MY TWO HOURS OF SENSORY DEPRIVATION
By Max Wachtel
All of us are alive, and all of us sometimes feel overwhelmed or overrun by life and its tribulations. One way of dealing with modern life’s stresses is to go for a float in a sensory deprivation tank, which seems to growing in popularity. A sensory deprivation tank is a large, covered pool of water set to normal body temperature, and is used to remove all sensory stimulation from a person. Floating in a darkened tank of warm water lulls the senses and allows clearer thinking.
Alleged benefits of flotation mainly come in the form of incredible stress relief and relaxation, but scientific research has yet to conclude on any other concrete health benefits. However, many users of flotation tanks find them a helpful and rewarding activity. I decided to try it and see for myself, so I booked an appointment at a local centre that has six flotation tanks.
When I arrived at the flotation centre a friendly and helpful staff member, obviously well-initiated in the ways of floatation, welcomed me and gave me a run-down on how best to enjoy my flotation experience. Most importantly, I was advised to make every effort to keep the incredibly salty water out of my eyes – advice I failed to heed at my own peril. In order to keep floaters as buoyant as possible, the water in a flotation tank contains over 400kg of Epsom salts, which means even a tiny drop will cause intense stinging if it enters the eye. Fortunately, the flotation room contains a private shower that can be used to deal with any such emergencies.
Once properly relaxed, with my body temperature matching the water’s, I noticed the presence of my limbs, and subsequently my whole body, less and less. Finally I lost sensation that I was anything more than a mind floating in a dark abyss. My thoughts, no different than the thoughts I would usually have whilst alone, save for an excitement at what I was doing, became infinitely sharper and more focused.
At times my thoughts seemed to instantaneously manifest themselves as waking dreams into which I had no recollection of falling, and which I would leave with no feeling of having woken up. How long this lasted I have no idea, as without any point of reference the sense of time is easily lost. At some point during this I fell into a genuine sleep from which I was only woken by the soothing ambient music. This indicated that my floatation experience had reached its end.
Upon exiting the tank, I felt an intense grogginess, as though I had just woken from sleeping many more hours than necessary. After I showered, I exited my flotation room and went into the foyer where a staff member, clearly noting my bewilderment at what had just happened, offered me tea and asked me about my experiences, confirming that what I had felt was relatively normal for flotation tank visitors. She told me that subsequent visits often result in increasingly more vivid experiences.
I left the flotation centre feeling extremely relaxed and strangely euphoric for no apparent reason, and immediately began feeling intensely hungry. I took care of this at a nearby cafe where I was finally able to think properly about what had happened, and confirm with myself that this had indeed been a positive, beneficial and interesting experience.
Melbourne is home to a few sensory deprivation centres, where most are located in the Eastern suburbs:
Floatation Bank Melbourne
Gravity Floatation Centre
Rest House Float Centre
Elevation Floatation and Yoga
ExtraDimension Floatation & Massage Centre
Max Wachtel is a person who enjoys existing, absorbing sensory information and sustaining his life force with a variety of liquids and solids. His favourite activities include being amused.