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Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log

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Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
jhanas flotation tank visualization
Answer
2/4/16 9:33 PM
Here's the first installment of my float tank practice log I mentioned I would start in the Joe Rogan thread.

Background: I've been fascinated by the concept of float tanks ever since first coming across the works of Dr. John Lilly. Always wondered what it would be like to meditate in one. I became even more interested after coming across the Fire Kasina site and experimenting with elemental kasina practice sessions using fire, water and earth as kasina objects. What attracted me most to these practices was their ability to provide access to visionary material.

Previously, when I would come out of fourth jhana, I would tend not to get to many visuals, so after years of practicing with a "formless" focus (I realize how funny that sounds) the prospect of visual material was most welcome. After having done several elemental kasina sessions, I now notice more visionary material in my general practice, interesting how that works!

I went to check out multiple float spas in my area before finally taking the "plunge" and doing my first session earlier this week. The first place I checked out uses the I-Sopod tank. These tanks look super-cool, like something they might slip you into for cryo-freeze on a trip to Mars, a la the movie Prometheus. As I understand it, these are a step up from Shamadi Brand tanks in terms of quality.

The second place I checked out was closed for renovations and the third uses ultra high-end custom built tanks, like the kind Rogan had built in his basement. I liked these tanks both because they block out the most ambient noise and because they have the largest float area. There is a technique to floating without bouncing into the walls. As you can imagine, bouncing into the walls is something of a buzz kill.

The third location I checked out also had the advantage of providing 15 min of complimentary massage chair time with each float. The chairs at this place where phenomenal and based on what I read about them online, are phenomenally expensive as well.

Set-Up: Opting for location #3 I was shown to a room with fresh robes and lockers. I put all my stuff in a locker, donned a robe and had nothing but the locker key to take with me. From here it was strait to the message chairs, where I was given the option of light or deep-tissue. I opted for the deep-tissue and spent 15 minutes being stretched and squeezed into a much more pliant state then when I walked through the doors.

From there it was on to one of the private suites, which consisted of a changing area (not needed due to the robe), a shower, and the tank itself. The shower was connected directly to the tank, so you could open a set of double doors from inside the shower and step right into the tank. At this particular location, all floaters are instructed to shower for at least 5 min prior to entering and after leaving the tank. Much to my shock, both of the locations I went to said they do not allow bathing suits in the tanks. Two reasons where given for this, first, it is an extra source of friction and sensation for the floaters, secondly the fibers of the suit provide an extra potential water contaminant. From reading online, I also understand that the salt is highly corrosive to fabrics and those who use a regular set of swim shorts to float often wind up replacing them in short order.

I also had to sign a waiver saying I would pay for the replacement cost of the water and salt if I contaminated the water. I asked about this and was informed that short of relieving yourself in the tank, usually, the only source of contamination is from freshly dyed hair.

Once in the tank, there was a button under water that when pressed would toggle all the lights in the suite (in the tank and outside) on or off, with each press. I had been instructed that there would be a ping-based tone marking the end of my scheduled hour.

The Float Itself: The owner of the first location told me that ten minutes in the tank feels like an eternity. I told him that I was a meditator and he said "it doesn't matter" time goes by extremely slowly in the tank. He told me, "you have to understand, that once you get settled, there is absolutely no sensation." At this point I felt like the dude was clearly exaggerating but was eager to find out for myself.

I quickly discovered that the water is amazingly buoyant, you couldn't not float if you tried. The facility I used offered neck pillows, but I talked to some of the floaters in the front lobby beforehand and they all advised against it. I also had the option of have rotating lights and soft music played in the tank for whatever amount of time I choose. Being a purist and wanting to get strait to meditation, I opted-out of both add-ons.

My first challenge was preventing myself from careening off the walls like the nine-ball on a pool table. It definitely took a good ten minutes stabilize my position away from all four walls. Once that was done, I utilized a do-nothing approach just to feel things out and see what would happen.

~10 minutes into float

My mind fixated on things that where bothering me in my daily life, which I had not been totally conscious of during the day. I went through three layers of such observation, with he third being the one I spent the most time on. This third concern was clearly the issue which was bothering me the most.

Finally, this seemed to slip away of its own accord and I felt much more relaxed. It was a very interesting biofeedback experience, since the message chair had relaxed me quite a bit, but going through this "releasing process" allowed me to somatically experience just how much more relaxed I could become when this subconscious worrying was partially dropped.

At this point, I heard a droning noise of deep bass that sounded something like music off in the distance. It gradually got stronger over a period of 20-30 seconds and then quickly faded away.

