Escape from Noise

Art Bell has returned to broadcasting! The other night, he interviewed Joe Rogan. Among other things, he talked about floatation tanks. I had meant to try one for a long time. I did a DuckDuckGo search and quickly found Halcyon Floats. I just had my first float. I feel like I went on vacation.

I called the day after the Joe Rogan interview and talked to Keri, the owner of Halcyon Floats. I told her that I meditate every day and have read some of John Lilly’s work along with others. I booked an hour and a half for $79. It took longer to get there than i anticipated, and we had to go over some basics, so I had a slightly shorted session discounted to $59. Good enough.

First, I had to sign a waver, which Keri read to me, and which I signed on an iPad. Keri explained some basics to me, a lot of which came down to basic meditative practices, and learning to trust the water. I asked how they clean the tanks and she explained the process, which involves filtering it three times, cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide, and using an ultraviolet light. They test it at the beginning and end of each day, plus the high salt content makes it very antimicrobial. The tank has 750 pounds of epsom salt in 11 inches of water heated to around 95 degrees F.

After she made sure I understood everything she showed me the facilities. The float spa has two tanks, each in a room of its own. Each room has a chair and table with shelves, the tank, and the shower. The shelf contains the earplugs, towels, and a water bottle, in case you get salt water in your eyes. You have to shower before going in to wash anything off your body, and after to wash off the epsom salts. Keri also recommended wearing the earplugs, which you have to put in before the first shower. This meant I had to learn to navigate by touch, but I did. The room felt very vacation-like.

The tank has the shape of a rectangle with an angled door. The door has an interesting smooth feel, because it uses metal with a special coating. The door has no locks or latches, and has a handle on the inside. A bar runs along the opposite side for stability. You get in pretty much as you’d enter a bath. The water has a slimier feel than regular water because of the salts, so holding on to the bar helps with the increased slipperiness. Then you close the door (unless you feel claustrophobic) and lie on your back. The water instantly supports you.

This took a surprising amount of time to get used to. You might not think it requires much skill to float on your back in water, but it does. I recalled learning to swim as a child and feeling terrified of the water, and of drowning in it. Once I learned to let the water support me it became much less scary. Swimming requires some level of tension to keep from sinking, and we build up this safe instinct. In the tank you have to totally relax, and let the water support you entirely. I can’t explain it any further, you have to do it to understand. The water has seven times the level of salt as the Dead Sea, and you really will float on the surface. Your head and ears will sink down a little, but never enough to get near your eyes.

Keri said that the first twenty minutes usually feel boring, so I spent the time acclimating myself. I had read about all kinds of far out experiences, but I went into this session wit the simple intention of an initial visit. I learned to center myself by making slow deliberate movements. I learned to trust the water. I learned to relax.

At this point I had a very strange experience. I lay in complete darkness, plus I have a vision impairment anyway. To see I’ve learned to use echolocation, seeing with sound, but I had silicon earplugs in my ears. Yet somehow I became keenly aware of the borders of the tank. I sensed the straight sides and the door on an angle. I felt my body in exact relation, and felt the orientation change as I moved. I cannot explain how I knew this, but it peaked my interest. Perhaps it relates to kinesthetic sensations.

I began to meditate, and quickly came to some amazing realizations about my practice. They would take too long to explain here, so you’ll just have to wait for the book. Basically, learn to appreciate the value of fully relaxing the muscles of the body within your meditation technique. I felt a lot of tension in my jaw from my TMJ. I thought that I should really make it a point to wear my night-guard.. My jaw popped and I felt a little better.

I then had the sudden realization that I should switch to a siesta sleep schedule. Late night talk radio has me up late, but I still want some morning time. Taking a power nap in the afternoon would allow me to do both. And a lot of cultures around the world do it, not just a few weird computer nerds. My internal dialog at this point went something like:

“You should switch to a siesta sleep schedule.”

“That’s an interesting idea. It’s a good schedule.”

“It’s a chill schedule!”

I felt impressed by this sudden realization. I spent more time trying to relax, using different hand positions, moving around the tank. I settled with my arms at my side, palms usually down, feeling the support of the water. Once in a while something would happen to jerk me back to reality, such as a twitch or hitting the side of the tank. I dealt with these moments and relaxed again.

I heard a few drones. The theta brain wave state can result in audio hallucinations, so I took that as a confirmation. Or had the music started? I wondered if something really far out would happen. Suddenly my neck relaxed even more than it already had. I felt a lot of tension suddenly leave. My neck curved back more. Energy flowed through me, and I returned to the root state of awareness. I felt my own existence and nothing else. It had happened. I had arrived.

I began to definitely hear music. I wondered if this made up part of my hallucination, or if it really existed. I wondered if all of reality existed as some sort of grand hallucination. The music got a little louder and I realized that the time had come to exit the tank, right as I had arrived. I figured something like this would happen, so it didn’t bother me.

I felt a little disoriented as I stepped out of the tank. I removed my earplugs and took a shower. My senses felt amplified, and I noticed more beauty around me. As I gathered my things I noticed a beautiful salt lamp on the top shelf. I love salt lamps, and have them all over my condo. Everything felt perfect in its own imperfect way.

I exited the room and went to the bathroom, then made my way to the main office area. Keri asked how I felt and I said like I had come back from vacation. She offered me lemon tea and graham cookies, which I gratefully excepted. I caught a Lyft home. Then the changes really began.

Coming home felt like returning from a nice incident-free vacation. My head felt very clear, and I noticed beauty all around me. I ordered mediocre Chinese food, but it tasted like a feast. Some other changes have happened, but I can’t quite express them. The journey ended when I arrived at my destination.

Nothing really far out happened. I didn’t have a lucid dream, though have had them in the past. I didn’t communicate with aliens or dolphins, only my body’s inmate intelligence. I didn’t feel like flying through space in an orb, though I’d really like to experience that – I love the Orb! Instead I had some very down-to-earth insights, and began to learn the process of floating. I got exactly what I came for, and will return as soon as our stupid beep-beep society starts pissing me off again, probably in a few weeks. Stay tuned for more Adventures beyond the Ultraworld.

By the way, the title of this article comes from a Negativland album. One of their members named Don Joyce died last month, and it hit me pretty hard. He hosted a radio show called Over the Edge. Both of these efforts will continue, but without his cranky wisdom. A floatation tank provides escape from noise. And as Don said many times: it’s all in your head.