Firstly, I believe that float experience can bring true rest to the brain.
Sleep is a state of consciousness everyone seeks. Simple a peaceful void away from all the overwhelming sensations of life. The quiet environment of Float tank and the buoyant comfortable water makes you so relaxed you’ll fall asleep. Such quiet environment induce heightened senses and mindfulness (since there’s nothing to perceive other than the mind). Possibly floating on water somehow keeps you alert (the brain’s mechanism to prevent drowning – but you can’t drown in 20 cm deep of water). Thus the tank has the ability to induce a trance – a waking sleep state. In lucid dreaming it’s called the hypnogogic state – a state everyone experience before going to sleep, but never prolonged. You also enter this state when you power-nap (napping for not exceeding 15 minutes) – after 15 minutes you’re no longer in pre-sleep and fall into deeper sleep, which gives you sleep inertia – a drowsy tiredness when you wake up.
In the hypnogogic pre-sleep state the brain gives out theta brainwaves. In theta state, you can experience yourself observing fleeting thoughts, dreamlike hallucinations, some weird sensations but they always come and go, you’re not engaging or clinging to any thoughts, emotions like in waking state but just observing (e.g you’re mad about something and the train of angry thoughts overwhelms your attention and become your experience – in theta state you let go it the anger easily). People who practiced Vipassana would find the workings of the mind in this state relatable.
Secondly, Float help us prolong theta state which normally hard to maintain.
Scientists have found that experienced meditator are able to maintain their brain in the theta state even in daily life, which means they can deliberately enter a state of sleep-like calmness. When you meditate and focus on your breathing or a mantra, you’re containing your attention on one single object that’s long-lasting and relatively unchanging, maybe with a repeating pattern. Your mind may get bored, you may lose your attention, fall asleep or into a trance of thoughts, maybe you get restless and choose to do something else. But you keep on, and overtime your attention is strengthened, you’re constantly mindfully observing your mind. You’re able to detach from your senses and direct your mind into a state of pure attentive observation.
Thirdly, float is a journey, you have to practice to make it perfect.
Like weight training, some days when you’re in a really good shape and have a blasting training session – when you begin practicing meditation, some sessions you suddenly experience profound change in perception. The Float tank gives you an edge by providing an excellent distraction-free environment to meditate in and profound changes can happen much more often. With the aid of the float tank, input from the senses is minimized and you’re obligated to be mindful of the only thing you can perceive: your body and mind.
As an owner/operator of a Float Center, I get to float a lot, whenever I want. I also get to observe and study what the tank do to everyone’s mind as during post-float conversations. Everyone feels different about floating. For me, floating in the morning is refreshing and peaceful, sometimes out of this world, in the evening it’s restless, fidgeting and I can’t resist going out and watch some TV – some people find it completely opposite.
Generally, the experience in a Float Tank if you just go in to relax or meditate without any goal in mind (like I do) is like a waking sleep. It feels like your body is asleep, your mind is asleep while you’re still conscious. The more you do it, or practice mindfulness meditation, the more conscious you remain in this state. Being conscious in sleep is very interesting. A drug addict would turn to meditation as soon as he witnesses firsthand the calmness and peace that sleep provides. Being conscious in sleep also means that you can experience dreams vividly with life-like qualities, maybe engineer them to your liking. It can be very spiritual if you believe dreams carry messages from the subconscious.
Luck play a small roles in deciding your experiences, sometimes you get a surprise gift.
In the Float Tank, I find myself to have a high affinity for vivid/lucid dreams as 3 out of 5 morning session I would get spontaneous multi-layered crazy dreams with physical sensations sharper than life! This could be a cognitive bias but one dream actually had a personal message that has been very beneficial to my personal growth. Sometimes I feel my body vibrating even intensely good, sensations of cool electricity buzzing and spreading from head to toe – I think it’s a sign/symptom of going into sleep paralysis and/or part of the dream process, some people says it’s chakras activating and energy is flowing through my body, but either way I feel good and excited when it happens. Though, I never expect to get such experience and when I float, I do it for the deeply relaxing sensation – it just feels good. After floating 3 times every week I find it so easy to fall asleep even when I have tons of problems which need solving asap on my mind – it’s like I found a special power to release my mind from any activity and sleep.
If you ever had a vivid dream or a lucid dream, you know that feeling of excitement when you wake up (it goes like “What just happened? Woww! What a crazy dream!”). Floating gives me such sensation, and it last around 6 hours until my mind is flooded with thoughts about my plan for the night. I feel energized and ready to tackle anything in the world. Senses are heightened after floating too. Because the brain always watches out for danger, it amps up your senses when you spend time in a dark and quiet environment – after floating colors are vivid, food tastes awesome and sound has more depth like I’m in a theater. It was rather subtle at first but as I float more often the effect improved and became more noticeable.
Lastly, all experiences are valuables.
Come try floating and share your experiences with us! As psychonauts, we love to hear every story people share after floating!
Minh & Duc @Float Vietnam