I’ve been interested in trying an isolation/sensory deprivation chamber for a while inspired by the evangelistic recommendations of Joe Rogan. So I decided to look up isolation tanks in NYC and got a few hits. I happened upon a place called Blue Light Floatation that purported to be the longest isolation tank service in New York since 1985. Plus, it was cheapest. The downside was that it was in some dude’s apartment. That dude being Sam, the owner of Blue Light. I gave him a call and he seemed nice on the phone and my crazy meter was not registering anything, so I confirmed the appointment.
On the day of, I was pretty excited. I ate some weed candy at quitting time and took the train downtown. When I arrived, it was as I suspected, some dude's apartment. It was a nice one bedroom, I think, on W 23rd St in Chelsea. Everything seemed to be made of wood there. There were bookshelves everywhere stacked high with books, which seems to be a common theme in most middle-aged Manhattanite apartments I’ve seen. A bunch of books on Buddhism and meditation faced outward as if for sale. He didn’t offer to sell anything, so that could have been some weed-induced paranoia, having just come from my day job, an advertising company.
Sam showed me the floatation chamber. It was a bathroom-like room with a tub filled with the floating solution. He explained that the room is sound and lightproof, and that I would take a shower and get into the float chamber nude. There was a button for the light and I would float in pitch black silence. He then went onto explain the proper posture to maintain while floating and commonly reported discomforts. He said that the neck and shoulders were the chief complaint when newbies go into the tub because instinctively we feel like we can drown if we relax, but if you can get over that, you’ll see that you're totally buoyant in the solution.
The solution is made of water and a shitload (800 pounds, I think) of Epsom salts. Epsom salts has been shown to be therapeutic, which is why it feels awesome to soak you feet in some when your dogs have been barkin’ all day. He said if my shoulders get tight to just raise my arms up, as if someone pulled out a gun and said, “hands up.” He didn’t say that last part about the gun, but I thought it would be an easy visual. Finally, he let me know that when my time was up he would introduce music through the speakers in the tub.
So, I ignored the creep factor of taking a shower and floating naked in warm salt water in some dude’s apartment and went for it. I took a shower, stepped out and gave a middle finger to any possible hidden cameras that may be watching, because if I know you’re there, then the jokes on you! You have no idea how I’d behave when I’m not being observed! Last laugh, mine.
I stepped across the hall from the bathroom to the float room and got in the tub. It took me a second to get in without sloshing the solution, which is also something Sam mentioned. Since the goal is to float and feel like you’re suspended, you don’t want to slosh the water around too much and end up bumping into the sides. I managed to get in without too much sloshing and I lay back and tried to relax. It’s pretty cool how buoyant you are. When you usually get into a tub of regular water, your butt touches the bottom of the tub and you sit. In the solution, your butt keeps floating up, so you have to maneuver while bobbing around. I got myself down So I land turned off the light.
Total darkness... but is it? I thought I could see the outline of the room, but I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face, so who knows? I floated. It took a bit to get comfortable, but I would relax and then fall asleep. Maybe? No clue. Sam also mentioned that a common experience was the inability to tell if you’re asleep or not. I don’t know if it was sleep, but I can tell you it was spectacular. Super restful and relaxing. No stimulus at all. The closest thing I could compare it to was when I wen to Iceland with my girlfriend Rammy and we noticed there were no ads, or at least very few. There were no ads punching you in the face, people were quiet and friendly, and everything was so white everywhere. So white it felt like my mind was filling in details to deal with how preposterously white it was in Iceland. Similarly, the floatation chamber was preposterously black, and I think my mind was trying to impose boundaries. Sometimes I tried to guide my thought s in a certain direction, but I found that just made me tense. If I just relaxed, I’d go into the quasi-sleep state and see things in the same manner yo might recall images in a dream. They weren’t hallucinations, more like mental projections, gestures, ideas. I felt like I was in the womb, which I surmised from having come to while clutching my junk. It just makes sense to me.
I think the most trouble I had was when I’d reach a point where I could not tell where the boundaries of my body lay. The solution is heated to around body temperature so that you can’t feel it, so I found myself getting itchy, or having a little leg spasm just to feel like there was a body there. That was one of the things that made me want to go back, if I had just a little more time, I think I could have become comfortable becoming an amorphous consciousness, like some kind of extraterrestrial sentient jellyfish on one of Jupiter’s moons.
The music came on and I got out and took another shower to rinse off the salt. Sam had made a cool glass of green tea for me in his living room. The weed paranoia kicked in again and I wondered if there was a roofie in there, but there wasn’t. Sam’s a nice guy, he’s not going to roofie anyone, you paranoid bastard! I drank the tea and he asked me how it was. I told him I thought I fell asleep and that I felt refreshed. I think he had someone else lined up to come in next, but didn’t want to rush me out, so I took the hint and grabbed a brochure. I paid him $80 in cash and went on my way.
When I went outside, I didn’t want to put in my headphones like I usually do. Things seemed very clear and sharp. The rush of the Manhattan street, hundreds of people, cars and bikes, fruit stands, homeless people, all of it came flooding in, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It was welcoming and reassuring.
That night I had some vivid and memorable dreams, that I wrote down and gained some good insights. I found myself relaxed. I also found myself taking like five shits in the morning. Rammy reminded me that epsom salts are a laxative and that I spent an hour soaking in a solution of it, so there’s that. It made me wonder how many people have just let go and shit themselves in Sam’s chamber, but it looked like he had a pretty legit filtration system there. Of course, I have no idea what a “legit filtration system” looks like so maybe you should take everything I’m saying with a highly concentrated solution of salt.