There’s an old Zen saying: “You should meditate for 20 minutes a day; if you are too busy to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for an hour.” I love this philosophy, and I’m finally getting somewhere near practicing it.
For a while, I tried a simple six-minute calm twice a day: once when I got to work before anything started, and once later on in the day when I really needed a break. I’d sit with the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door and focus on nothing but breathing until the timer went off. And then my daily life got the better of me, and I was only doing the one bit in the morning. And then I stopped doing that one, too. My work environment is distracting; for purposes of finding inner peace, even my home is too distracting. It’s almost like I needed to shut myself in a box and lay there in the dark in order to quiet my brain down.
So that’s exactly what I do now. Once a week, lately. I get into a sensory deprivation chamber and float in the silent darkness for an hour.
Months ago there was an article in my local paper about this place that has five or six tanks, each filled about 12-18 inches with highly concentrated salt water so that a person can float effortlessly. I saved the article, thinking I would try it out and see if was actually relaxing (or if I would become some sort of proto-human a la “Altered States”). I went and tried it, and now I keep going back. I go in, I strip down, I hose off, I put in earplugs, I climb in, I close the door, and I lay there and float. And it’s wonderful.
The idea of being alone in a silent, dark room with nothing but your own thoughts can sound pretty daunting, I’ll grant; and as with anything else, it takes some practice. It wasn’t until my third visit that I was successful in getting my brain to shut the hell up and leave me alone while I tried to relax. So I get in, float, and try to focus only on my breathing. In, out. In, out. Sure, my thoughts will drift to family or work or writing or something, but when that happens I’ll go back to my breathing. I’m really getting the hang of it. I have no idea what the human brain is supposed to do with a good, steady theta rhythm; I’ll admit to hearing things that aren’t there once or twice, but I couldn’t say for certain if that’s a byproduct of relaxation or just my brain trying to fill in gaps. I’ve not had any visual or tactile hallucinations (I thought something was crawling on me once, but that was just water moving over my shoulder…I hope), just the aural ones.
The place I go to, Newport Float Therapy, is one of two places in my area that offer this experience. I haven’t tried the other one, and I probably won’t. NFT is a nice, clean, facility; the owner, Ron, is a nice guy; their app makes it really simple to book appointments; and, when you think about it, the real action happens inside the tank — or inside my own head.
I’ve been doing a lot over the last two years for my own well-being. I’m eating better (including salad and vegetables, which to anyone who kew me growing up is surprising), I’ve reduced my sugar intake by over seventy percent, and I’m biking to work up to three times a week (ten miles each way) and once on the weekends, and I do my floating once a week.
Some might think that the sensory deprivation experience is a creepy idea, and others may think that I’m just floating an hour of my life away every week. Me, I see it as a way to set everything aside, just for an hour, and focus on…well, nothing. And that contributes to my peace of mind. It’s an hour a week well spent.
And if at some point, for some reason, I can’t find an hour to spare in my schedule…they have 90-minute sessions, too.