~20 minutes into float

Then, there was nothing, except the gentile lapping of the ripples in the water. These ripples, while subtle, would have a significant impact on my experience later in the float. The experience of just laying there, with few thoughts, no lights and the ripples in the water got extremely boring extremely quickly, so I decided to start applying a technique. I first tired to do some noting, but what was most noticeable for me at the time was the ripples in the water, and this to became tiresome, relatively quickly.

Next, I decided to switch to jhana practice.

First Jhana: Felt somewhat super-charged. Not the most intense bliss-out I've ever felt, but it felt like my body's resistance to the jhana factors was at an all time low. I always experience areas of the body where the factors of the early jhanas seem to have difficulty penetrating. During this phase, it felt like I had super hi-def resolution into the exact boundaries between where the jhana factors were present and where they were not.

Also, had an experience I've never had before during first jhana, felt like the areas of the body where the factors where present where lit-up and visible. It was like looking strait through my body and seeing these areas as filled with strands of reddish-golden light (like some tripped out version of scanning). This was the only noticable visual material I got during my jhana practice in the tank.

Second Jhana:
This proceeded for me more or less as it usually does on the cushion. I sometimes experience kryia in my practice and for some reason, of all the jhanas, second tends to have the highest chance of brining up kryias. While in second jhana in the tank, the kryias did indeed come up and the movement started to set me adrift again. Even the subtle push of an involuntary movement can set you in motion in the tank and have you coming in contact with the walls.

Third Jhana: I usually picture the space around me, like a giant donut, as part of my method for getting myself into third jhana. This was tricky in the tank, because instead of my spine being vertical, like on the cushion, it was actually horizontal. Not being used to this, I found getting comfortably stabilized in third to be tricky.

Fourth Jhana: The experience of fourth jhana, with the sensation of the boundaries of the body dropping is definitely one of the most satisfying experiences of jhanic practice to me. I was actually quite disappointed that fourth jhana was really tricky in the tank due to the ever present subtle ripples, which throughout the session, where most noticeable on my hands.

This constant sensation on the hands is totally subversive the feelings of your boundaries melting away. This was in many way upsetting, because so much of the marketing around the floatation tank experience is built around being able to have a boundary dissolving experience!

When I got as far as I felt I could with he jhana practice, I let this go as well and decided to “do-nothing” again for a while and see what would happen.

~35 minutes into float

This phase of the session did not disappoint. I experienced a cavalcade of images that in the beginning would morph, rapid-fire from one to the next. The "flow rate" slowed down over time and the images became somewhat more stabilized as time went on, though for the most part, the visionary material I experienced was fleeting.

In comparison to fire kasina practice, what I noticed is that the visionary material started just after the "murky grey" phase that marks the transition form third to fourth jhana. However nothing I experienced in the tank matched the best of full-blown fourth jhana imagery I have gotten from fire kasina practice. One thing that was very interesting about the visuals in the tank is that I noticed the transition and morphing stages from one image to another in a more pronounced manner and with higher resolution that ever before.

The most vivid image that came up was one of a giant golden totem in the shape of a hippo. Only it's right side was present, the left side being comprised of pure nothingness. It was right in front of me, and as I was looking at it I thought to myself, "I wonder if it is animate", Just at that moment, it blinked its one eye, which provided me with all the answer I needed.

I had another experience during this stage, the likes of which I've never come across before in meditation. I had a "random" image pop up and would say to myself, "wow, that's weird, never seen anything like that before" and seemingly at the same time, another part of myself would seem to say, "oh yea, that old image".

This puzzled the hell out of me after I got out of the tank, so I developed a working theory, which may or may-not be anywhere near the mark. My conjecture is that these may be images that have come up before in subconscious processing, but that I've never consciously noticed before. Somehow, the combination of a meditative state, combined with the deep relaxation of the tank allowed me to consciously view that material. So to the “conscious me” it was totally new and fresh, but to the level of subconscious I was observing, it was old hat.

No matter what the actual process at work was, it was a new a startling experience for me. If I had to come up with a catchy label for it, I'd call it internal déjà vu, as it was totally based on internal visual material and not based on outside circumstances. This happened twice for me in the tank, the first time the image was fleeting and I could not recall it upon leaving the tank. The second time however, I was able to remember the image.  It was an image of a roll of toilet paper in a wooden box co-habitating with about five praying mantises.

All of a sudden, while cycling through images the lights came on in the tank and suite. Boy was I pissed! I was enjoying myself, there was no tone in the water to gently single time was running out and I was instantly catapulted back to mundane reality. I decided to hit the light button myself manually and see if it would work as a snooze button. Indeed, all the "intention setting" training I'd received from the DhO paid off big time! The lights went back out and I figured I'd veg out in the darkness before a member of the staff came by and told me to get the hell out!

