Floating and Drowning in Oakland, California
Floating and Drowning in Oakland, California
I stand before the chamber, naked and exposed, but that is why I am here right? To start floating into a meditation and see what comes from this sensory deprivation experience? To become exposed? Opening the door, I peer into the darkness beyond and take a deep breath before stepping inside, curious as to what will happen as I enter the void.
History: The first isolation tank was developed in the 50’s by a medical practitioner named John C. Lilly who was experimenting with sensory deprivation in combination with a psychedelic agent (mostly LSD). The initial isolation tanks were very uncomfortable and required a breathing apparatus and some pretty heavy clothing. The participants complained that these things coupled with complete submersion led to a fear of drowning which inhibited the isolation experience.
Closing the door behind me, I lay down to float in the 1200 pounds of salt and 13 inches of water. Even with the removal of the original impediments from early floating, the addition of salt, and my complete nakedness, I would drown and not just once.
As if in space, I feel weightless. There is an absence of light, sound, feeling sensation, and time. And then it begins. The show that is. The one that lives constantly and mostly quietly deep within the crevices of my mind. Images begin to appear – some memories that in most usual circumstances, might elicit some form of emotion. But this did not happen, and it was strange. As the screen flickered on.. playing its smattering of long lost and forgotten memories, I watched. Past relationships, events from my childhood, a touch of drama and trauma all take the stage. Unmoved, unattached, and without an ounce of feeling, I observe this film starring myself and a few other odd characters.
Then one solo drop of water from out of the void lands on my forehead, surprising me and forcing my eyes to quickly open. As I stare into the darkness I begin to see my reflection in the black. It is as if there is a mirror in this dark space just above me and within my reach. I stare at my reflection and without any hesitation, reach my hand out and plunge my reflection under the water. I hold her, gently, without hate, and watch as she does nothing other than to let the bubbles slowly roll from her lips as her last breath is being released.
This peaceful, drowning beauty doesn’t last long though. In a split second she grows fangs and long nails and starts scratching my arms and trying to bite me. She is thrashing and fighting, with a darkness within her so fierce it surprises me. I am shocked, but not frightened as I release her, pull her to me and hug her every so gently. Holding her face close to mine, I look deep into her eyes right before I push her again under the water.
She begins to cry, to beg for her life, but only for a few seconds and then she is back to clawing at my arms. This fighting and begging makes it through a few intense rounds before all falls still and she disappears from my view. I feel a sense of ease and calm, and I begin to move my body and stretch in the tank until I am able to touch the sides. My hair has become a matted sandpaper seaweed that has molded into a peculiar shape like a flat piece of cardboard. I sit up and hug my knees close to my chest and wonder how long I have been in this tank when a gentle tapping comes from beyond. I guess it’s been an hour already – seemed only to be about 10 minutes.
I sit for a minute longer before slowly rising and feeling for the handle on the door. Opening the chamber I am welcomed by a large hanging warm towel, the smell of lavender, and soft music playing downstairs. Feeling quite euphoric as I wrap myself and prepare for a cleansing shower, I move as though I have had a heavy dose of some kind of drowsy drug, each step requiring some extra effort and coordination.
After bathing and returning my hair to its natural state, I make my way slowly down the stairs to the plush couch below where some warm green tea and honey is waiting for me. Taking the cup into my hands, and closing my eyes, I am reminded of a scene from a movie I once saw. The movie is called Revolver and towards the end, the main character gets stuck in an elevator where he ultimately meets the ego part of himself. The ego fights and screams at him while he remains calm and simply says the words : “I can see you. I can see you. You don’t control me, I control you.”
That movie and this experience have resonated with me for weeks now, and each time I can see that mean little controlling, fearful, dark side of myself trying to dictate how things will go this moment, this day, I simply tell her something similar. “I have seen you. You can’t control me, because I control you.” I have learned to integrate the light and dark sides of who I am, and can love them both for they are each a part that makes me whole.
You can find more information about floating in San Francisco/Oakland here .
For more general information about the healing benefits of floating, *courtesy of collective-evolution) click here.
Have you ever had a moment where your ego attempted to best you? What was that experience like? Do comment below if you feel inclined to do so…