From the Editor’s Perch

Naked Editor Floating in Isolation Tank

Naked Editor Floating in Isolation Tank

Your Editor Becomes a ‘Psychonaut’

Both my son and wife, and a couple friends thought this was nuts, but there’s a couple things I’ve wanted to try out.  One is wearing a Ghillie suit.

Ghillie suit.  Isn't it cool!

Ghillie suit. Isn’t it cool!

The other is trying an isolation tank.  So when the wife and son left for Ohio this week, I got my chance to visit the float/sensory deprivation chamber experience outlet in the Greenlake area.  http://floatseattle.com/    Their website says, “overcome: stress” “conquer: fear” “achieve: theta state”.  I wasn’t looking to accomplish any of these.  But, hey!  They all seem like good things.

What concerned me most going into this was first, whether I could get back out.  I wanted to be sure this ‘isolation tank’ had an internal latch.  My second worry was whether I’d be slipping into some greasy slurry formerly inhabited by lots of other sweaty, hairy, poorly bathed isolationists.  My third worry was if I’d have to do this naked?  A fourth worry was that if I fell asleep, would I drown?

Well, “Float Seattle”, is a new, modern, well designed facility.  The tanks are flushed after each use and the Epsom salt plus Bromine in water solution is filtered and then reused.  The door has no latch.  And everyone gets a private, fairly spacious room with a shower.  The ‘tank’ was tall enough to stand up in and had a blue interior light which could be turned on and off.  They give you earplugs to dampen any conducted sound and also to keep the solution out.  And a slightly synthetic Jamaican/African bongo/percussion beat, which comes and goes and starts softly, reminds you when your time is up.  Yeah, and you immerse naked.

Judging from the half dozen, or more, customers which I saw, Float Seattle attracts fairly attractive, younger to middle aged introverted sorts who ‘dwell in their body’ more than others.  Not the extroverted competitive types nor the hairy wilderness trekkers, but more the urban yoga types who watch their diets and  weight and are proud of their posture and flexibility.  I stuck out a bit as I was much taller, much older, had a paunch, and am about as flexible as a rusted gate – though I am introverted.

I’d imagined the tank solution coming up to my knees, but in fact it was only around 10 inches deep.  The temperature is controlled so that you neither sweat nor chill while immersed, which for my temperament makes it a little warm for inducing sleep.  The most interesting part of my time in the tank was the experience of buoyancy.   The solution makes you so buoyant that you needn’t a headrest; your head floats naturally and comfortably.  And you needn’t fight to stay afloat.  The feeling is of lying on a soft slippery neoprene surface (or ‘hand’) which ‘lifts’, exerting the same pressure everywhere.  We all know the ‘feel’ of water when we are being the active force.  But when the water holds us up – ‘pushes back’ – the feel is quite different, very slick, very alien.  It feels like 100 percent humidity with the body fluids pushing in instead of leaking out.  It was a very odd feeling, but enjoyable.  And my one regret is that I didn’t spend more time trying different postures and playing in the solution.

Instead I rested entirely motionless.  I wanted to find out if an absolute lack of sensory information would tend me towards psychosis or even nudge me a couple psychocentimeters towards an internal chaos.  Nope.  Instead, the only mental sensation I had which I seemed pretty sure of was boredom.  My thoughts did not race.  Repressed emotions and past memories did not overwhelm me.  In fact, I found it very tedious to think at all.  If I had indeed achieved a theta state and was truly ‘inhabiting’ my body, then mentally it felt a lot like waiting in my car.

And here I can’t say if my reaction is normal, or if my particular nature is so off the charts as to completely invalidate the experience.  But frankly, being in my body is not something I particularly relish.  And probably many others do.  I generally think of my body as I think of my car.  I want my body to take me where I want to go, be reliable, be low maintenance, and not embarrass me in front of others.  But I enjoy ‘being in my body’ about as much as I would enjoy sitting in my car.  This isn’t a cry for help, or to say I would rather like someone to help me “shuffle off this mortal coil”.  But what I really enjoy doing is to ‘think’.