Five minutes into my snooze I heard a large rumbling noise in the water which turned out to be the filtration system kicking in to prep the tank for the next customer. I quickly hopped out, showered and got dressed. Upon walking to the front desk, I ran into an employee and stated asking her some questions. It turned out she was the owner and we had a very nice in-depth chat about floating. The conversation was very much a textbook-style "flow experience". Like when you're having a conversation but instead of feeling like "you" are talking to "them", it feels like one big happening. Another way to put it might be a "fourth jhana hangover", in the best possible way.

Reflections:


In the hours immediately following my float, I came to the conclusion that it was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life. Looking back, I feel like the message chair relaxed some of the outer layers, while the float brought that much deeper towards the core of my being. In addition to Jhana work, I have spent time practicing Shinzen style "focus on rest". That technique has brought me to some profound and deeply relaxed states. While I would not say that the float made more more relaxed, I would say that it allowed me to relax different parts of myself (which are usually quite difficult to access).

For about two hours afterwards there was a definite, light afterglow along with a sense that some degree of healing and well being had been imprinted onto the nervous system.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I signed up for a plan that allows me to do four monthly floats, so there will be more reports to come!

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/2/16 5:55 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
So I had my second float yesterday, and something I experienced in the tank reminded me of something I left out of my first report. During my first float I had an experience that I have on rare occasion on retreat while in the process of falling asleep. Ocassionally, when I am able to maintian my awareness through twilight (hypnogogic) sleep, I will hear voices speaking. Usually it is a single voice, sometimes two.

While this is an infrequent experience for me, often brought about as a result of intense practice, I did experience it on my first float. There are some standard characteristics of these experiences for me. First, the voices always speak in English. Secondly, the syntax they use seems to me to be more or less standard grammer, though I would be hard pressed to recomend any of these guys as a copy editor. emoticon What is so odd about what is said, is the word choice and the way those words are put together.

It's as if what they are trying to convey is beyond random, as if I don't have any sort of category or scema which will allow me to interface with the "intended" meaning (big assumtion) behind these phrases. The bizarness of what is said, combied with the fact that I am extreamly tired when these experiences occur, have made transcribing these utterances all but impossible. The other clearly noticable factor is that each voice seems to have its own personality.

What makes the personality factor so strange is that these utterances usually range from a couple of words to one sentence in length. But there is a strange effect whereby just a few words seem to convey a depth of information about the speaker, that is not usually possible in ordinary conversation. The closest analogy I can make would be synesthesia. For example, when you're  in an altered state and you hear the color blue in a piece of music. Something about the music is conveying the color blue. In a similar manner, in these types of experiences the few words that are conveyed are highly pregnant with meaning and somehow convey something about the speaker.

In the audio report of the Fire Kasina site, Daniel describes his interaction with Ginger the red-haired Fire Goddess. The experiences I'm desribing are completely disembodied. This of course gets into a whole can of worms in regards to who or what the speaker might be, but leaving that aspect aside, I am attempting simply to describe the quality of the experience. I bring all this up because, I did indeed incounter a voice in my second float, but the experience broke with my standard pattern as desribed above.

Second float report to follow soon...

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/3/16 4:16 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Howdy SS,
in case you're wondering if anyone is interested in these reports..wonder no longer.  i have a little floating experience and have considered building my own tank.  i'm reading this with interest and glee.

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/3/16 5:25 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Very interesting. Have toyed with the idea for a while. May have to now give it a go.

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/3/16 10:53 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
Mike and Tom,

Thanks for the feedback, it's good to know there is some interest! Please feel free to point out anything in the reports that is especially of interest and I can try to hone in on these areas in future reports.

-Sam

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/4/16 11:45 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Keep it coming Dude.....gotta love this shit.

Cheers Sam.

Stuie.

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/4/16 9:34 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
For my second float, I decide to skip the message chair and jump strait into the tank, giving me an extra 15 minutes of float time. I was quite excited about the prospect of the extra time as my first float seemed to fly by. As a rough estimate, I would say that one hour of time in the tank feels like roughly 25 min of sitting at my desk working (in terms of relative time passing by, not enjoyment!). Skipping the message, which was meant to improve the quality of the overall experience, quickly backfired. About five minutes into the float, I realized I had a lot of tightness in my right trap.

