Eat, Pray, Love...and Float
*NOTE TO READER*
If you happened to have read my previous post, you would understand how my mind works (a fraction of how it works, at least), and understand why I was 99% close to not posting this entry.
And although a couple of months have past, and this post is way overdue - and frankly not relevant in my mind any longer - I am still going to post.
Why? Because I do not want to fail myself by not carrying out promises. And fail you. I mentioned in my last post that I'd share my experience with you.
So, here is a post that I started, didn't finish, but will finish today so that I can finally move on. It may not be perfect. It may be longer than it should be, but I hope to interest some of you with my personal experience. Before I scare you all away with my rambling, here it is.
I was intrigued when I first heard the phrase, 'sensory deprivation.'
"Come again?" I asked my friend as I chowed down on my impressively healthy meal of vegetables, hummus and quinoa from a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Los Angeles.
"Yeah, sensory deprivation," he repeated. "Like a float lab. You lay in the water for an hour or so in an enclosed tank. I've done it a couple of times."
My mind and heart started racing at the thought of this activity.
"It helps with stirring some creativity and clarity," my friend further explained.
Sign me up.
I didn't act upon it that quickly, though. The thought remained only in the back of my mind for a couple of weeks. Until...
I'm chowing down on another semi-healthy meal of avocado toast when my other friend mentioned a documentary he filmed in the past.
"I actually filmed a doc on one of those water tanks," he mentioned.
"You mean sensory deprivation!?" I excitedly interrupted, feeling pretty smart I knew the term by now.
"Yeah, yeah. In Venice. If you ever want to check it out, I can hook you up."
You know when two different people mention something a little out of the ordinary within two weeks apart - it's an arrow pointing to...
SO, cut to me sitting on my bed sifting through tons of articles on people's experiences in this water tank, and the history of it.
"Why have I have not heard enough of this? After all, I'm in Los Angeles - somewhat of a hippie town where talented creatives live, I'd assume a lot more people would be attracted to this practice."
I learned the tanks have been around since the 1950's - invented by a scientist by the name of Dr. John C. Lilly who wanted to see IF and HOW the brain functions without external forces such as light, sound and smell. People have claimed it rejuvenated them and even offered medical benefits.
But, floating in a dark chamber filled with Epsom salt water for two hours - isn't that just a fancy, riskier way to meditate? Can't I drown? Would I really hallucinate? Won't I get thirsty, hungry, need help? What if a shark bursts open from the bottom of the chamber and eats me?
(This has been a reoccurring nightmare my entire life).
After thorough research, though, including a quirky Vice documentary on different water chambers across LA and Colorado, I decided to choose the float lab in Venice. - which was also frequented by Joe Rogan.
Nobody knew, though, that I was about to float in a pitch dark water chamber - maybe I should tell somebody?
It didn't help either that I woke up to a news article on Facebook that day about a woman who got bit by a shark while doing an underwater photoshoot.
But, by all means, I was also really excited. I couldn't wait to do something new, a little daring, edgy. Maybe I'll get answers. I'll get clarity. I'll be relaxed.
And I needed that relaxation after the somewhat stressful journey there.
The drive was pretty far - it's always far. I left around 10:15 a.m., but I hit traffic (no surprise), and it was horrendous finding parking around that place. I was going over my 11:00 a.m. scheduled slot, so I decided to just park in the expensive lot near the lab.
The attendant said 20 dollars, but being the young, cute, innocent girl I am, I tried to nicely negotiate. I got it down to 13 - not bad, eh? And ran over to the chambers.
I hurried in and noticed only one guy working at the time. I quickly used the bathroom first then he explained the instructions. There were a LOT of steps.
I could only use the chamber for an hour and a half instead of two - which irked me a little since I paid for full two hours- but I tried to make the most out of it.
Per instructions, I took off all my clothes, hopped in and out of the shower to rinse, dried my face out like crazy since that was an important part of the instructions, wore nothing except for earplugs in my ears, and opened up the door to the magical, mystical chamber.
*Plop, plop* my legs go as they splash into the water. "Jeez, it's so fucking dark. I can't see anything. Wow, it really is as dark as they say. Omg, what if a shark kills me. What do I do?"
I followed the instructions and faced my legs one way and my head the other as I lay on my back.
"It's a little warm in here. The water is supposed to match my body temperature," I thought to myself.
"Wow, I'm floating. Wait, why do I keep moving. I can't see, why do I keep touching the walls with my body. It should be bigger. Am I facing the way I'm supposed to? Shit, I can't see."
