How Sensory Deprivation Helped Me Let Go Completely

My First Experience In A Floatation Tank

The floatation tank I was in

Last Wednesday I floated in a tank and experienced complete sensory deprivation for the first time. I’ve wanted to try it for years, but what finally triggered me to click the “Book” button was the sound healing workshop I went to a few weeks ago. After that workshop I wanted to know what it felt like to hear no sound and all, as opposed to being immersed in all kinds of audible vibrations.

I convinced a couple of friends, also first-timers, to come with me and we made reservations at the Balance Float in Redwood City — the closest and most affordable float center with good reviews.

I, of course, approached my upcoming float pragmatically and consumed tons of articles with tips and recommendations on how to get the most out of my sensory deprivation experience. Most articles recommended using ear plugs and avoiding caffeine for a couple of hours before the float, and suggested various relaxation techniques, such as focusing on breath, counting backwards from large numbers, and doing body scans. Maybe because of all the reading and over-preparation, I noticed some anxious thoughts popping up in my mind.

What if the epsom salt gets into my ears and stays there… forever?

What if I feel claustrophobic when I get in?

What if I drown?

What if I can’t relax?

What if I feel cold?

You get the point. I acknowledged these thoughts and eventually decided to approach my experience with an open mind and an open heart. Easier said than done! The closer it got to the day of my appointment, the more acknowledging and heart-opening I had to do. Balance Float sent an appointment reminder, which included a link to the instructional video, which I dutifully watched as well.

Finally, the day of my appointment arrived. Our plan was to meet right after work for a light sushi dinner nearby, then head to the float. I packed everything I thought I might need for my float into my laptop bag and headed off to work. It was a meeting-packed day which flew by ridiculously fast and soon I was heading up to Redwood City.

During dinner we shared what we knew about floating and what each of us was hoping to get out of it. Looking back, it may have been better to not over-analyze my intentions, because I spent the first fifteen minutes in the tank trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to get out of the experience instead of just going with the flow.

The reception area of the Balance Float

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was how warm and cozy it was. The receptionist also seemed very relaxed. As it later turned out, he floats once a week.

After filling out a consent form, we were given a tour of the place — the bathroom was, the hair drying station, and our designated tank rooms. It was quiet, clean, warm, and humid. I liked it!

Our rooms were ready for us. We agreed to meet in the reception area in an hour and off we went to face the silent darkness of our floatation tanks. The instructional video gave very specific steps on how to use the tank and there was another set of instructions posted on the door inside the room:

Instructions inside the room

I read a tip earlier that one should get into the pod slowly and carefully to keep the stomach dry and free of salty water, because, they said, the skin might start getting itchy and distract from the relaxation. I tried, but failed. My belly didn’t get that itchy, though.

I got into the pod and closed the lid… As soon as I turned off the lights, relaxing music turned on and continued for 3 minutes. Then everything went completely dark and absolutely quiet. Ear plugs helped filter out whatever remaining noises managed to get in through the walls. All I could hear was my own breath and my inner voice. Oh that inner voice…

I started a body scan, which was pretty easy because the only thing I could really feel was my body, but my thoughts kept carrying me away. I acknowledged them and came back to scanning my body as soon as I noticed. Then I caught myself thinking about what my intention was for this float and what I wanted get out of it. It didn’t result in anything and once I let those thoughts go I relaxed a bit more. To get to an even more relaxing state I decided to try a visual meditation and guided myself on a shamanic journey to the Akashic field. It helped me relax even more. After that I started counting back from 300 (a tip I got from an experienced floater friend) and that did the trick — I lost track of time and entered a deep meditative state. I know that I did because when the music and lights came back on, I was caught by surprise.

After I got out of the tank, showered, and got dressed, I joined my friends who were done with their floats around the same time. Interestingly, each of us had very different takeaways from our floats.

Mine were:

  • I need to get back into yoga
  • I really need to find ways to relax this deeply on a regular basis
  • I need to surrender to the experience I am going through in order to get the most of it (not just floating but any experience in life)

I kept noticing more benefits after my float as time passed… I have been in a generally better mood since then and am much more relaxed. I feel calm and content and ready to continue my self-exploration. My next adventure will be a marketing conference in Scottsdale, where I get to face one of my most uncomfortable and annoying demons — the fear of public speaking. But I am going to try something new this time and incorporate a mindfulness pause into my presentation, mainly to help myself relax. I think anyone could benefit from a mindfulness pause after three days of intense learning and networking! I’ll report on how it goes afterwards!

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Masha Finkelstein

Masha Finkelstein

I want to help people make their lives better.

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