My big take away from this experience was a little insight into how my mind works.  In the tank, rather than having a mind brimming with competing ideas, I had just the opposite: no ideas.  No thought at all came to me, though some interior consciousness was there monitoring the whole situation.  But to think took a lot of effort and I had to figure out how to do it, as if I had been cast adrift on some deserted island.  Finally I lowered a memory  bucket in an effort to find something to think about.  Nothing came of that.  So I mentally clicked down a list of my relations and brought up one of them to consider.  But that’s all I got: an image of them which went no further.  Nothing I dredged up had any life to it.  Nothing further was generated.  No further thought came of it.  And pulling the information up was an effort.

Frankly, I’ve had a much better experience lying on my back on the bed while waiting to fall asleep with the bedroom fan blowing over me.  Thoughts of the day come and go.  An idea flares up.  A great elaboration of this idea begins, and then is put aside by another entering notion.  And I fall off to sleep.

I had always thought of the mind as a very generative thing, in a Jungian way, with all sorts of metaphors and symbols and narratives and stories struggling to reach the surface to become expressed as things and light – as if the world were a re-creation of our minds.  But as it appears, the mind is more aptly described as a little silent, smoothly running machine which produces no thoughts at all – until it is fed.  It seems that the mind is more like a little machine which works on the information of the world which we bring to it, churning out the emotions, thoughts and expressions we’re perhaps too apt to believe we generated ourselves.

So perhaps this old adage of ‘finding oneself’ needs to be replaced by a newer adage of ‘using oneself’.

I’d always thought the expression “it makes you think” quite presumptive – as if to say that I’d had no thoughts at all until someone’s particular point of view was pressed on me.  But now, I wonder.  If we want to know what we think, or to become productive and successful at what we do, or to even find out what we do – isn’t it best to feed ourselves experiences rather than to take it on faith that some answer to our questions will miraculously appear to us from within a sealed room?  I mean, I just tried this – if only for an hour.

Photo of Ghillie suit from Google Images

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7 Responses to “From the Editor’s Perch”

  1. Fish Clamor Says:

    Carl your report is pretty funny! I would not be able to stop thinking about the cleanliness even though they take the steps you describe. On the other hand,I think it maybe is supposed to serve as a path to the subconscious? And even if that doesn’t work it’s always a positive thing to try and especially if it works for some people. I mean what if you got all quiet in there and started thinking about a play and because of the lack of external stimulation you could hear them having a conversation????!!!!

    Always optimistic!

    –jen

  2. Fish Clamor Says:

    Carl I just wrote you a long and fabulous reply to your essay and WordPress said I had already made that comment and then wirdpress ATE IT UP!!! well. Anyway I read you and was interested enough to engage in the conversation. Now i guess you will just have to guess what I said!!!

    Did your bellow literary journal arrive yet???? Mine either; I can’t stand waiting!

    Happy Friday.

    -jen

    • schn00dles Says:

      Hi Jen,

      Thanks for stopping by. Enjoyed your reply. Actually, ‘replies’. I got an e mail telling me my literary journal is on the way! (That’s a pretty good journal you got into by the way. 🙂 ) I am a cleaner person today!

  3. dangblog Says:

    Would you consider wearing a Ghillie suit in the float tank? I’ve never seen one before. Looks like a walking pile of evergreen branches!

    • schn00dles Says:

      Hey, I love to consider things. 🙂 Ghillie suits are cool, but I’m afraid to go walking around in one for fear of getting shot. I’ve been thinking of just lying in my flower beds in one.

  4. back to the float tank | Dangblog Says:

    […] day has arrived! I’m happy to direct you to Schn00dles Blog and his post. One caveat, however, is that he seems to have gone to different float business: Seattle | Float. A […]

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