(GREED) – Unaffected by America’s newly tensed political climate, psychedelic exploration continues to re-develop. Even in the absence of mainstream scientific research, citizens take to reality gathering their own analysis’. That’s partly what led me to Milwaukee’s only sensory deprivation float tank center. My experience there, undoubtedly, beckons a return to the tank’s confounding trappings.
Sensory deprivation tanks were first introduced to me via a VICE documentary featuring Hamilton Morris. The journalist and explorer made quite the name for himself with on-camera experimentation with a variety of compounds. Morris’ work also explores the socio-economic, cultural, and health impacts these substances feed. His riveting, gonzo-esque coverage has attracted countless droves of viewers to his unusually unique stories.
Central to Hamilton’s float tank piece was comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan. Many proponents of “floating” credit Rogan for introducing floating to his expansive audience. Rogan, in fact, has a personal float tank in his household. He’s even quoted on Float Milwaukee’s website, the location where I’d eventually find myself.
“ The sensory deprivation chamber has been the most important tool that I’ve ever used for developing my mind, for thinking, for evolving. ” — Joe Rogan, on Float Milwaukee’s page.
–My Float Hour–
As a 20th birthday gift, my friend’s mother bestowed a pass for one free float hour. At least two of their family members–the mother and her youngest son–had undergone the experience before. Their accounts were interesting, though not what I was expecting. Largely, it seemed to be meditative or mildly relaxing for them.
The mother, however, did have an encounter with lights behind her eyelids at one point. Absent in her first float, she recalled it happened towards the end of her second experience. She marked it as an intriguing curiosity, but didn’t put much umph behind it. Joe Rogan also described similar closed-eye phenomenon and their novelty.
Having already experienced the psychedelic in the past, the tank truly did call to me. It took a couple months to find the time, but the wait was certainly worthwhile. When the day arrived, I recall a cacophony of speculations racking my mind on what floating would be like. Shortly before exiting the freeway, I decided expectation was my enemy. Only with a mind clear of arrogant predictions may I experience all Float Milwaukee could offer.
The building itself was quite trendy, intriguing, enveloped with a dampened calm. A man at the front desk versed me in the way’s of the tank and asked me of my experience. I had none, personally at least, but was literate in the subject. Once again, Joe Rogan’s name was invoked as having lead myself, and countless others through those doors.
Following a short run-down, I was led to the back to one of several float rooms. I was surprised to discover that these tanks were a higher quality. When watching Hamilton’s documentary, I recalled equating the chamber to a space-age cryo-pod.
Here are some tips for first-time floaters I conjured in retrospect. For one, if you don’t like water buildup in your ears, use the damn ear plugs! While I can’t speak for all float centers, Milwaukee’s ear plugs weren’t what I expected.
They molded into the ear, preventing every irritation I thought they would. They were a resource I put off, interestingly, because of expectation. I’m not an ear plug person, so I assumed that they wouldn’t suit me. How wrong I was.
Second, whatever you do, NEVER rub the float water in your eyes. Hundreds of pounds of Epsom salt has been infused in that water. As a result, it burns your eye’s and stains your mouth with one of the most vile after-tastes. God forbid you swallow a sizeable amount of it.
These two tips go hand and hand. During my float, I found myself repositioning my head to empty water from my ears. Water from my hair would then drain towards my eye’s, burn them, and instinctively bring my hand to wipe. Guess what happened next.
Float Milwaukee has seemingly thought out this entire situation, however. You can open the tank yourself–inside or out–and head towards a shower right outside. By “right outside”, I mean you basically step out of the tank and immediately into the shower.
Assuming you take my tips, you might find yourself more quickly enjoying your float. When people call it floating..that’s exactly what it is! If you lay on your back, you WILL NOT sink due to the Epsom salt. Any other position, however–including a meditative lotus pose–will make you descend.
The tank isn’t deep at all, more like a wide bathtub than anything. Once the experience itself sinks in, it’s not unlike classical meditation. I know going off my word might not seem like much, but–right now at least–it’s the best ya got. You’ll see what I mean if you find the time to make it to a float center. The tank I used, at least, seemed safe enough. Sitting cross-legged, the water barely met my bellybutton.
For myself at least, meditation is a gradual inward focus beginning on the outer surface. Initially, I notice my skin, muscles, and other superficial physical sensations. This period is normally used to assess any aches, tightness, or discomfort in the body. As you go deeper, attention is taken away from the body and directed towards the consciousness. Thought patterns, flawed idea’s, and even cognitive sensations become apparent. A similar phenomenon, I found, occurred during my float session.
Once my orientation was optimum, going deep into myself was unimpeded in the tank. It allows you to control light, music, volume, and call staff if need be. I soon found myself, eyes closed, permitting both my mind and body to drift. Not even the sounds of aquatic’s tricked into my ears disturbed this dive.
At its height, I recall feeling as though I was floating in space towards whatever eventuality waited beyond the gas giants. Later on, the vibe changed to more of a “log floating down the river” feel.
Something odd happened around this time. I became gradually aware that my body was turning ever so slowly. Imagine floating out in a lake–without the anxiety of what could be beneath–free of the tank’s spacial constraints. This endured for, may be several minutes? Time becomes a very slippery thing when meditating, or under psychedelic experiences. When I opened my eye’s, however, I realized my body hadn’t at all relocated.
Shortly afterward, the float hour ended with a calm robotic voice announcing its conclusion. Walking back outside, I found grinning Float Milwaukee staff eager to dissect my experience. I was led to a resting area, with comfortable chairs, art, and water.
Immediately after floating, my aura was overcome with a variety of calm I’d never experienced before. Not to say I’ve never been calm. Rather, it was something I feel is unique with the tank. As if some residue or weight had been lifted from my presence.
Staff then encouraged me to contribute to a book gradually added on by past floaters. I left a brief message, one as deep and original as I could muster. After coloring in the page brilliant psychedelic hues, I drew a signature quilled dragon I’ve drawn since childhood. That way, anyone who really knew me might know I was there.
Floating is an incredibly unique, modern experience for explorers of the unconventional. Even for casual adventurers, or people looking for something new, it’s grand. Done correctly, float tanks could potentially mushroom throughout American like cannabis legalization.
It’s a thought-provoking experience worthy for everyone and anyone. Mom, dad, the cop next door, the gamer down the street, uptown’s soccer mom, and anyone else you’ll think of. Look into float centers around you, book the time, and lose yourself to find what’s else.