Insights in a float tank
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
When I was a little boy, I was afraid of the dark. I didn’t know why exactly but had a sense that something that I didn’t see was going to hurt me. As is usually the case, I outgrew this fear eventually and sort of forgot about it.
Fast forward to my early 20's when I arrived in Los Angeles on a quest to find myself and my purpose in life like so many others who move from small towns to "the big city", hungry for their shot. I had just ran my first marathon in Big Sur a couple of days before. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I ran hard and almost qualified for Boston although that was not my intention. One and done marathon life for me...I just wanted to know... do I have what it takes?
Along that same vein, almost a year into living the LA dream I had to evaluate concretely, do I have what it takes to keep it up? I was barely making enough money working odd jobs to cover food & rent and didn't have much luck booking paying music or acting gigs which was the childhood vision I was aiming to manifest. My body was feeling beat up deep in my bones, my ego was hurting and I was feeling lost. The worst part was that I had a growing sense that the fantasy dream of "making it in music or Hollywood" didn't match who I was becoming. The shoe no longer fit. I didn't want it anymore and began looking on the fringes for my next steps. In the king Arthur legends, the knights were always instructed to enter into the darkest, scariest part of the woods to find their true path. I needed to enter the dark again that the scared little boy in me had feared.
I found that primal fear I was looking for during my first experience in an isolation float tank a few days after the marathon. If you’ve never heard of those let me walk you through it quickly...
Imagine stripping off your clothes, opening up a heavy door to a chamber that looks like a crypt and stepping down into a mysterious watery salt bath... As you close the thick door behind you - everything is suddenly completely silent and pitch black. This kind of silence is what I understand space to be like. I had to open and close the door a couple of times to gain a bit of confidence... In the darkness, you are naked and seemingly alone as you navigate into a vulnerable position laying belly up in liquid that you've been told is saturated with enough salt to allow you to float freely with zero effort. Some describe the experience like entering back into the womb. It can feel alarming at first and foreign. It sure did for me. In time the fear dissipated as the darkness of my surroundings became known and somehow familiar. This same "crypt" that felt tight and constricted moments ago eventually felt somehow boundless and expansive. It was very odd. Floating naked, exhausted and open for insight, I remember praying for clarity about the direction my life was going. I got really present in my body, feeling into my soreness and sensations in general. After that I just allowed myself to listen. I stayed in there for 5 and a half hours and journeyed into myself and my unconscious mind deeply. It was a powerful experience. I rode my bike back from Venice with a sense that my next steps would unfold soon enough and had a renewed sense of confidence that a new path would open up. Accessing our unconscious mind and peeling back some layers of our "inner onion" to find answers doesn't take entering a float tank but it does require pushing through some fear and being open to unexpected insights. It is a vulnerable process and can seem scary at first but as you relax into it - much of that fear tends to disappear and is replaced with a sense that things are just as they need to be, even if we don't have all the answers.