Mention that you’ve just been in a floatation tank, and most people will say something about William Hurt, emerging from the tank, feral, eating a stag. Last year I got a coupon for one floating session, good for one year, and today I finally used it, two weeks before it expired. It was reasonable to resist this. To enter one of these tanks, you lift the hatch of what looks like a large compost bin and lie in the dark. I actually love the dark, so this is not a problem if I think about it more than a few seconds.
Altered States aside, I had very positive associations with these tanks from Shortbus, with its wonderful scenes of Severin and Sofia’s confidante sessions, so maybe that’s why it has long been something I was curious to try.
Also, I’ve been thinking alot about rest lately, and my relationship to how much rest I get. As if it’s something to get. I’ve been trying to notice when I have acclimated to not having enough rest, and then I start to see this as my normal state. And part of this is an edge against which everything feels slightly irritating because it’s impinging on the rest I haven’t noticed needing.
I’m experimenting with a bold plan: to try to get enough rest. It doesn’t actually seem that difficult. But there are many things one must wrestle to the mat in order to do this. The primary one being the sense of missing something by going to sleep.
These tanks are reputed to provide the equivalent of 6 hours sleep in one hour of floating. So as part of this campaign of rest, I finally made my way to Float Matrix in Nob Hill today. I’ll say more about this tomorrow, but for now, I’ll just say that it was a totally fascinating experience to feel one’s spine free of supporting the body. To feel how much work the body is in the habit of doing. Most of what I did in the tank was notice where I was doing unnecessary work, and releasing it. That has massive applications in all arenas.
Here’s Severin from Shortbus. This is just a few moments before, in a great example of a defining gesture, she smokes a cigarette in the tank.
and here’s some info on and from John Lilly who invented the first isolation tank.
By the late 1960’s, Dr. Lilly had the idea of floating in a supersaturated solution of epsom salts. This solution was found to be non irritating to the skin, while at the same time buoyant enough to keep the body naturally at the surface of the water, eliminating the need to wear an oxygen mask. By completely enclosing the water, maintained at skin temperature, Dr. Lilly was able to create a unique environment for meditation and scientific research..
“By attenuating vision, hearing and the proprioceptive sense, and floating at the surface so that the gravitational field is reduced to the minimum, you can relax every single muscle. Even your ear muscles, your neck muscles, your hands, your arms, your back, and so on. You can find the ares where you are holding needlessly, and you can let go. Once you do this, and go through all this, and get the inputs to the brain down to the minimum possible, you suddenly realize that that is what has tied you to consensus reality, and now your free to go.”
“The first thing you get is physiological rest. You’re free of gravity; you don’t have any more of those gravity computations that you do all day long. Finding where gravity is, and in what direction, and computing how you can move and not fall takes up about 90% of your neural activity. As soon as you start floating you’re freed of all the gravity computations you’ve been doing all the time, so you find you have a vast piece of machinery that was being used for something else and you can now use it for your own purposes. For example, you can instantly feel that you are in a gravity-free field. It’s as if you are somewhere between the moon and the earth, floating, and there’s no pull on you. As soon as you move, of course, you know where you are, but if you don’t move, your environment disappears and, in fact, your body can disappear.” (John Lilly, from Tanks for the Memories; Floatation Tank
Talks, by Dr. John C. Lilly & E.J. Gold.
There is much more to say on this, on the actual experience, and on its implications, but it is almost midnight and I am going to sleep.