Why float tanks?
Simply put, float tanks are spaces for exploration and experimentation, from physical and material layers of biology, physics, and chemistry, to the metaphorical narrative that takes form as the drama of our lives, egos, identity, choices, purpose, and meaning.
These simple and profound environments are designed to remove everything from our environment that elicits a response from our body-mind, whether that is a physical, emotional, or mental response of any kind. This includes light and sound of course, but the tank also balances gravitational gradients across the body simulating weightlessness, while the isothermal temperature of the float solution reduces energy required for thermoregulation. As a result, the lack of perceived proprioception makes spatial orientation nearly impossible. Interestingly enough, other areas of your body may explore their capacity to compensate for the environment. E.g. in the first few experiences you may notice a subtle feeling of motion or rotation. Over time, this sensation no longer shows up, and I presume it’s because your body (specifically your semi-circular canals) have had practice at being in such an environment, and no longer need to compensate for the novelty of the conditions.
As a float centre, we start fundamentally and necessarily from the premise of an experimental design. What happens when you reside in a space void of external feedback? What is possible to experience in such an environment? How can we begin to use this environment to our advantage, to its full potential, to reach our full potential.
Over time, higher quality questions have the opportunity to emerge naturally out of your experiences and may lead you to richer and more subtle experimentation and devotion, which begins to take the form of practice. In the space of practice, we can explore and engage with the process of being. Practice itself may begin to transcend the float experience as it grows into a container, a meaningful context, for the conscious choice to engage in a continual process of sustainable self realization, of developing your innate potential.
How responsible am I for my experiences in the tank? How about in life?
How much of my experience is a result of the environment? How can I structure my environment to reliably produce desirable circumstances and opportunities? A beautiful paradox worthy of our time in history begins to emerge. How can I accept myself as I am (present), informed by who I have been (past), whilst maintaining a healthy relationship with growth, development, and my goals in life? (future).
Okay, okay… blah blah blah. But actually happens when you float in a sensory deprivation tank?
The 30 thousand ft view is something along the lines of a powerful and yet somewhat subtle and broad effect called: renormalization.
Renormalization is characterized by your body’s innate tendency to move towards harmony when left alone. Physiologically this means an activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, allowing for healing and regeneration to take place more efficiently. This effect results in things like hormonal regulation, muscle recovery, injury repair, endogenous detoxification (by your liver and kidneys). Are these effects proven? Not really no. But it depends what questions you’re asking. If you ask, “will the float tank detoxify my body?” The clear answer is no. But if you consider that detoxification is a normal process that our bodies undergo all the time using our organs specifically designed for this process, then the answer is undoubtedly yes. It’s simply this: when you allow your body to enter a “rest and digest cycle,” your body will do the things it needs to do to improve its current state. This is why we sleep, breathe, rest and recover in general. The float tank can therefore be thought of as a set of circumstances that invite the body into activating programs of regeneration, that are not active when your sympathetic nervous system is active.
In the mind, the experience of floating feels much like a settling, defragmentation, or a form of hygiene for the psyche, and is characterized by a reduction in brainwave frequency. This repeatable effect leads to stable experiences outside the tank like enhanced ability to focus, read, and retain information, as well as a direct reduction of feelings of anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, and burn out. Anecdotally, floating helps boost feelings of creativity, and is corroborated by the evidence of actually having created something of value. This boost in creative output is often associated with concepts like hemi-synchronization and free association.
In a world like ours, float tanks are becoming increasingly valuable. Float tanks can give you a neat experience, but they can also become a doorway to engaging with something much greater, the mystery of your limitless potential, the healing and the creative power of your incredible human body and mind, the happiness and joy available to you in each moment.
The author, Dustin Erickson, is the founder and operator of Float Space in Kelowna with over 3000 hours of floating experience and a BSc. in Biology.
“to see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” -William Blake