My first hour in the flotation tank

I don’t remember now where I first found about flotation tanks, but I’ve wanted very much to go in one ever since I heard of them, which was at least a few years ago. Last Saturday, I finally did, and it completely exceeded my expectations.
The place I went to was FLOAT, a nice flotation center/art gallery in Oakland, about a twenty minute walk from the BART station. I was told that as a first time floater, I should just do an hour. The woman who explained how everything worked gave me a basic explanation of how everything worked and explained some stuff, like how to scratch itches without getting epsom salt water in my eyes. I remember deciding during her explanation that I would ignore any itches I had, something I’ve never been very good at, and that has been a distraction when I’ve tried meditating.
It’s hard to remember and verbalize exactly what my experience in the tank was like, but I thought I might as well at least make an attempt to document it. I did succeed in not itching it all, and it wasn’t even hard to do so, so that was cool. I spent a couple of minutes trying to figure out how not to float around and keep hitting the walls. This wasn’t completely straightforward, since staying really still only worked if I was already not moving around and because my sense of whether I was moving or not was pretty inaccurate.
I also played around with my head position some, but I still have room for improvement in that area. The woman who had been explaining how everything worked had advised me to try tilting my head further back than initially seemed natural, which definitely helped with but did not eliminate the small amount of neck discomfort I was experiencing. Maybe my neck muscles are also just really weak, in which case it was a probably good opportunity to strengthen them a little.
Having gotten myself mostly physically comfortable, I quickly became very aware of the huge amount of tension I have in my eyes. This was probably the most unexpected part of my experience in the tank, but it seems like a good thing to be aware of. As of yet I don’t have a sense of how to relax my eyes (will be trying out some of these ideas), but I figure being more aware of the tension is a good first step.
Aside from the slight neck discomfort and awareness of my eye tension, after a quite short amount of time I felt a marked decrease in my awareness of my body. It felt a little as though I were floating in space, but if anything I felt as though I could enhance this perception by imagining myself sinking downwards, not floating upwards. In fact, one of the most fun things about the whole experience was that without the distraction of being aware of my physical body, I felt as though I could play around with my mental state by trying small tweaks.
Having shown up at the tank slightly tired, and usually being pretty good at going to sleep when I want to, I wondered whether I’d be able to sleep in the tank. I didn’t put too much effort into trying to do so, though I may sometime in the future when I go back, but I could tell that it wouldn’t be all that easy to do so, since I never sleep on my back. I did get the idea while in there that maybe since I was so relatively unaware of my body I could merely imagine myself on my side or curled up in a ball, and that would be enough. I do think that strategy might be what I would have to go with in order to fall asleep in there; either that, or just showing up completely exhausted.
Though overall I would say my mental state, especially near the end of my session, was similar to the way it is just before I go to sleep, I didn’t have hypnagogic imagery. A few times during my session and for a prolonged period near the end, I experienced mild euphoric feelings on every intake of breath. I can’t describe it any better than that, but it was quite enjoyable. My perception of time didn’t seem all that distorted, and I remember near the end thinking that probably any minute I’d hear the knock on the tank that would mean it was time to leave, and dreading it. I really didn’t want to get out!
Despite a mild sense of loss and an extreme desire to float again sometime soon, I felt very relaxed after getting out of the tank. For at least half an hour or so afterwards I had no real desire to do anything other than sit there with my eyes closed. I sat outside in the sun for a bit too, and then realized that the deep relaxation I felt in the tank was somewhat akin to the way I feel when sunbathing, but way more so.
It now being a couple of days later, I haven’t noticed too many dramatic aftereffects of floating, but there are a few things. I’m still aware of the tension in my eyes, especially when I focus on it. Having now floated, I can to a certain extent recall and relive the mental state I experienced while doing so at will. I can’t wait to get even better at doing that. Finally, having successfully and without too much difficulty succeed in my goal of ignoring any itches I felt while floating, I’ve decided that I should probably do the same in real life, at least much more than I have been. That hasn’t been so easy, but I still think it’s worth working on.
Anyway, I’m not sure how much any of this makes sense, but at least now I have somewhat of a record of my first flotation experience. There seems to be a lot of variation in individual experiences floating, but I’ve been telling everyone I know to go do it on the off-chance that they’d like it half as much as I did. I think those who would be particularly likely to enjoy it right away include people for whom relaxing and doing nothing come pretty naturally, like me :-).