So for my birthday I was able to knock another one-off my “bucket list”. I’ve done a lot of weird and wild things throughout my life, and recently my buddy Darren treated me to my latest request – Sensory Deprivation. Those of you familiar with the term, then good for you, and if you watch The Simpsons I may be able to jog your memory… Homer and Lisa go to kind of like a hippie-ish store and take part in this mostly misunderstood act, each of them getting inside these tanning bed sized pods and they proceed to basically trip out. I went online to see what other people’s experiences were before Darren and I went for it so to speak, and I really couldn’t get a definitive account so hopefully mine will be one of the first!
I went into this experience with a very open mind. I wasn’t sure if I was going to trip out, or if I was just going to lay in a pool of water and be bored. Maybe I should explain exactly what this is. Sensory deprivation is basically removing any sight, sound and feeling of any kind. The float tank concept is explained here on Wiki.
So Darren shopped around for the best Sensory Deprivation experience and deal in LA. I thought it was kind of funny that there was a number of options in our town (so LA..). We ended up choosing Float Labs in Venice, and I guess when he was booking the session, the guy from the “Float Lab” had a number of times we could come in, the earliest being at 6am, which I thought was a little weird. $40 for the session seemed reasonable and our decision was made.
We got to the Venice boardwalk and I was instantly swarmed with all the freaks that are on display there. As we approached the storefront, I wondered if I would be able to free my mind of the heavily pierced masses of boardwalk performers we had just seen. When we got to the storefront we met Crash. Yeah, his name was Crash. From that point on I realized this was definitely the place to “float”. He let us in and before introducing himself, asked us if we needed to piss. A little to the point, but okay, I get it, I’m going to be floating in a pool of liquid and maybe he wants to avoid the inevitable. Before he even explained the floating process he put us on a Turbo Sonic, or a machine that utilizes sonic vibration therapy to umm, I guess relax us. Basically you stand on a huge speaker cone and it reverberates at different tones and vibrates different parts of your body. This, as most of the things I was about to experience over the next few hours was completely bizarre.
So at this point I was ready to jump in. I asked Crash what I should expect, and he turned to me with a blank salty stare and said, “If you get to nothingness, then it will be a success.”
Crash proceeded to lead us into one of the two float tank rooms and tell us about all the equipment. Each tank basically looks like a large walk-in fridge, with swimming pool-esque equipment mounted to the side. The rooms are completely black inside and are filled with a mixture of water and 800 pounds of Epsom salt. This is what allows the user to float perfectly without going underwater. He let us know that each tank is completely filtered after each use, and there was also a shower in the float tank rooms for both before and after the float.
Finally, before Darren and I went to our separate chambers, Crash showed us something inside of one of the tanks. It was a large set of video screens with underwater speakers that pump visions and I’m guessing new age music into your psyche as you zone out. He said this technology wasn’t ready for us quite yet, but that essentially with this equipment you could begin to reprogram the human mind… Crash then alerted us that he was going to leave the storefront while we floated and would be back in a few hours.
“A few hours?!?!?” That seemed a little a vague and maybe it was the turbo sonic therapy, but for some reason I was okay with that.
Alright, I was ready to fly the ether!!!! I took my earplugs from Crash, locked the door behind me, turned off my phone, disrobed, took a shower and stepped inside of my designated float tank. After I closed the door, I sat down in the perfectly calculated body temperature liquid and leaned back. There was absolutely no light inside of the chamber, my ears were plugged and as I dropped backwards, I felt like I was tumbling backwards down a hill. It was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever been a part of. I stretched out and was very surprised to find that I was indeed floating completely perfectly, with only my face reaching out of the liquid. The space was large enough for me to fully stretch out, and I could lay with my hands at my sides, or in a relaxed folded position behind my head.
What a weird world I had entered. It didn’t matter if I closed my eyes or had them open. Either way, it was so dark inside the tank, that it didn’t matter. I was almost a little scared, but not exactly in a claustrophobic way, but of what I may start to think. I laid back and decided to focus on something positive. I have to admit, that before I went in, I was afraid that I might get fixated on my finances, my job, or where I was in life, but thankfully (at least this time) I was not in the throws of a “bad trip”. However, no matter how hard I focused on a particular subject matter I was constantly going down mental tangents and then when I seemed to sort of “wake up” from these meandering paths I realized I had not thought about my original subject matter at all. It was almost like the fact that there were literally NO outside distractions was in fact distracting me.
I have no idea how long each one of these little tangents was, but they felt like perhaps they were about 15-20 minutes each. As I floated I thought about how initially we had been offered a time slot of 6:00am, which at the time seemed really early, but now I wondered if falling asleep in this environment would be a whole other experience in itself…
I was having all of these realizations, and this time alone with myself was letting me explore the farthest depths of my psyche, but was a having the same hallucinations that Homer Simpson did? No. But then after what seemed like about an hour I felt like I could see spotlights above my head. I prepared myself to let go, and then it happened. I had arrived at nothingness. I had felt like I was floating the entire time (because I was literally floating), but I now felt like I was gliding or gently flying. I looked down and I could see a huge horizon of what seemed to be a dark purple dandelion. Just the area with petals, and I floated around atop it for few minutes and then I woke up again. That was the nothing. I know this is hard to comprehend, and I feel like a moron even reading this back, but this is my true account. After I “came to” I continued to float and just sort of relax, but I did not revisit that precipice of full on freakout that I just described.
“Hey, Darren’s friend!!!”, shouted Crash, his yells muffled to almost non-existence (He obviously didn’t know my name and I found this long-winded alert pretty funny). I sat up in the liquid and realized I was back. I thought to myself, that they really need to get another system for waking people out of their trances rather than yelling and banging on the side of the wall.
I climbed out of the tank, showered (the entire time I heard Crash yelling for my friend Darren) and walked out into the store’s lobby. Half jokingly I asked “What day is it?” Crash gave me a knowing smile.
“Your buddy left you”, said Crash. It turned out he had been yelling to no one as Darren had left about an hour ago. I later found out Darren’s experience was quite a bit different from mine. He said that he was never really able to get over the fact that he was sitting in this liquid that hundreds of people had been in before, but admitted it was definitely worth doing once.
I had been floating for close to three hours. I had reached nothing. I would be back. See ya next time Crash, at 6:00am.
Wanna float through your own mind? Contact Crash at Float Lab
801 Ocean Front Walk, Suite 5
Venice Beach, CA 90291 USA