My float time was set for 10:30 in the morning, and it seems while sleeping I must have tweaked my neck/trap. Since it was such an early float, there had been little time for the knot to work itself out. Had I actually opted for the deep tissue message chair, I might have been spared the discomfort.

Regardless, I was already into my float by the time I was aware of the issue and felt I had little choice but to deal with the discomfort from inside the tank. My first tactic was to apply Goenka-style scanning to the area in question. I applied all sorts of movement patters, top-to-bottom then left-to-right, before applying the reverse of each of these.

This relieved the tension just a touch. Next I transitioned to jhana work. Other than the distraction of the tightness, the jhanas went well this time. Third jhana, which had been tricky the previous float, felt much better this time. Seems like part of the trick was getting used to the horizontal orientation.

Fourth jhana was also much better than during the previous float. This also seems to be a matter of getting used to whatever tactile stimulation is most predominant. For example, when practicing fourth jhana from a seated position, it's the feeling of your rear against the cushion that is most pronounced. Having been in that position so many times, your nervous system gets totally used to it and after a while seems to largely filter that part of tactile awareness out, so when you get to fourth jhana you can experience the feeling of the edges of the body dropping away.

During the first float, the feelings of the water gently rippling against my hand was totally distracting me from the sensations of boundary dissolution. This time, it seems that because I knew it was coming, it was less of an issue.

Fifth jhana was absolutely phenomenal! I've always had the feeling that various chakras are at play to varying degrees in producing the factors of each jhana. For me, I got the distinct feeling that whatever was going on inside me to produce the experience of fifth jhana, was functioning on all cylinders. The idea of minimal resistance, that I described in my previous report, in regards to the first jhana, applies here.

After working my way through the jhanas and then leaving them, my upper back still hurt like hell. At this point I decided to sit up in the tank and give myself a bit of a message. This was a little tricky as saltwater from my hair started to drip down my face over my eyes. I knew that this was going to cause some serious burning sensation at some point in the future, and had not yet figured out that the spray bottle hanging on the inside of the tank's hand-rail was filled with fresh water, for just such an occasion. Later in the float I actually upgraded this procedure and just gave my neck a rub while floating.

Regardless of the logistical problems involved, the back-rub did help relax me quite a bit. After doing this I decided to rise back up through the jhanas to try to get myself in an uber-relaxed state that would be conducive to having visionary material present itself. On coming out of the jhanas, I found myself in the “murky grey” stage that so often accompanies fire kasina practice.

Whenever it felt like a strain to focus intently on the visual material which was trying to break through the murky grey, I would allow my intense concentration to relax by gently resting my attention on my heartbeat. When I first did this, I felt like I was giving up in a manner of speaking, but in doing so I made some interesting discoveries.

First, my heartbeat was much lighter, more gentle and relaxed than during my first float. It seems that as relaxing as floating in hyper-salinated water can be, the body has a certain amount of instinctive tension around doing anything for the first time. Once I made this switch of attention to my heartbeat, I started noticing the visionary material becoming clearer. I thought to myself, “this is it, this is what I've been waiting for” and I switched my focus on the images themselves.

Much to my dismay, this caused the images to quickly revert to murky grey status. Having been fooled once, I decided to switch my attention back to the heart and use it as a something of a kasina object (in this case, a sensate object on which to focus my attention). At that point, as long as I kept a portion of my attention on the heartbeat, the images came of their own accord. After a period of time I was just sort of taken up with the flow of the experience and the visionary material continued steadily, seemingly of its own volition.

There was a definite theme to the visionary material during this float. What I witnessed was a series of aquatic scenes of a variety of creatures being born. This ranged from insect-looking crustaceans to all manner of fish, but with a focus on long slithering eel-like creatures.

Most of the time, the images where not just of a single life form bursting forth by itself, but an individual emerging from cluster of eggs. In once scene there was a giant coral formation filled with eggs, in another a long, branch like mineral deposit out of which a shrimp-like creature emerged.

Occasionally, there was some manner of critter, lying in wait, to snatch the newborn up. In most of the scenarios the larva/fry got away clean. There where two things struck me as common threads within these visions. First was the notion of the mineral realm taking part in the birth of the animal realm. Second was the fact that all these creatures had their locomotion more-or-less under control as soon as they escaped their egg/enclosure.

There was also the distinct theme of the squeezing required to complete the birthing process. As the critters squeezed, I felt myself being squeezed along with them, willing them to do their thing and squirm free. Saying that I was “willing” them to break free though is not quite right, because by some totally autonomous process, I was right there with them, feeling (at least part of) what they felt.