"Ok, stop moving. Relax. Stay in your position, and just give into the environment."
So, I did just that. I didn't know where to put my hands first, but remembering my research, most people recommended putting them over your head, so I found that was better.
Thoughts were racing in my head. I heard some noises outside. One earplug kept falling out of my ear. I wasn't relaxing. I didn't know if I could do this for an hour and a half.
"Kanika, you're fine. You're safe," I reminded myself. "This is safe. You've been so eager to do this. Make it the best. And have a good story to tell afterwards."
I started chanting one of my favorite sayings in Hindi, 'Om Namah Shivaya' in my head, and it started to relax me.
To be honest, I don't know where my mind drifted off to after that. I had visions and thoughts that I remember waking up from, but then instantly forgot. I kept telling myself "Ok 'mind', give me answers. Give me some clarity. I didn't know what I conjured up in my head, but it was different than just dreaming. I felt comfortable lying there - but still conscious at the same time.
I also felt a part of my body speaking to me. My stomach.
It kept gurgling. Instead of hearing it with my ears, it vibrated within me, sending me a message. I've never heard my body speak to me that way before. It truly felt like I was having a mind, body, spirit experience.
"Time's Up!" the man shouted from outside the room.
I was taken aback.
No. That felt like only 30 minutes! That couldn't have been 90.
He yelled a second time, and I struggled to sit up and find the door.
"I’m pretty sure the door was on my left when I came in," I thought to myself. But I pushed the door on my right and realized I flipped around.
Oops, I almost laughed to myself.
I saw the clock and realized 90 minutes had indeed passed.
I jumped in the shower, tasted a little bit of the Epsom salt in my mouth as I rinsed it off, and scrambled to get dressed.
As I walked out, I sensed I took a while to get ready as the guy was rushing to get the next chamber user ready.
"Thank you" I yelled playfully and headed out with a pep in my step.
Had to fit in the selfies...
It was not a bad environment to be in afterwards. Right on the Venice Beach boardwalk. I wasn’t expecting to feel so...good. So happy. I felt like I was actually experiencing life's offerings - the sun, beauty of the beach, freedom - and not giving two fucks about unimportant details at the time.
I noticed people looking at me more than usual, too. Probably because my hair was drenched, but I did feel they were attracted to a change in me, too. An invisible white aura, perhaps? I think I had a smile on my face without realizing.
I spotted an ATM outside a sunglass store and went to retrieve cash for my parking spot. A younger, kind-of-cute guy working there spotted me and started conversing. I was probably too cute to handle as he asked for my number before I left. ‘Lol, this happens a lot.’ I quipped out loud.
Oops, #sorrynotsorry for my bluntness. I gave him my digits, though. Why not?! He was nice.
I headed towards the parking lot and worked up another conversation with the attendant as he gave me the keys to my car. Clearly, it was a chatty vibe all around me.
As I hopped in my car after bidding goodbye and started up my engine, he knocked on my window and asked me about my Maryland license plates.
Next thing I know he was talking on and on about how he’s been there, how his daughter lives in D.C., how he likes gambling, traveled to Atlantic City, Rhode Island, and loves the East Coast – to visit only. (Which is what most West Coasters say).
I remember how nice it was talking to him - well, more like sitting back and listening to him relive his memories. It seemed as if I was the connection to his daughter he misses. And I somehow find it comforting to be in the company of strangers - so I enjoyed every second.
We said goodbye (for real this time) and I rolled my windows up. I turned to my favorite radio station and rocked out in my 40-minute drive back home.
At the end of it all, things won't change drastically. I’ll still be confused at times, frustrated and unclear. But there is a sense of rejuvenation that occurred to me that day.
And the next time I do get down, I’ll think of that rejuvenating, blissful moment where I didn’t overthink. Didn’t stress or care too much about details. I was simply in a good mood, enjoying the present moment. And not worrying so much about what others thought of me, as long as I was comfortable in the presence of my self.
If after reading this, the thoughts of lying in a dark, water-filled chamber is somewhat intriguing, then I highly recommend, "DO IT!".
It could lead to a new friend, an understanding about yourself, something to write about, or simply help someone feel good- which in turn helps you too.
"I find it essential to be able to relax completely irrespective of anything that is going on in the environment at certain times... For a businessperson, a scientist, a professional of any sort, this is a boon: to be able to think, free of physical fatigue of the body. The method allows one to become free within a few minutes.” - Dr. John C. Lilly