The Eye of the Storm - My First Trip in a Floatation Tank

by Dave Hamilton in ,


Life's always hectic for me. It's my natural state, I suppose. This month is a bit more hectic than normal, if there is such a thing. In addition to all my regular activities, I've just finished tech week and 3 shows of Next to Normal, my first foray into playing in a theater pit in over ten years. We have 8 more shows to go over the next two weekends, and then 18 hours after we finish the last show I'll get on a plane to head to San Francisco for Macworld/iWorld Expo.

And I have some planning to do for that last bit in the interim. 

So yes, life is crazy. A few weeks ago, though, a conversation with my mom prompted a discussion with my wife about how an experience in a floatation tank was a bucket list item for me. A few days later my wife had not only found a place locally (Float Maine in Portland, Maine), she gave me a gift certificate good for two floats.

I had my first float this afternoon and it was nothing like I expected, and everything I wanted. 

The Samadhi Tank I experienced.

I've always casually referred to floatation tanks as "sensory deprivation tanks" but that's really a misnomer. One's senses are fully engaged, you just have very little (or no) external stimuli. I chose to leave the light off and the door closed, so eyes open or closed made no difference — it was all pitch black... until it wasn't.

Upon entry into the tank it took me a few minutes to get situated. The water was all churned up from my entrance, and that meant once I started floating I was bouncing around a little bit against the walls. No big deal, but the experience really couldn't start until the bouncing stopped. Focusing on that, though, distracted me from just waiting and... I honestly don't even remember the bouncing stopping... during my hour in the tank I never slept (at least I don't think I did), but I certainly wasn't alert in the normal sense. 

Things got intense very quickly for me, and I lost the sense that I was on my back. Gravity really wasn't an issue, other than occasionally noticing it pulling on the skin on my face. For most of it I felt as if I were standing — or at least upright — but in a very relaxed way with no pressure anywhere. I saw visions in front of me, and even interacted with faces and people that I envisioned. 

It wasn't uncomfortable in any way — almost like a dream, it seemed absolutely normal to see these people and other visions, and was in no way jarring or scary. After all, it was just my head creating all of this.

Somewhere around what I would consider the halfway mark I got distracted by my own thoughts and focused on the tank itself for a while. Again, I couldn't see, feel, or hear anything — but I spent some time acutely aware of my state in the tank.

And then I started hearing music — my own music in my head. A lot of the tunes I'd been playing in the pit for the last week ran through my head (we did 6 straight days of running the show between tech week and opening weekend). I enjoyed watching the music go by, dissecting it without really worrying about it — just hearing it deconstruct and enjoyed going deeper and deeper with it. 

After that passed I again became aware of my surroundings... then I drifted into a clear-mind, meditative state for a while, after which I started hearing music. This time it was unfamiliar music and I realized that was my signal that my hour in the tank was up. 

I got up, dripped dry, then showered and headed home.

But not before booking my next appointment in the tank. I'm quite looking forward to my next experience in there.