These images where followed by a totally different sort of image. It was of a gigantic space ship sailing among the clouds of a planet. This was all happening against the background of a bright pastel sunset. Think of a super-friendly version of an Imperial Cruiser from Star Wars. The outside of the ship seemed to be composed of a textured white organic material. I was astonished by the size of the ship and said to myself, “My God, it's huge!” To this I heard a response back from a disembodied voice saying , “Yes it's <number> <units of length> wide!” I can't recall the number he mentioned and the unit of length he referenced was certainly no unit I had ever heard of.

The speaker was clearly male, and besides that I had the distinct feeling that the he was somehow involved in the operation of the ship, perhaps as some sort of maintenance person. This is the first time that one of the disembodied voices answered a question of mine, usually they are just saying their own thing. It's also the first time, I was able to remember after-the-fact, more-or-less what had been said.
One of the most interesting features of my float came right before the lights came on, signaling the end of my time in the tank. I had an itch on my abdomen and went to move my right hand to scratch it. What I had perceived to be my right hand to be, did in fact move, but I quickly realized it was not my right hand! You may have to read that last sentence one more time, as this was not an everyday, standard-sort of experience.

Somehow my perception of the location of my right arm has dislocated itself from my actual (physical) right arm, but this disassociation stopped at my shoulder. So instead of having an out-of-body experience (OBE), I was having an “out-of-arm experience”! Somehow during the course of the float this disassociation had occurred totally unbeknownst to me.

OBEs are often reported as a side-effect of floating and this experience has started to make me believe there may be a definite connection. This has me wondering about the potential results of two possible experiments. The first would be the increased rate of OBE-like phenomenon with longer duration floats, say 2 or 3+ hours. The second would be the results of a series of one-hour floats following a set procedure known to produce OBEs.

Unfortunately, I do not see myself trying either of these experiments any time in the near future due to both scheduling constraints and my desire to map more general experiences in the tank before taking any “deep-dives”. I'm convinced though, that the results, if not out of this world, would certainly be out of this body! emoticon

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/7/16 2:04 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Shamadhi Sam:

Somehow my perception of the location of my right arm has dislocated itself from my actual (physical) right arm, but this disassociation stopped at my shoulder. So instead of having an out-of-body experience (OBE), I was having an “out-of-arm experience”! Somehow during the course of the float this disassociation had occurred totally unbeknownst to me.

OBEs are often reported as a side-effect of floating and this experience has started to make me believe there may be a definite connection. This has me wondering about the potential results of two possible experiments. The first would be the increased rate of OBE-like phenomenon with longer duration floats, say 2 or 3+ hours. The second would be the results of a series of one-hour floats following a set procedure known to produce OBEs.

Unfortunately, I do not see myself trying either of these experiments any time in the near future due to both scheduling constraints and my desire to map more general experiences in the tank before taking any “deep-dives”. I'm convinced though, that the results, if not out of this world, would certainly be out of this body! emoticon
If your arm came out, the rest of you was ready to come out.  Sounds like you just did not send the order for the rest of you to come out, you told the hand to scratch and that was all.  You let the rest of your body lay there yes?  A full OBE does not require any state deeper than an arm OBE and what you described is absolute classic OBE stuff.  You just have to be willing to go for the fully Monty!  ;-P 
-Eva

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/9/16 10:59 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
This happened seconds before the light came on in the tank, so we'll have to see how things play out the next time this territory comes up.

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/9/16 5:18 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
I'm amped! My special order of John Lilly and E.J. Gold's Tanks For the Memories just came in the mail. While randomly flipping through the pages a quote caught my eye. It speaks to the debate between purists who just float and those who prefer to combine tank experiences with the use of psychedelics. It also speaks to the emerging dialog around the intersection of psychedelic experience and meditation.


Tank experiences have been compared to LSD, mescaline, peyote experiences, and so forth. All I can say is that it is a very, very different experience. I've done LSD back in 1964 when it was legal. I took LSD and went into the tank in St. Thomas, and I must say it is an entirely different kind of experience. It is as if the drug limited you, constricted you. Now it is true that you can move into places you are not allowed to go in, you did not allow yourself to go into before as it were, as if a small level of randomness in the neuronal events in your brain was added by the prescence [sic.] of the drug. Actually you are constricted in the sense the you have added noise to the system in which you are the resident.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      -John Lilly

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/21/16 5:51 AM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Thanks for sharing Sam - really interesting
Have a flotation tank set-up coming to where I live, I plan to try it out!

RE: Sam's Flotation Tank Practice Log
Answer
2/21/16 10:03 PM as a reply to Phineas.
Phineas, glad you got something out of the notes. Enjoy your float, let us know how it goes!

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