By Kevin Shamel
I had an idea of what to expect when I went to my first sensory deprivation session. My friend Rose bought my time in the tank at Float On as a birthday gift. She’d recently done a float and told me a lot about it. Everything up until the moment I stepped into the tank was pretty much what I’d expected.
But after I shut the door everything changed.
One thing that was different was the complete lack of light. Have you ever been on one of those cave-tours where they take you waaaaay down in the ground and shut off all the lights? This was darker than that.
I reclined in the extra salty water. It took me a minute or two to level out and not bump a toe or my hand against the side of the tank. My body floated free—touching nothing but the water. I relaxed and closed my eyes. After a while, I noticed that I wasn’t totally relaxing. I’d been holding my head up. I let it fall back onto the cushion of extra buoyant water and submerged my ears. Silence. Not that it wasn’t quiet in the soundproof sensory deprivation booth, but this was a deeper silence. All I could hear was my breath. When my neck finally relaxed, I opened my eyes. I realized it was taking more effort to keep them closed than to open them.
That is when I began to see things in the darkness.
I have no idea how long I’d been floating in the pitch black silence at this point. I can judge it by disconnection from my body. By that time, I wasn’t feeling most of it. I could hear my breath, and feel water lapping at my rising and falling chest, but otherwise I felt like water.
I saw stars. Just like I was looking out in the night sky. But there were pulses of light that rose from below my vision, like tiny torus jellyfish, and swam away. The lights of the stars winked, and when I looked closely at them I saw that they were worms with lights in their mouths. The worms would poke through the fabric of space and then retreat, making the stars wink and twinkle. I learned a bit about suns then, and how they appear to us in our limited perceptions versus how they really act in spacetime. Flashes of yellow-green light lit space, and I saw my girlfriend Anna. Her face was lit up green and gold, and it seemed that a sun was shining on it, lighting parts of her up more than others—like I could see solar wind buffeting her.
A thin green light like a snake slid upward through my view, and I realized I could open the fabric of space right there. Like it was a zipper. So I did.
Really bright light shone through, and at first I was afraid that it was THE light. I didn’t want to go there. But then I realized, since the hole was opening wider, that it was more like stepping outside from a dark movie theater. It was just really bright at first. My eyes adjusted.
Yes. My eyes adjusted to the extremely bright light pouring from a tear in space before me, while I floated in complete darkness inside a box.
Beyond the opening was a forest. As soon as I entered it (I don’t think I walked), I could hear a stream bouncing through rocks, birds chirping, bugs flying by, things rustling in bushes, and the creaking of big trees. Everything was mossy and bright and smelled like summer. I sat and marveled.
About then, I noticed my body again.
It felt like I was stuck in a cube of gelatin. Like the water had hardened around me. My body felt light, but heavy in the water. Like I was lying on a rock. My fingers were curled up, and my neck was tilted. I relaxed and stretched.
Then I healed my back by putting these crazy floating purple lights into it. The lights just floated in front of me in the tank. They were like no color I’ve seen with my eyes. It made me so happy to pluck them out of the air and put them inside my body. It was strange. But my back, which has been in serious pain for a couple of weeks, immediately felt better. I felt my spine stretch and heard a few pops.
So then I started disassembling my body. I could see it in front of me. I took it apart and fixed things. Then there were lots of bodies floating around me, and I fixed them all. Then I had an incredibly vivid vision of the inside of the female sex organs. It was like I was in a cave, looking out the mouth of it into that forest where I’d been. A waterfall poured from the bright round cave-mouth. I noticed two almond-shaped holes in the rock beside the big round one. Then I realized what I was looking at. It was a representation of the inside of a woman, from the perspective of sitting on the inside of the clitoris, like it was a rock at the bottom of this waterfall. The water flowed from the uterus, which was sunny and alive, as well as from those two shining almonds, which were the ovaries. The bubbling, bright water rushed down the vaginal wall. I will be painting this scene. I know my description is lacking. It was like a diagram of the reproductive system, but a waterfall.
I find it hard to convey exactly what the entire experience was like.
More things happened. I learned a lot about the nature of nature. I learned about myself. I went back to space and watched flowers bud through the fabric of spacetime instead of worms. I walked around the place naked, went outside and talked to people, and then flew to the top of Mt. Tabor. I saw lots of sacred geometry, and talked to mitochondria. All while mostly forgetting that I had a body floating in darkness.
They pipe music into the booth after an hour and a half, to snap you out of it. I came around to my body, noticing I really had to pee, and stretching my toes. I thought, “It must be about time.” The music came on right then.
I got up, opened the door, and scraped the salt that had accumulated on the shoreline of my exposed body as I lay in the concentrated mini-sea. Then I took a shower and got dressed. Out in the waiting room, one of the guys running the place helped me make some tea. Then I sat and talked with the owners/operators of the place. They told me that this experience, and the feeling it gave me, would linger for days. I believe it.
I feel more relaxed than I have in a very long time. My back is happy. My mind is exercised.
It really wasn’t what I expected. It was a whole lot more.
I would urge anyone who has a chance to do sensory deprivation, to do it. Do it as often as you can. Float On has a work-for-floats system where if you go work there for four hours, you get a free float. I’m definitely looking into doing that. I want to float for three hours next time, and REALLY get weird. Anyone in Portland should go visit Float On. Let your mind surf the ocean of your reality. It’s like nothing else—except maybe dying. And it’s without the death! I think it cleared up the eczema on my back, too…