May 15, 2013

"I was suddenly intrigued: What could sensory deprivation do for me?"

"There are only a few places to float in New York City. I first tried La Casa, a day spa near Union Square, which features a tank in large part because co-owner Jane Goldman loves to float."
On a weekday morning, I climbed the stairs to La Casa, took off all my clothes, and, after showering, stepped into a large tub inside an enclosed chamber.
Reading between the lines: The water is reused. Sorry, even though you took a shower, this is icky. I'm not getting the luxury of this at all. Why not take a bath at home with the lights off until you are beyond bored?

The water and air in the float chamber are skin temperature, the darkness is identical with eyes open or closed, and there is no sound—thus there is no external input. In turn, my brain decelerated until its output also slowed, and then stopped. I was suspended in a place with no space, or time, or purpose. Once in a while, some quotidian thought would begin to surface at the edges—did I respond to that email?—and then bounce around in the lonely void of my skull for a moment or two. But it would soon melt away as my brain realized it didn’t care. Back to the void.
The author, Seth Stevenson — I just noticed I wasn't reading an article written by a woman — fails to mention the thought I know what it's like to be dead.

Here's the Wall Street Journal article that inspired Stevenson. The Journal offers some more info on the ickiness factor:
Many tanks today have robust sanitation and filtration systems that use ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide, and the centers test the solution regularly. The volume of clients determines how often the fluid is changed. Floaters are required to shower before entering the tanks, and have the option of wearing a bathing suit, though the centers recommend not wearing anything at all.
I just want to say I hope no one masturbates. When you're in the tank, does that idea bounce around in the lonely void of your skull for a moment and then melt away as your brain realizes it doesn't care?

But this is the Wall Street Journal, and the really important thought is: What kind of business is a "float center"? The tanks cost $10,000 and floaters pay something like $75 as session. A float-center owner is quoted saying: "It's not a super-profitable business, but you get a lot of hugs."

How do you feel about running a business where you "get a lot of hugs"? Is that alternative compensation or is that another negative (along with the need for robust sanitation and the changing of fluids)? Here's Stevenson's description of himself post-tanking: "I emerged in a profound daze. I spoke slowly and quietly, like a smooth-jazz DJ." That's what will be hugging you.... speaking of things one might like to be sensorily deprived of.

72 comments:

edutcher said...

He never saw the pilot for Hawaii Five-O.

David said...

A world where a business model depends on large numbers of people with the time, money and inclination to do this. That's New York.

Darrell said...

The Left abandoned sense almost from the start.

bagoh20 said...

Reusing the water improves your immune system, but not as quickly as drinking the swill from empty beer cans down on skid row. That's how you do it if you're serious.

But, please recycle those cans people.

virgil xenophon said...

"...drinking the swill from empty beer cans down on skid row.."

LOL, I see bagoh20 is a man after my own heart! :)

St. George said...

This fad failed 25 years ago.

Now it's back.

Nonapod said...

I wonder what the ratio of water to urine is in one of these tanks? Like 1 part per 1000? Does it exceed that of a typical public pool?

Brennan said...

Have you heard of the Cryo-Sauna?

I thought it was satire. Nope. Real. And potentially subsidized with tax dollars through flex spending accounts.

Leland said...

The tanks cost $10,000

Beds are cheaper. Also sensory deprivation is more about limiting light and sound, so how much for that sound insulation in the walls?

Save money and buy ear plugs and sleep mask. Save even more money and give up the cellphone habit.

Leland said...

This fad failed 25 years ago.

I always remember Tom Clancy using this as a torture method in Cardinal of the Kremlin.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Sensory deprivation accurately describes my sex life.

Tibore said...

Some people are into sensory deprivation simply because it's not commonplace. If it were, these opposite-land people would be extolling the virtues of sensory indulgence in fields of flowers or by eating at restaurants with highly flagrant dishes.

Don't get me wrong; downshifting gears can sometimes be soothing. It's why I go fishing many times after a hard day's work; it's relaxing to just hear wind and birds. But laying in a tank and seeing/feeling nothing? I can get a close enough experience in bed with the curtains drawn.

There's nothing wrong with sensory deprivation experiences, but I don't see what the big deal is.

bagoh20 said...

Speaking of sensory deprivation - everybody is doing it.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announce it on television." ~ Jon Stewart


viator said...

Please

Balfegor said...

I don't have a problem with re-used water as such -- I've sat and soaked in hot springs from time to time. But I'd be a little wary of doing it in the US. We don't have that kind of tradition of communal bathing, so I'm not sure I'd trust others to clean themselves all the way.

