In 1954, neuroscientist John C. Lilly started experimenting with the idea of sensory deprivation – a process whereby a person is deprived of normal external stimuli for an extended period of time. To achieve this state, Lilly created the sensory deprivation tank (also referred to as a flotation or isolation tank). The pitch black, soundproof, skin temperature water-filled tank is designed to deprive the body of all external noise, leaving the participant alone with only one thing – the mind. For many, this experience is an undistracted opportunity to flip through their mental Rolodex to sort through and face their inner thoughts and conflicts. For others it is an opportunity to allow the body to completely relax while in suspension, providing relief for physical injuries, or through relaxation, providing the cardio-vascular system with a break from its daily physical stresses.
Float sessions typically last 60 to 90 minutes, while some float studios allow clients to combine multiple sessions into 3 or even 4 hour sessions. Experienced floaters preach the 3 to 5 float minimum to truly become accustomed to the experience and its benefits. The intent of each floater is different – whether it be simple relaxation of the body and mind, addressing a specific conflict that remains unresolved, or an attempt to travel inward to face the inner-self. Like all mastery, achievement of these goals relies on experience.
The tank is filled with 10-inches of water mixed in with up to 1,000 lbs. of epsom salt. This amount of epsom salt forces the body to the surface, while also providing many health benefits in of itself. According to NaturalNews.com, “Magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin and into the body’s blood stream. The skin is a highly porous membrane that both takes in minerals and eliminates toxins every day. Using a powerful mineral base such as Epsom salts…creates a process called reverse osmosis. This process pulls salt and harmful toxins out of the body and allows the magnesium and sulfates to enter into the body. Magnesium plays a critical role in over 325 enzymes, helps to improve muscle and nerve function, reduces inflammation and improves blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body. Sulfates are necessary building blocks for healthy joints, skin and nervous tissue. Epsom salts replenish the body’s magnesium levels and sulfates. This combination helps to flush toxins from the body and helps build key protein molecules in the brain tissue and joints.” Since the water is maintained at skin temperature, the sensation of being in water is eliminated, and the sense of suspension is heightened. Many floaters experience a loss in spatial recognition, not knowing if they are on their back or completely upright. This can be disorienting for some, but with experience comes comfort of this sensation.
“Well, when I started going out on the universe with LSD in the tank, I’d come to a certain group of entities and I’d say, “Are you God?”John C. Lilly
Over the years, floating has become more mainstream, with float studios popping up all over the world. Many floaters choose to go into the experience under the influence of psychedelics. The originator, John C. Lilly, would take LSD before some of his float sessions to enhance his ability to explore inward, even encountering entities in his experiences, stating, “well, when I started going out on the universe with LSD in the tank, I’d come to a certain group of entities and I’d say, “Are you God?” For many, sensory deprivation tanks serve as another conduit to the mystical or divine experience, just as sweat lodges, chanting, or plant medicines did for ancient cultures around the world. As the shift in global consciousness continues to expand, experiences such as sensory deprivation evolve as an integral part. Through my own floating experiences, I have felt the benefits firsthand and encourage those with a desire to face their own minds one-on-one to find the nearest float studio and book a session. Below are a few float studios throughout the U.S. Happy Floating!
California Float North County
Colorado Healing Waters Float Studio
Florida Total Zen Float
New Jersey The Float Studio
New York Blue Light Floatation
Texas At Peace Flotation Spa
For information on starting your own float studio, click here.
Brown, David J. “Mavericks of the Mind – John Lilly.” Mavericks of the Mind – John Lilly. N.p., n.d. Web.
Revkin, Andrew C. “John C. Lilly Dies at 86; Led Study of Communication With Dolphins.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Oct. 2001. Web.
Fong, Phyllis. “The Modern-Day Float Tank.” Mensjournal.com. N.p., n.d. Web.
Jockers, David. “The Remarkable Health Benefits of Epsom Salt Baths.” NaturalNews. N.p., 2 Nov. 2013. Web.