Floatation: Sensory Deprivation for Engineers by Scientists

I have blogged about Floatation Tanks, also known as Float Tanks, Isolation Tanks, Sensory Deprivation Tank et al before here and here. To get the detail, read those 2 posts first. Alternatively here is the skinny version. Floatation in a Floatation Tank was first invented and used by John C. Lilly (scientist) in 1954 for Sensory Deprivation experiments to “switch off” our senses. The goal was so our mind free of external stimuli could light up brighter and tap into the void… temporarily. Today, such floatation tanks are used mainly for meditation, relaxation and as alternative medicine to help Athletes (by Australian Institute of Sports) with faster recovery.

Where it all began for me

My wife and I have been floating in floatation tanks since 2008. It all started back when I saw a floatation tank being used in the 1st episode of Fringe. In Fringe Dr Bishop uses his flotation tank/sensory deprivation tank (sounds more scientific) to connect Olivia and Agent Scott’s mind. That was super cool. Being a body hacker I got interested in the perceived ability and started my research into floatation tanks. I took the red pill and went down the rabbit hole. And here we are today.

Floatation Tank in Fringe - notice the Isolation Tank behind Olivia
Floatation Tank in Fringe – notice the isolation tank behind Olivia

Now, “Floating” is the term commonly used when referring to an isolation tank experience, you float. You float inside the floatation tank like a cork. The high concentrate of epsom salt creates this effect. If you have been to the Dead Sea in Jordan you will know what I mean.

Are you a Software engineer? If so, you should float!

I use the floatation tank to turn off the noise from my primary senses (visual, auditory & kinesthetic) and accelerate the transition from beta brain waves (normal state) to alpha (learning state) and ultimately theta (dream state). This is the same process as meditation, but a lot faster. Way faster. It is like forced meditation without the pains of sitting up right and trying to detune the world around you.

The goal with both meditation and floatation is to reach the theta state. This is a powerful state where you can consciously listen to your subconscious mind. Usually through a series of what appears to be auditory or visual hallucinations. Monks train years to do this through meditation while staying consciously awake. Your body does this naturally every night but you switch off, fall asleep. Recall those auditory or visual flashes you get before you off switch kicks in and you fall asleep. That’s a glimpse into theta state. In an isolation tank you are consciously awake observing your subconscious mind. Most of the time. No years of training required. For me it was 3 floatation sessions and I was hallucinating baby!

Our subconscious is a powerful supercomputer (no surprises there) which constantly gathers, calculates, builds patterns & connections faster than we can consciously observe (process). I think this is a natural safe measure so we don’t go insane. However imagine having the power to tap into this wealth of stored info. You know when you sometimes get a gut feeling? I believe that is the output from all the processing making their way to your conscious mind.  I use the floatation tank to tap into this and get my answers faster then waiting for them to bubble to the top.

The body and mind are a very busy and noisy place.

Especially if you are a software engineer you will know all about the noise and how distracting it can be to productivity. Hence why you like working nights pounding away at code, right. I know the feeling. But health wise, this is not sustainable. The answer is the floatation tank to help you calm down both mentally & physically and tap into your mind, the supercomputer.

The flotation tank immediately cuts out your auditory, visual and kinesthetic senses creating an environment similar to a womb. Allowing your mind to start exploring the inner self. Looking for answers to your questions. Tapping into the hidden recesses of the mind that are usually outside the reach of your conscious awareness.

Want answers to your software engineering challenges? don’t just sleep on it… Float!

Floating in an Isolation Tank

You may recall from my last post on how many of us get “cubed” and spiral down into learning helplessness. I needed some answers to some recent questions and thus decided to step up a notch and not only use the standard John C. Lilly isolation tank but also a Sensory Exaltation from Be and Be Well based out of Shanti & Jai’s house in Santa Cruz, California. If you went to Burning Man 2011 then you would have seen the Sensory Exaltation tank.

Floating in an Isolation Tank - The Apollo ELV Float Tank. The Best Flotation Tank I have Floated in.
Floating in an Isolation Tank – The Apollo ELV Float Tank. The Best Flotation Tank I have Floated in.

There are many scientifically proven natural ways of tapping into our brain, the super computer. Floating is the best one I have found in years of searching without going into the extreme of substance abuse. An alternative exists but you would need to spend few years with the Monks in Tibet and learn how to consciously be awake while your brain is in the Theta state. Same state that turns your conscious mind off and starts the dreaming process at night. However inside the isolation tank you are conscious when this change to Theta happens and thus get to observe interesting insights coming from your subconscious.

The 2 x Tanks at Be and Be Well

This is what you can expect from Be and Be Well down in Santa Cruz, California.

Sensory Deprivation Tank

The key to your mind. This tank is more advanced than the ones I have mentioned in my previous posts. Pictured below, the light inside can be switched on and off by pressing the black button next to it. So no need to freak out in pure darkness when the lid is closed. It also has great heating to keep a constant skin temperature as you float. You never get cold and is big enough so you do not feel claustrophobic.

Sensory Deprivation Tank @ BeAndBeWell
Sensory Deprivation Tank @ BeAndBeWell

Sensory Exaltation Tank

This is a dry tank. A pod with a sac filled with foam for comfort. You put on audio speakers to hear binaural beats and glasses with synchronized strobe lights over the eyes. This is often refered to as Photic Driving. Designer brain waves. This technique was invented in 1930s. It basically changes your brain waves to follow and pulse at the same frequency as the light strobes creating different conciousness states. Different strobes & beats affect your brain differently hence the designer brain waves analogy.

FYI, The design on the Be and Be Well Exaltation Tank (pictured below) is of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “Vitruvian Man”.

Sensory Exaltation Tank @ BeAndBeWell
Sensory Exaltation Tank @ BeAndBeWell

In conclusion

  • Float tanks rock! Note to newbies; you need about 3 sessions to really get into it and learn to let go faster.
  • Forget sitting meditation. Flotation therapy is the easiest way to get a brain and body massage. Don’t forget the heath benefits from the Epsom Salt used inside the tank to make you float.
  • If you code then you must try this!

The benefits

  • Relaxation (mental & physical) from the daily stresses of running your own business or writing ton of code,
  • Learning a new skill – play audio while you float to accelerate the learning process,
  • Get answers to questions faster – you’ve heard of sleep on it right and that it works. Well this is better because your conscious and you get more answers.
  • Better understand yourself – some call it enlightenment,
  • Faster healing – used by athletes in recovery and
  • At Stanford scientifically proved by studying monks concluding that “Essentially when you spend a lot of time meditating, the brain shows a pattern of feeling safe in the world and more comfortable in approaching people and situations, and less vigilant and afraid, which is more associated with the right hemisphere,” she said.

I floated last weekend and I got what I wanted from that session. The answers to questions that were lurking inside me. The answers now sync with the gut feeling I was getting and I feel mentally at peace.

Float like I did

Get in touch with Be and Be Well down in Santa Cruz, California.

Road from Mountain View to Be and Be Well.
Road from Mountain View to Be and Be Well.

Have you floated before? Share you experiences before in the comments below.

Also don’t forget to check out my previous posts on Isolation tanks:

~ Ernest