Also, floating in lukewarm body-temperature water sounds kind of gross to me in and of itself, though I suppose that's the point of the sensory deprivation.

pduggie said...

You hope no ONE masturbates, or no MEN masturbate. Which icks you out more?

Women don't release a significant amount of fluid into the water that way do they?

edutcher said...

Leland said...

This fad failed 25 years ago.

I always remember Tom Clancy using this as a torture method in Cardinal of the Kremlin.


So did Wo Fat, but at least he had the good grace to put McGarrett in a wetsuit.

tim maguire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim maguire said...

If it's good enough for Homer and Lisa...
http://vimeo.com/42916032

SJ said...

There's a spy novel I read in which a KGB officer deliberately put a suspect into a sensory-deprivation tank as a method of interrogation.

The suspect was anesthetized into unconsciousness, put into the tank, and allowed to slowly wake up. The interrogator had a way to ask questions, and the suspect was unaware of anything except the questions...

(I think the novel was Cardinal of the Kremlin, by Tom Clancy. I don't know how carefully that Soviet interrogation process was researched.)

Totally a different kind of sensory-deprivation experience, though.

Ann Althouse said...

What does it say about me that I didn't even think about urine?!

Ann Althouse said...

"You hope no ONE masturbates, or no MEN masturbate. Which icks you out more? Women don't release a significant amount of fluid into the water that way do they?"

There are always those ejaculating women one hears about.

I just don't want anybody's bodily fluids in the water. And yet I'm willing to go in a swimming pool.

Bonus quote from the new David Sedaris book, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls":

"[T]he pools were the same size, and on a hot, windless afternoon you could probably smell them from an equal distance. Chlorine pits is what they were. Chemical baths. In the deep end, my sisters and I would dive for nickels. Toss one in, and by the time we reached it, half of Jefferson’s face would be eaten away. Come lunchtime, we’d line up at the snack bar, our hair the texture of cotton candy, our small, burning eyes like little cranberries."

ErnieG said...

Tibore said...

"...or by eating at restaurants with highly flagrant dishes."

Try the chicken. It's a flagrant fowl.

betamax3000 said...

As I floated effortlessly in the Water of a Hundred Strangers I felt the Need to Urgently Become a Participant in my own Self. I am transported into the Reign of the Gay Magical Elves and Imaginary Ducks float on this Water with me, there are Ducks everywhere I had never realized how many Ducks were Inside My Head, and now I was Alone with Them, and at their Mercy: alas, they are Merciless Creatures. The Ducks are Thirsty for Blood, and King Duck peeled my Forehead Skin to the back of my Head off. They attempted to turn me over and tried to bite my stomach and hips: inside my Mental Labyrinth there is no Safe Harbor. King Duck whispers into my Skinless Head: this Water is Full of Disease. You are Floating in Gonorrhea and Hepatitis. It is Already Too Late. The Car Horn will not Save You.

Scott M said...

If you really want to Alter your States, you have to swim in as much human goo as possible.

Scott M said...

I just don't want anybody's bodily fluids in the water. And yet I'm willing to go in a swimming pool.

Your brain remembers chemistry lab and has done the diffusion calculations.

Brian said...

It's not at all irrational to draw distinctions between the hot springs/swimming pools on the one hand and the water in this sort of tank on the other. By holding the tank right at body temperature, they make it a much better incubator for human pathogens than a swimming pool (too cold) or a hot spring (too hot).

betamax3000 said...

King Duck says to me: I can see through your disguise. You are Naked, and the Diseases are Now Inside You. Let's celebrate the brackish water.

Icepick said...

He never saw the pilot for Hawaii Five-O.

Yeah, right!

(And he means the original Five-O, not the new one.)

Although the not-quote-right Dan-o is a bit off-putting.

Icepick said...

Sensory deprivation accurately describes my sex life.

Dude! TMI!

cassandra lite said...

I floated in a samadhi tank about 35 years ago, in a place that I'm sure was less hygienic than this lady's. Not to worry, though. The salt content of the water is so high, no microbe could grow. In fact, the floor around the tank was completely encrusted, to the point of being sharp, from water dripping off the bodies.

As for the experience, it's really something to do at least once. Deprived, literally, of all sensation, your mind and spirit and emotions go to places you didn't know could be reached without, uh, chemical assistance.

Then there's the relaxation factor. We got home after the 90-minute session about 2 pm, bedded down for what we thought would be a short nap, and woke at 7 the next morning.

betamax3000 said...

Tiny Ducks are exuding from the Pores of my Sin: there are Hundreds of them in the Water now, dipping their heads below the Surface and eating the Miniscule Globules of Disease. It is making them Stronger. I am Helpless.

betamax3000 said...

