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Thursday, August 28, 2014




Flotation: One editor’s first-hand experience with isolation




By Editor In Chief and Logan McGrady

There comes a time when you are floating in 10 inches of water heated to the temperature of your skin in a sound and light-proof tank when you start to think about your life. That time comes quite quickly, as a matter of fact.

Such was the case last Monday when I visited Great Lakes Flotation LLC. Located in Swartz Creek and run by Terri Stangl, Great Lakes Flotation offers customers the unique experience of flotation tanks. These large fiberglass tanks are filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of Epsom salt, making you float in the water and feel weightless. The water is also heated to around 92 degrees, making it difficult to feel against your skin. This coupled with the tank being sound and light-proof, gives the floater a sensory deprivation experience that is perfect for self-examination and relaxation.

The first time I floated however, relaxation wasn’t what I found. For an anxious person like me, an hour of being alone with your thoughts is far from relaxing. I keep myself busy to avoid self-examination. You will see me walking with earbuds in to keep my mind occupied. My first floating experience felt more like a challenge to overcome than a relaxing experience. To my credit, I stayed in the tank for the full hour, despite a racing mind and a pounding heart.

Flotation Tanks were invented by Dr. John C. Lilly in 1954. They were called isolation tanks back then, and were used to test the effects of sensory deprivation on subjects. Not one to limit himself, Lilly was also involved in the search for extra-terrestrial life, experiments with LSD and Ketamine and human-dolphin communication. The tanks have since been popularized by figures such as Joe Rogan of Fear Factor and UFC fame.

Looking back on my initial difficult experience, I decided that I should give it another try. My anxiety was in full effect, knowing the stress that was about to come my way. Regardless, I showered pre-float and made my way into the tank, shutting the door behind me.

As soon as I lied back onto the buoyant water, my mind was fighting me. It was around 1 p.m., and my day had been busy, putting me in “go mode.” I wanted to get out badly. Lying there doing nothing felt wrong. My anxiety had come to play. Then, the most amazing thing happened.

I let go and relaxed.

The next bit might be kind of hard to write about, because darkness and laying still doesn’t quite jump off the page. But there I was, relaxed and accepting of myself, and it was powerful.

Rather than praying for the knock on the tank to signal the end of the float, I found myself not wanting to get out this time. In a world where nothing ever slows down, a quiet hour was a rare and welcome experience. This is even truer for me, because in this case my mind slowed down as well.

After your float, Terri meets you in the lounge area where you can talk over tea. I told her of my positive experience, and we talked about some of the things that give me anxiety. We talked for at least 45 minutes, and I walked away with a new perspective on things, truly. For the rest of the day I could only be described as “chilled out.” The normally wound-tight Logan was loose.

Even if you have no interest in self-examination, or already are feeling relaxed, floating is something worth doing. It is a truly novel experience, one that can make you feel like you are drifting through space and make your muscles feel great.

Have an experience you think I should have? Email me at lmcgrady@umflint.edu


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