Once upon a time I lived with a girl who had the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen. She had a killer fringe and wore loose fitting white tees and aquamarine shorts and grew a garden on our balcony, first in a handmade vertical planter made from upcycled wooden pallets and then expanding: five, ten different pots filled with spring onions, thyme, lime trees, strawberries, aloe, lavender, mint, tomatoes…
She taught me about keeping things alive. Water, yes. Organic fertilizer, yes. Soil. Take care of the roots when you repot a plant, because if they break during transit then it might die. Inside the house we had plants too – ones that kept the air fresh and clean. And you could tell, because it tingled when you walked in to that house – the air tingled with oxygen and happiness.
This is what I thought about after my first sensory deprivation tank experience, as I sat on a stone coloured couch and sipped licorice tea: plants, and water, and creation. The plants in the lounge room tingled at me too as I peered curiously at the artwork on the walls. Is this a gallery? Or a yoga studio?
Ben and Nick, the brothers behind Beyond Rest in Perth, have a great startup story: Nick initially discovered floating during an entrepreneur's conference in America, after meeting a man whose razor sharp mind, energy and confidence impressed him so much that he felt compelled to ask him for his secret. The answer turned out to be simple: "I don't eat gluten, and I float every day." The rest is history... floating has proven so popular that Beyond Rest is currently in the process of setting up franchises elsewhere in WA, with an eye towards international expansion.
So... what's floating?
I didn’t know what to expect before the appointment; I basically just showed up. This is what happens:
You walk into a large private bathroom with what looks like a modern, white volkswagen beetle resting in the centre. Alone, you disrobe and shower off any body oils. You can insert ear plugs if you wish, then you open the lid of the beetle (actually a sensory deprivation tank), step inside and close the lid above you. It is filled with a concentrated solution of Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts) so you will float when you lie on your back. Relax your neck. Extend your limbs, if you wish. Close your eyes, or keep them open. Move...lie still... up to you. There is blue light in the pod; it switches off soon enough. There is music, too – gentle drumming – which plays in the pod for the first ten minutes and the last five minutes of the hour session. For the remaining forty-five, you are in there alone. Naked, in darkness, weightless.
People come to sensory deprivation tanks for a myriad of reasons: to alleviate pain; to manage stress; to initiate a meditative state. The isolation from the majority of sensory influence (audial, visual and olfactory) creates a space that encourages theta brain wave activity (5-7 Hz) which is associated with creativity and imagination. The magnesium content of the float solution may also assist certain physical ailments - with overcoming jet lag after a long flight (or short flight - think FIFO workers), muscle recovery after training sessions, or even just help you sleep.
What Cat Did Once The Lid Was Shut
My first experience was quite strange and took a little getting used to. In the tank, floating on your back with your ears underneath the water all you can hear is the sound of your heartbeat. Nothing external: just your own body. Womb-like. I struggled with switching off my brain for the first 30-45 minutes; “I must have been a kicker” floated through my conscious thoughts a few times as I wriggled around the pod. After that, I learnt to still myself and found a little peace. The music began to play again, signaling the end of the session, and I left the pod, relaxed, refreshed and smiling. I stayed a while afterwards, discussing consciousness and Jungian psychology with the friend who had come along for the experience and the gentleman at front desk who gave some insight and pointers, as an experienced floater himself.
(Note: when I came back a week later, I found that I could tap in much more easily to the meditative state I discovered towards the end of my first session - it flew by and curiously I did even manage to experience some of the more interesting visual aspects of the Theta brain state which intrigues a lot of people!)
Coincidentally, my sister who lives in Taiwan had her first experience in a sensory deprivation tank on the same day as me (we only realized this after the fact). She said it brought out the “inner child” in her. She experienced calm, “like a little girl slow-motion jumping in a bouncy castle.” Another friend experienced an intense connection with the self, a tranquility and mind-body connection often associated with hallucinogenics, or lucid dreaming. Perhaps stress levels prior to the experience may account for the disparity. Or maybe it’s something else.
But hey – it’s basically just an Epsom salt bath in a really dark quiet room, right?
Why not figure out for yourself.
Fancy a FREE 60-minute float at Beyond Rest in Perth CBD? Tell us in the comments why you float (or why you'd like to!) and you could be the lucky winner! Competition closes 1st July 2014.