The Tiny Ducks are Now Trying to Re-enter my Body, through My Mouth and... Other Places. I can Feel them Under my Skin, Everywhere Wet Feathers, Tiny Tiny Wet Feathers. King Duck whispers to me: Masturbation Will Set Them Free.


edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

You hope no ONE masturbates, or no MEN masturbate. Which icks you out more? Women don't release a significant amount of fluid into the water that way do they?

There are always those ejaculating women one hears about.


I'm told that's not ejaculate, ie, sebum.

betamax3000 said...

The surface of the Water grows a Skin like that atop a Bowl of Pudding. King Duck speaks slowly and quietly, like a smooth-jazz DJ. Venereal Tapioca. Pudding in a Cloud. Ancient Chinese Secret. You're Soaking in It.

Calgon is Powerless To Take You Away.

betamax3000 said...

Memories of Childhood rush through My Brain, but Everyone I remember Now Is Replaced by a Duck. Sister Duck, Teacher Duck, Neighbor Duck. I have Repressed So Many Internal Ducks, and now the Dam has Broken.

betamax3000 said...

"Kielbasa," King Duck whispers, and I Strain to Understand.

betamax3000 said...

"Kielbasa," King Duck whispers again: "Either it lives inside all of us or it dies."

ErnieG said...

"Will no one rid me of this turbulent betamax?"

Dutch Canuck said...

Ann says, "I just want to say I hope no one masturbates."

I just want to say I hope no one farts.

Suppose, after you lower yourself in the lukewarm water and they shut the lid, your deprived senses detect the distinct pong of a greasy E-coli laden flatus released by the previous occupant as it settles into every pore of your skin.

Let that idea bounce around in the lonely void of your skull and see if it melts away.

Hey, maybe afterwards you can brush your teeth with the communal shared toothbrush!

Filthy hippies and their stupid ideas.

betamax3000 said...

I Come to the Realization that I have Always Been a Duck; I Will Always Be a Duck. Those Who Enter this Tank after Me Will Soak in My Duck Water.

ErnieG said...

I wasn't able to find anything specific, but it seems to me that a saturated magnesium sulfate solution, like a salt brine, would tend to inhibit bacterial growth. Rather than speculate, it would be interesting to see cultures made from some bath solutions, both from a public health standpoint and from an owner's liability standpoint.

t-man said...

"Venereal tapioca" ranks up there with "gay baby panda" as my favorite expressions of the day.

Are they related? Ancient Chinese secret.

betamax3000 said...

They will Soak in My Duck Water and My Duck Water will Enter Their Pores and Spread Through Their Bodies. Little Do They Know.

betamax3000 said...

King Duck will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. King Duck will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

creeley23 said...

When Althouse and her commenters don't know what they are talking about, they really don't know what they are talking about.

Makes me wonder how much else they've gotten wrong that I believed.

The water is saturated with literally 800 lbs. of epsom salts. It's like the Red Sea. That makes you float effortlessly which, along with the darkness, the silence and warm water, cuts sensory input way down -- which is the whole idea.

Along the lines of ErnieG, the epsom salts do inhibit bacterial growth -- just as salt is used as preservative for dried meats -- plus all commercial float tanks sterilize the water with ultraviolet and chlorine, and constantly filter it.

I'd bet on the water in a float tank being more sterile than a public swimming pool. But if it bothers you, by all means don't bother.

Floating has come and gone as a fad, but it never disappeared. It's an interesting experience, if one is open to it.

creeley23 said...

As I recall, at commercial float centers they filter the water completely before the next scheduled use.

I know of no sanitary problems that have resulted from floating.

betamax3000 said...

King Duck speaks in Tags to Althouse: bathtub, bodily fluids, bears, genitalia, Rod Stewart.

This is Not Coincidence.

betamax3000 said...

King Duck Knows you were Hoping for something more Tangible. King Duck whispers: We could steal our Souls back. Get in the Water. Let the Water and the Ducks Surround You.

elkh1 said...

The water is reused.

So is the water in hotel hot tubs. Only difference is you are totally naked in one, and usually has a skimpy thing on in the other.

creeley23 said...

elkh1: Again, the water in a float tank contains 800 lbs. of dissolved epsom salts plus the water is sterilized by ultraviolet as well as chlorine.

People can float either nude or with a small bathing suit.

The real problem, since people here are focused on problems, is that the water is so salty that it stings your eyes like mad if even a tiny bit gets in.

You also need to shower immediately after to get all that salt off you.

