“In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits”
-From The Center of the Cyclone, written by John C. Lilly, M.D.
Isolation tanks, or float pods, are increasingly popular these days and can now be found in large cities throughout the US West. Celebrity Joe Rogan deserves some credit for spreading the word as he often raves on his podcast about the benefits he enjoys from owning a tank and floating regularly in his home. However, the person who deserves the most credit is a scientist named Dr John C. Lilly who invented the concept during the 1950s. You may have heard of Lilly if you ever listened to The Joe Rogan Experience, and you can usually find one of Lilly’s books for sale at a float studio. Lilly did much more than pioneer this meditative therapy, he took the concept further than any of us can imagine. Lilly was fascinated with exploring the human mind, and unlike most scientists today he was willing to experiment with his own mind rather than the minds of his test subjects. One such experiment involved taking LSD and then entering his isolation tank on multiple occasions to learn more about human consciousness. Since I was interested in having a similar experience I decided to read his book The Center of the Cyclone prior to my first journey. The book is a personal account of his LSD influenced float tank experiences along with other stories of mind exploration. Lilly seemed to be writing the book not only to document his pioneering efforts, but also to provide assistance and warnings to others who might follow his path.
Is it a mushroom, or a clam? Click the photo to visit the Urban Float lounge in Seattle.
I assume that this is a new subject for many people, so allow me to briefly explain what I did and why I did it. Floating is an increasingly popular therapy similar to meditation that is used primarily for improving mental health, but it also has many physical health benefits. The way it works is you lie down in a pod or tank structure that has a shallow amount of extremely salty water inside. Once inside you pull the lid closed, lie on your back and then press a button to turn the light off. As a result of the added salt you will have no problem floating near the water surface, which I find to be a very pleasurable experience. Floating is only a part of the experience though; the sensory deprivation is what really makes this therapy unique. I think most people enjoy the feeling of floating in an ocean, lake, or even a pool, but in these situations you will still feel the inflatable mat under your back, the taste of salty waves splashing into your mouth, the smell of chlorine, the sound of kids yelling nearby, or the sight of the sun shining on your face. I’m not saying that all these sensations are necessarily bad, but they are all a form of stimulation that is difficult to avoid. In the controlled environment of a float pod nearly all of your five physical senses disappear. With the lid shut it is pure darkness inside, in fact you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. The pod is so quiet that you can hear your heart beating, and if you decide to use earplugs the silence increases further. Floating in the comfortably warm water nearly eliminates any sense of touch, and the smell of salty water is so faint that you can barely notice. Keep your mouth shut and taste nothing other than the inside of your mouth. The result of this extreme sensory deprivation is a meditation environment perfect for either a beginner or an advanced student. As a beginner there are no distractions to hinder your practice such as when an inflexible person tries to sit in the traditional cross-legged position on the floor. For the advanced student this can be an opportunity to take your practice to the next level of mind control.