the rabbit hole we go. The following anecdote is bizarre but very true. My first 5 or 6 floats were conducted entirely sober, but then I heard (again from papa Rogan) that consuming edible cannabis before entering the tank completely changed the experience, and for the better. I like floating, and I like marijuana, so I figured what the hell, I’ll give this a shot.
Mind. Fucking. Blow.
The first 30 minutes or so of the float went as usual. I started out a little fidgety and twitchy with my thoughts racing around inside my head. Slowly my mind became quieter, my body melted away, and I seemed to dissolve like some sort of salty sapiens solution. At around the 30-45 min mark (totally guessing here) something nutty happened.
I felt a sudden shift inside my head. It was a feeling like a switch behind my eyes had been flipped, and I had snapped into another awareness. I then began to feel a vibrating/tingling sensation in the back of my head that slowly started moving down my spine and then gradually out to my extremities. Eventually, this energetic vibration became more and more intense and powerful. As it moved throughout my body, it was as if it was setting everything straight. I suddenly became aware of tension and tightness in areas I was oblivious to previously. Just as I became aware of it, the energy would move into that area and somehow dissolve all the tension or pressure. As this happened, my body slid into what I knew to be my truly correct posture. This process repeated throughout my entire body.
For a few minutes, I was completely tripping balls, wondering what the hell was going on with me. Countless possibilities raced through my head, but this energy felt inherently good, and it seemed as though it was healing me. I was able to remain calm as the level of intensity increased.
The most intense moment was when it reached my feet. Holy shit. I had no idea of what wearing shoes all day had been doing to my feet. As this new force inside of me pushed them all the wat forward so that my toes were pointing down away from me, I felt intense pain and cramping. All I could do was breath as much as possible and wait for the pain to subside. Once the pain passed, I laid in the salty warm water, panting, and wondering what in the actual fuck was going on with me. Things would only get crazier.
The energy then began traveling back up from my feet towards my head. As it reached the base of my spine, I felt a concentrated orb or center of energy open. It’s tough to explain how this felt, but it was like a vortex or focused center of energy that was inside of my body. The process continued with six more centers opening as this force traveled up my spine. First the base of my spine, then my sacral/naval area, then my solar plexus/stomach area, then my heart/chest area, then my throat, then my forehead/third eye, and finally the crown of my head. I would later do extensive research into what I had experienced and discover that these were the chakra centers of the body. Apparently, they’ve been common knowledge in eastern cultures and yoga practices for millennia.
With seven centers of vibrating energy opened for the first time in my life, and with my mind sufficiently blown the fuck open, I lay there contemplating the meaning and impact of all of this. No sooner had I thought “wow, this tank is a doorway to something incredible,” the lights turned on, informing me that the float session had ended.
Part of me is extremely hesitant to share any of this weird shit because it’s very personal to me. That day signified a shift in my life that has had a profound domino effect ever since. However, I feel like it’s important to share things that have the potential to bring more good into other people’s lives and this definitely qualifies as such. Not only do I feel like I’m in an entirely new body now, but I feel like I’ve gained some sort of connection to “spirit” or “higher self” or whatever you want to call it. I no longer feel as though I’m operating my life completely out of the cockpit of the ego, but that I’m now guided by something greater.
Keep in mind, all of this is coming from a skeptical dude who turned his back on religion and spirituality in general. I decided years ago that people who believed in this type of shit were delusional. This woo-woo energy talk is the exact thing I would have laughed at a year ago, but now I find myself writing about it. Funny how the life works.
The first cannabis float occurred back in January of this year. Shortly after the session, I got a bi-weekly membership to the float center as well as a membership at a nearby yoga studio. This experience made me uber conscious of all the areas in my body that needed some attention and love. Since then, I’ve practiced yoga 3-4 times per weak, floated at least twice per month, and I’ve cultivated that connection to the energy that awakened in the tank. The result is a more healthy, more energetic, more optimistic, more adventurous, and more aware version of me. Not to mention, that hot yoga really whipped me into shape (post on this later). I’m not writing any of this to stroke my ego. Instead, I’m writing because I want to help bring these same benefits to the lives of others.
Becoming aware of and in tune with my chakra energy centers has wholly shifted my reality. The experience alone was enough to make me totally reconsider my path in life, and what I’m using my short time here on Earth for. I’ve weeded out most toxic habits and routines included excessive drinking, unhealthy eating, and porn or unfulfilling casual sex encounters. I’ve gone from being the least flexible guy on the planet to then opening up my body to possibilities of which I didn’t think myself capable. This includes healing and rehabilitating several nagging injuries that have stuck with me since my teenage years. I’ve quit my job to follow my passion for writing, travel, and (hopefully) spreading a positive message to the world.
Future of Floating
The benefits of floating range from relieving sore muscles and tension to opening chakras and a connection to spirit. Floating helps combat anxiety and depression, as well as helps rehab injuries and re-align the body. Floating has risen very near the top of my list of “things absolutely worth fucking doing in life,” hence the reason I’m blogging about it. But why isn’t everyone doing it already?
Actually, floating has undergone a bit of a renaissance lately. Since 2011, the number of float centers in the US has gone from about 85 to over 300. It’s an exploding market as more and more people are beginning to discover the benefits of sensory deprivation and floating in salt water. It’s a goal of mine to help as many people as I can discover this for themselves, and I’m continually dragging friends into the float center to try it for the first time. Hell, maybe one day I’ll own a center of my own.
The reality is, floating only makes lives better. As this industry grows, and as at-home floating becomes more accessible and popular, I think the waves throughout society will be tremendous. A future with people regularly floating could be very bright. Imagine a population with self-awareness and who isn’t completely blinded by whatever propaganda or advertising is right in front of them. Imagine a healthy society which strives to achieve a balance of mind, body, and soul. Imagine people living their lives with purpose and becoming the masters of their own destinies and the architects of their realities. I believe floating can contribute in a significant way to making that future a reality, but it starts with one person at a time.
It begins with you and me.
Go get in a float tank!