The water in a float tank is so thick with salt that it feels velvety and luscious.

Like I say, an interesting experience if you're open to it.

tomaig said...

...and there is no sound..."

So when you move, the water does not splash or gurgle?

How do they manage that? Seems to me that in a quiet, enclosed space like that, any motion, however slight, would make sounds, sounds that would seem quite loud.

creeley23 said...

So when you move, the water does not splash or gurgle?

Obviously if you disturb the water by abrupt movement, yes you will hear the ripples. But the water is very thick and small movements won't disturb it.

The idea is to relax, which includes not moving. Since your body weight is enitrely supported by the salt water, it's easy not to move.

Plus you wear foam ear plugs to reduce the sound.

It's not perfect sensory deprivation but it goes a long way in that direction. It's pretty easy to reach a meditative state where you lose consciousness of your body.

I'd reach states where I couldn't tell if I had been asleep, awake, dreaming or hallucinating.

creeley23 said...

I got interesting in floating from reading John Lilly, the scientist who experimented with dolphins, sensory deprivation and LSD, back in the seventies.

The float tank used by most centers is based on a John Lilly design.

ken in sc said...

Hey, lighten up. It's not the Ganges.

MadisonMan said...

From the article: If you’ve ever taken psychedelic mushrooms (and come on, who hasn’t?)

Really? You have to ask?

I feel hopelessly square. That's an honor.

wyo sis said...

With all this talk of a float and a tank and human effluvia it's starting to sound like a giant toilet.

creeley23 said...

With all this talk of a float and a tank and human effluvia it's starting to sound like a giant toilet.

Again: 800 lbs. of epsom salts, several bottles of hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, plus ultraviolet sterilization and a complete filtration cycle before each use.

No, it's not a giant toilet. It's far cleaner than a public pool.

tomaig said...

But the "filtration" does nothing to the 800 pounds of dissolved Epsom Salts? Doesn't sound like a very good filtration system...

creeley23 said...

Conventional water filters don't work at the molecular level and obviously we don't want to filter out the epsom salts anyway.

We do however want to filter out bacteria and skin particles, but those are many magnitudes larger than molecules of epsom salts.

creeley23 said...

I'm beginning to wonder how commenters here manage to trust tap water, lakes or swimming pools.

Leland said...

Plus you wear foam ear plugs to reduce the sound.

Well in that case, I'm back to just purchasing a sleep mask, ear plugs and laying in bed. Maybe I just have a comfortable bed. But no water filtration system is needed (which requires pumps, which tend to make noise). No need to take a shower afterwards, although I like to do so for the enjoyment of the shower.

What does it say about me that I didn't even think about urine?!

What? Relaxation and warm water, why would you expect someone to urinate?

No, the really interesting question was that you thought of masturbation at all, which may be deprivation to some, but it is sensual to me. I'd say the exact opposite of sensory deprivation.

creeley23 said...

Well in that case, I'm back to just purchasing a sleep mask, ear plugs and laying in bed.

Nothing stopping you. But it's not nearly so close to sensory deprivation as floating.

It's the lack of tactile input that makes the biggest difference.

Astro said...

Reading between the lines: The water is reused. Sorry, even though you took a shower, this is icky.

HUH?

You never swam in the ocean? Or a lake? Or a stream? You think that water is pure? It's full of fish pee, fish poop, the excrement from every other creature living there, plus bird poo and water runoff from the land which includes droppings from every land animal that ever was.

DADvocate said...

This makes no sense.

Leland said...

It's the lack of tactile input that makes the biggest difference.

Newton says the input is the same.

creeley23 said...

Newton says the input is the same.

We're talking human perception here, not physics equations.

Coketown said...

I'd reach states where I couldn't tell if I had been asleep, awake, dreaming or hallucinating.

Montana was like that for me. And parts of Alabama.

Coketown said...

It's amusing to see which topics set certain commenters off. Race for Garage Mahal. Gender issues for Andy R. Apparently, sensory deprivation for creeley23.

Tread lightly, everyone. And sanitize all fecal matter with ultraviolet lights and epsom salt.

creeley23 said...

And it's amusing to see what opportunity sets commenters off to make meta-comments.

I was surprised at the insistence of many here to make ignorant comments and not learn from what had already been said. This was one of the dumbest threads I've read here, aside from the flamefests.

Perhaps it was the lure of potty humor.

I was also surprised at the complete lack of curiosity in an interesting subject/experience.

Of course that's in the mind of the beholder. But if anyone reading this is interested in floating, it's a safe, sanitary, worthwhile trip.

Palladian said...

creeley23, since you obviously sell these things, can you get us a discount?

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