If you are not familiar with John C. Lilly – he was one of the most interesting researchers and all around cool dudes to have ever lived. Unfortunately, most people do not know about him.
My goal with this post is to give you a basic overview (including: sharing my own experience) of getting in the habit of using Sensory Deprivation techniques to improve your mental clarity with the aid of a very important tool: The Isolation Tank, which was popularized by Lilly himself.
John explored the notion and the intricate mechanics of a very nebulous and difficult-to-explain concept: consciousness. While he was an avid experimenter of psychedelics – He also spent many hours thinking of clever, unorthodox ways to test the elements and behavior of human consciousness. Did I mention that he attempted inter-species communication between humans and dolphins while being in a tank under the influence of LSD? I mean this guy was truly “out there”. My kind of guy.
If you have tried any traditional forms of relaxation like meditation or yoga without much luck, this is certainly for you. Based on my experience, Sensory Deprivation is a far more effective and superior way to decompress and relax compared to these traditional methods – and as a bonus: it is quite a fun experience to feel like you are floating on a cloud.
I actually prefer going into a tank as supposed to sleeping on a traditional bed – because the tank has generally been 3x-4x fold more efficient in putting me to deep sleep and maintaining this state with minimal distractions. The construction of the tank itself is quite interesting. Tons of Epsom salt is added to the water in the tank to increase the water density/buoyancy so that you will be able to float above the water with ease. The water temperature also generally matches your skin temperature so that you are less likely to feel the water itself. The tank also does not contain any light sources, so it is pitch black. It’s the ideal environment for removing all external distractions/stimuli.
My personal experience in the Isolation Tank
After taking off all my clothes and taking a quick shower – I entered into this chamber through a latched door from the front without knowing what to expect. Inside the tank, the warm sensation of the water was quite similar to that of a hot water bath – only difference was that: it was absolutely pitch black and I could not hear anything besides the faint echoes of my breathing. I laid down on the water on my back and stared into the non-existent ceiling above me. The combination of darkness and buoyancy produced a very interesting sensation throughout my body – it was as if you were floating above a invisible magnetic field.
I spent the first half hour acclimatizing to this new environment and while I was still aware of my surroundings and actions – I did notice a considerable decline in wasteful mental chatter over the next hour. Right around here, I began to slowly lose most of my sensations – including my awareness of time and space. I actually fell asleep for a bit and by the time I had woken up, I learned that I was in the tank for over 2.5 hours! (Original session was supposed to be only 1 hr). I had absolutely no idea that I had passed by that much time – as it felt like a fairly short session. The entire experience was strange.
While this was not a full blown psychedelic experience, It’s a bit difficult to explain the after-effects: especially the immediate after-effects. To say the least, the sense of relaxation was absolutely incomparable to any previous attempt at truly relaxing – and as a bonus: it was a lot more fun and enjoyable than any traditional form of meditation. I felt like I just had a deep cleaning session for my brain. I highly recommend that you try out this experience as you will decompress and come out without being able to spell “stress” – and my guess is that if your like most people, you will gain some interesting insight about your own self and ego.