Jul 31, 2014, 10:40AM

Ninety Minutes in Heaven

My first isolation tank experience.

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You strip off your clothes. You shower thoroughly. You ease orange foam plugs into your ear cavities. You climb into the isolation tank, crouching down slowly, pulling the tank door closed behind you, everything suddenly and irrevocably silent and dark. You ease back into 10 inches of heavy, saline water; it’s starch-y, slimy, amniotic, warm. You ungroup limbs, arch your neck, attempt to unclench everything, to clear your mind. You were warned, you remember, not to bring hang-ups into this tank—so there’s some worry that the experience might compound fears, stresses, and disappointments. Ninety minutes. Ninety minutes! That’s a long time, you think, to spend alone in your own company without any outside stimuli whatever. You undergo a mild freak-out, quickly replaced by a resigned languor.

You flash on loved ones, worries—then they’re just gone, vaporized, replaced by the practical consideration of whether or not to close your eyes. You close your eyes. Purple and pink lights explode like fireworks. You pace your breathing, feeling the tightness constricting chest and upper back recede. Everything feels very remote, very relaxed, and you’re aware of yourself without necessarily being concerned about the places where you’re itching or aching; you’re in full float, given over to fantasies: what if you’re adrift, on the Red Sea? Otherwise aspects of objective reality are irrelevant here, and you glide into and out of states of consciousness that aren’t really describable, i.e. the impossible and unlikely hallucinations that are your mind’s signals to you that sleep is near. Time is immaterial; you are and are not present.

Then—an eternity later, it’s impossible to say when—something shifts, snaps, and the spell is broken. Those itches and aches come into focus, and you’re a naked dude floating in salt goo eager to re-engage with the world outside of the tank. There’s some guilt, some concern: is the 90 minutes up? By leaving the tank, are you wasting some of the session? You exit anyway, slowly standing at the entrance, shaky and disoriented. You shower again, scrubbing away the goo, dressing, and noticing that—impossibly—only five minutes remained in the session. Everything feels light, washed out, a little different, decidedly more chill.


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