Thursday, August 10, 2017

My First Sensory Deprivation Float

Eleven uses a DIY sensory deprivation tank in Stranger Things
to access another dimension. 

So not too long ago, while I was teaching teaching fight choreography at the ISS in Seattle, I was having a conversation with fellow stuntie, Greg Poljacik about the best way to unwind and relieve aches and pains during our downtime. Having arrived a bit before I had, Greg had somehow managed to find a Sensory Deprivation Float Wellness Center, and ranted and raved out how the process was not only extremely relaxing, and made you sleep better, but also relieved a lot of muscle pain. 
Some of the listed benefits of doing a sensory deprivation float
The chamber I did my float in.

Up until this point, I had only heard of Sensory Deprivation Floats because the character Eleven used them in the show Stranger Things to achieve a meditative state and access another dimension. Given the fact that I have yet to figure out how to access another dimension on my own yet, (and that may turn out to be a useful job skill later in my career), I thought I should give it a shot.

Along with the other instructors, we all paid a visit to Seattle Float as it was only a mile or two away from the U of W campus where we were staying.

How it works:

The way a sensory deprivation float works is they put you in a tank of hyper salinated water, so that you have the same kind of buoyancy as a life vest. (ie. You can float with your face above water naturally). Both the water and the air are heated to be exactly your body temperature so that once you are in, and still, you no longer feel either one of them. Each tank also has a light-sealed door, and comes with ear plugs to deprive you of all visual and audio stimulation, so in effect, you see, hear and feel, well, nothing. When you initially enter the building, it smells a lot like a Japanese onsen, but the aroma was really light, and once you were used to it, you cease to notice that as well. 

As for my own experience it was really fascinating. In my particular tank, they had dissolved over 1,000 pounds of epson salt, so, you had resistance even putting your hand down to the bottom. (The water was only about 10 inches deep). As it was my first time, it took me a minute to be able to relax my head and hips and simply let them float… (but suprisingly they do float just fine)… and my face stayed fully above water the whole time. Initially, I couldn't achieve perfect deprivation however because it took time for me to relax and stop searching for something to “feel”. For example I would twitch, and I could feel the line of surface tension that separated the water from the air. Other than that though, I couldn’t feel the air above or the water below. That in and of itself was bizarre. Also, due to my size, I actually took up the whole tank which meant I only had to drift a few inches before my head bumped into top of the tank (which happened about 3 or 4 times during my 60 min session) again, pulling me out of the deprivation. Apparently, there is a technique to getting in and laying out motionless; but it takes a session or two to perfect. 

The Interior of Seattle Float; a sensory deprivation float center near the University of Washington in Seattle
I could however still get it just right for about 15 min or so, and that was enough to have an interesting experience. After a while, I started to see bizarre patterns, and had the feeling that I was lifting out of the water, or spinning when I knew I wasn’t. I also had phantom tactile sensations in my toes, as I kept thinking they were brushing against the side of the tank, but if I wiggled them, they weren’t actually touching anything.

While it only happened a few times, I also completely lost my sense of time (which means I had begun to touch on a meditative state).

Finishing up:

At the end of the experience, music comes on to tell you that your time is up. As everyone has ear plugs in, it comes on fairly loudly, but it still wasn’t too shocking. After that, you take a shower to rinse off the salt water, and you are done. After finishing, you do feel really relaxed, and calm. It was actually more refreshing than taking a nap, because there is no feeling of grogginess afterwards. You are just sharp, and calm. Also, given the fact that I was soaking in epson salt for an hour, most of my soreness was also gone, which was a plus. All in all, Id say it was completely worth the $40 I spent to try it. As a lot of traditional martial arts are tied to meditation, and meditative practices, I have wanted to know how it feels to “lose time” in a meditative state for a while, so I was really glad I did it. Until now, the closest I had come to the experience was through yoga; (which leaves you feeling calm and refreshed the same way) but in this case as I was “gone” for up to 15 min at a time, so it was a far richer experience. Really makes me wish I had the time to go back to the same place again for a 90 min session. I would love to perfect the floating motionless technique so I could really explore accessing that kind of consciousness and that “place” I went to again…  Unlike Stranger Things though, there were no monsters from another dimension there. Probably a good thing ;) 

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