You don’t get reflections in a flotation tank

Have any of you ever had the experience of a flotation tank? Ten minutes ago, I was semi-immersed in 25cm of warm water in a dimly lit room, trying to banish the intrusive thought, “When is she going to knock on the door to tell me my times up?”
I must admit, I don’t normally go in for fancy, new-age therapies. Expensive bunkum. But I’m staying in a modern hotel in Mauritius, that bills itself as a spa. And you get a free treatment in the flotation tank, so I thought, “Why not?”
The spa is on the first floor, accessible by a futuristic elevator. The colour scheme is white, relieved by bits of white. I booked in and was told to have a shower, cover any broken skin with Vaseline, and then go into the tank room naked. I closed the black plastic door and sat down in the buoyant water. It smelled faintly, but reassuringly, of posh disinfectant. The four walls were featureless, apart from some rubber buttons and a hole, presumably for filling the tank. One button was red, so I guessed that was to press in case of emergency.
The ceiling was covered in light emitting diodes which changed from yellow to blue, in different patterns. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, the lights were rather distracting as they were so bright. I’d expected something rather more subtle, star constellations for example. But perhaps that would make you focus on what the lights were trying to represent, rather than allowing you to sink into mindlessness.
I fitted the inflatable head rest around my neck, and sank back into the water. I did not touch the bottom. I just floated. At first, I had to concentrate on letting my muscles relax, especially my arms. I stretched them out sideways, but they touched the tank wall, so I left them drifting at 45 degrees. My body adopted the posture governed by my centre of gravity: buttocks lowest. Interestingly, I felt pressure on the parts of my body which were lowest. Very odd.
I closed my eyes and drifted. My inner ear was giving me false information. I thought I was moving in one direction, but when I opened my eyes, I could see that I’d gone the opposite way. Weird.
The tank was equipped with a “state of the art” sound system. I knew the tweeters were good quality when I heard the dawn chorus. Then there was the sound of rushing water. I wanted a pee. Not in the flotation tank, but there was no toilet in the tank bit of the spa complex. Another intrusive thought to prevent my experiencing nirvana. But the nature sounds didn’t last long. The next music was new age “chill out” style. Plinky electronic piano. Fuzzy violins. Not really musak to be heard in hotel elevators. More “crash out after a rave” for the over forties music.
My first thought was it was Enya after a lobotomy. Or maybe Moby on barbiturates. And it was slightly out of key at times. Edgy. Making you feel that this was important music to pay attention to, not to be ignored. Neither of the knobs on the wall functioned as a volume control so I dipped my ears under the water. But then I was distracted by gurgling tinnitus. There was no escape from the watery melody.
But I remembered I used to be the treasurer of the London University Samatha Buddhist meditation society. I got my breathing going and started to settle into the experience.
Then I thought, “How are they going to tell me my time’s up?” If I’m so entranced by the reverie, I might not hear them rapping on the plastic door. It made me aware of how I live my life by the clock; time might be money, but I had no way of measuring it. And then I heard the knock.
I’m not sure I used my time well in the tank. Perhaps with practise, I could have achieved enlightenment. The music was too tacky; the light show on the ceiling too distracting. But I had trouble silencing my thoughts, that was the main problem. Afterwards, I felt rather disoriented, spaced out, “muzzy headed” as my patients might call it. The whole experience was unsatisfying, disappointing, a let down.
In Winchester Cathedral there is a stained glass window of the “Compleat Angler”, Izaac Walton, with the inscription, “Study to be quiet.” Maybe I should take up fishing.


One Reply to “You don’t get reflections in a flotation tank”

  1. Have had to go away after reading this and have a little search -to discover that it reminded me of that disturbing Dirk Bogarde film The Mind Benders – involving water tanks and sensory deprivation. Hm. Glad you didn’t have to pay for this ‘treatment’.

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