It's A Tiny Revolution
Tiny things are getting a lot of attention these days. From tiny houses and tiny dogs, to reducing your borderline pathological hoarding tendencies to a more manageable amount of "tiny clutter". But how about a tiny tank?
Okay, let me explain myself. What I'm talking about are Sensory Deprivation Tanks or Flotation Tanks. They're basically the tiny version of the Dead Sea, but you are in complete darkness, alone and aren't smothering mud all over your body in hopes of clearing up your acne. Shoutout to Birthright!
I first heard of these water pods while listening to the 'Joe Rogan Experience' podcast. You can't listen to this podcast without hearing him rave about deprivation tanks and their ability to reduce stress, calm the mind, and basically make you a better person.
As a healthcare practitioner, curious human and a general need to try (almost) anything once, I decided to give it a go. I'm on a quest to find a routine way to de-stress, meditate and practice self-care. Not as easy as it sounds for someone in the healthcare field.
And exciting as it may sound to be shut in a coffin shaped box filled with salt water while floating in complete darkness--- I still had slight twitches of panic. More like twitches in my right eye. For a constant two days. Seriously, it didn't go away for two days.
So, with my right eye twitch and credit card information on file, I anxiously entered my local Flotation Tank center and took a little swim.
Walking through the door into Spacetime Tanks in Chicago was like leaving gritty Gotham City and suddenly finding yourself in Oprah's version of a 'Man Cave'; engulfed with the zen sounds of the pan flute, dim lights and a 'no shoe' policy, I quietly checked in and waited next to the fish tank, watching the sea creatures experience their own float.
The staff, consisting of just one person, highlighted the relativity of time as I waited for my pony tailed chaperone to finish helping others. In the meantime, I decided to read through the 'float journal' and see what others had to say about their time in the tank:
My first time in the tank was a learning curve for sure as I struggled to convince my body to let the experience happen. I still had great results… my Second float was even better, by the third I fell asleep in the tank and woke up able to walk without my cane or walker, feeling better then I have in over 30 years. I now look forward eagerly to my weekly float. The results last longer each time I go, and I’m far more flexible then I’ve been since a car accident in 1993.
Floating is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. It’s just like getting to know yourself on your own terms. When they say that it’s like floating through outer space, they really mean it. I have never had so much clarity in my entire life. I was able to perform complex math equations that I had never learned how to do. The world felt so much more real and within my control.
Wait, I could potentially get better at math? Currently at eager- beaver status to upgrade math skills before tax season. My pony tailed friend was ready for me and we made our way into my own personal float room.
The room is dimly lit, with candles and other calming additions. After looking in every corner of the room for Kenny G, I was ready. The attendant goes through a 10 minute spiel of how the tanks work, what to expect, and what not to do--don't rub your eyes after they've been in the water as they will BURN and ruin your calming experience. Noted.
I was afraid of claustrophobia and voiced my concern to the gentleman, and he confidently told me that due to the complete darkness, I will not have any sense of claustrophobia due to my lack of any sensory awareness. "Okay" I said.What I really meant was, "Are you sure, are you sure, are you sure?".
The tanks are a light- free and sound-free experience (I put ear plugs in) with a 12" solution of water containing about 1000 pounds of epsom salt---this is what makes you float.
I'm already in love because I am an epsom salt junkie and tell ALL patients to bathe in them---this takes epsom baths to a whole new level.
After the intro to floating, my friend leaves me in my personal room, I shower and prepare to enter my new home. I open and close the door about 10 times before I get in to make sure I have enough strength to do it on my own, and with a small hope that I'll create some muscle memory. You know, in case I forget how to open and close doors. It's amazing what "precautions" you think of when you're nervous.
I finally step in and sit in the shallow water inspecting my surroundings, making sure there is absolutely no way for me to get stuck or accidentally drown and then gently lay back into the salt water solution. Bear in mind, the door is still not shut. One fear at a time, please.
After 10 more minutes I decide to finally shut the door and very slowly, but progressively, float longer and longer. The tank is big, with enough room to sprawl my arms above my head and practice synchronized swimming routines with myself. After mastering the flamingo position, I tire and lay back, moving my weightless body from side to side, as if now I've entered orbit.
The tank is relaxing and quiet---a peaceful solitary confinement, where no one prepares you for the time spent with yourself with nothing to do but think. I try and meditate, which works for about 5 minutes, and start practicing my synchronized swimming routines again. This time with some flare.
The time spent in the tank is a constant back and forth of intense meditation and equally intense moments of thought. My inner dialogue consists of scheduling and bills to consoling myself in case fear comes marching in, "I can always just open the door and hangout out in the shower until my time is up. Or sit in the chair, they provide you a chair for a reason." I then slide back to quiet meditation. However, it was in these small moments of meditation that I realized how powerful these tanks can be. I had never been so "in the moment" as I have inside this tank.
The hour passed by slowly, yet quickly at the same time and when I heard the knock at the door I was simultaneously ready and sad the time went by. Similar to acupuncture, I realize that this is something that takes a few times to become comfortable with and learn to use. It's also quite powerful and knew I needed to sign up for more floats in order to get the full effect.
four floats later
I'm hooked. It's an hour I look forward to and crave. It's a period of time where no phone can reach me, no 'PING' of the e-mail can sway my attention and my body just floats. Every time I go the experience gets better and deeper, with my mind and body able to dive into meditation with relative ease. The more I go, the better I feel and the less I practice my swimming routine. I feel less stressed, my mind is more relaxed and I'm becoming the zen master I've always wanted to be. If you are looking to add another stress free routine to your life, I highly recommend trying out a flotation tank. However, you MUST go more than once to truly experience them.
Where to go:
Spacetime Tanks, Chicago. Great staff, relaxing environment and very clean.
Not in Chicago? Google is your friend.