What did you do this weekend, man? Oh nothing. The usual – relaxed, went out to dinner, saw a movie, watched the game, spent a couple hours floating naked inside a large white egg in total darkness pondering life, the universe and everything in between. Yup, one of those things actually took place this weekend. If you have not heard of this, it’s real. There is a thing, simply called “floating,” where the idea is complete sensory deprivation in order to achieve a zen-like state of mind, or at the very least, an absurdly relaxing hour and a half. Maybe you’ve seen something like this in weirdo midnight movies like Altered States, or even in the Pilot episode of Fringe in which a main character attempts to make a consciousness connection with her colleague who is in a coma – all via the assistance of a float tank (not to mention LSD). However, the real thing is basically the same idea (minus the LSD – though I’ll bet that’s quite an experience), where you climb into a large white egg-like pod that is filled with about 1,000 pounds of epsom salt to keep you afloat on the surface of the water like a cork. Basically, the Dead Sea in an egg. Once you’re in there, you close the hatch and just get nice and comfy, relaxing your muscles completely, letting the salt water do the hard work for you. The complete lack of gravity pushing on your body is a feeling unlike anything else. You are weightless – the closest thing you’ll get to it anyway, barring a trip to space. Once I got settled in, I turned out the light (you control the LED light and can switch it on or off during your float). I opted for total darkness, since I wanted to get the full effect. The specific place I went to also plays very mellow, new age(y) music for the first ten minutes while you get acclimated to your new surroundings, or lack thereof.
The music was very calming, and definitely helped to ease me into the whole experience. Then the music faded out completely – and that’s when I became aware of just how damn loud my breathing is. Seriously, it’s insane how loud something as common as breathing can be. I tried focusing on my breathing for a while, just to REALLY settle in and relax my body and mind. Then, I started thinking about what I felt I SHOULD think about. I thought about the universe, thinking maybe, just maybe, I would get some really cool visuals courtesy of my own crazy head, being that there is literally zero difference between having your eyes open or closed in there. I definitely started to lose all sense of my extremities. They keep the water temperature at 95.9 degrees, which is your skin temperature – so the effect is pretty disorienting as it feels like you’re a disembodied head for most of the float. You must also remember to do everything in your power not to scratch anywhere near your eyes. I forgot this small piece of advice, and had to turn the blinding light on to find the fresh water spray bottle that they keep in there for idiots like me. Once that was done – lights out and back into space. One thing I thought was particularly cool was the tiniest amount of energy I needed to put into simply twisting my body back and forth. I know the point of this whole exercise is to stay still and turn off the body and the mind, but I inadvertently shifted my weight at some point – and it was such a strange sensation. Since I was weightless, it felt kind of like I wasn’t even doing it. I couldn’t even tell which muscle was working to make my cosmic shimmy possible. Anyway, this went on for about 3 minutes. Though, in total darkness with no sense of the outside world, I could have been salt-water dancing for like 45 minutes…I don’t know. Thank God they don’t have cameras in there. Or do they?
Immediately following my salt-water ballet, I settled back into my peaceful float. Some time after that, I started hearing noises that sounded like someone lightly banging on pipes. I don’t know if it was sounds from other eggs that I was contacting, or just my imagination. Either way, it changed the entire atmosphere for me. My mind went from “Wow, this is so nice and calming” to “Shit. Maybe I’m being haunted and a spirit followed me into the egg.” So, for the next 5 minutes, I literally played out scenarios in which some horrible corpse-like demonic woman was just hovering above me in total darkness, and that it was my heightened sense of awareness that allowed me to become more in-tune with her presence.
Once this phase passed, I just focused more on my breathing and laid completely still for the remainder of my time. Except for the occasional bumping lightly into the sides of the egg, the rest of my float passed in total ignorant bliss of the outside world, as I continued to explore the inner world. I can’t even say for sure what was going through my head during the latter half, but I can only describe it as experiencing my own thoughts with an odd sense of detachment, not necessarily in a bad way. I wish I could tell you that I had some amazing epiphany about my life, your life, our lives, the meaning behind it all etc. Eh, maybe next time. I have heard that floating is a lot like peeling an onion. Each time you float, you peel away layer after layer, getting further deep inside yourself. So, looking at it that way, I have a lot to look forward to, as I will definitely be doing it again. For all you psychonauts out there that are curious about floating, I say go for it! Ya got nothing to lose, only something to gain. So, just remember to keep calm and float on.