When Hollywood gets the chance to portray real world things, it always takes ample creative license. You can pick out a dozen random topics and discover how these things are shown on screen don’t always mesh with real life experience. This is especially true with floating and isolation tanks. TV shows and movies are quick to take floating and shroud it in mystery, danger and fantasy. “The Pretender,” a TV series which aired from 1996 to 2000, offers a good example of this trend. An episode from the second season, titled Over the Edge, deals with the impact of an isolation tank on the series’ main character Jarod – played by Michael T. Weiss. Jarod helps reunite an estranged mother and son. This plot device serves as a jumping off point for Jarod in his efforts to reconnect with his own long lost mother. Jarod uses an isolation tank to revisit his past experiences with floating. The audience witnesses flashbacks where a younger Jarod is compelled to float inside an isolation tank as a relaxation tool. He is forced to float so he can be used for scientific experiments conducted by a shadowy group known only as The Centre. Young Jarod’s time inside the isolation tank produces hallucinations of his mother. He attempts to connect physically with these hallucinations. Since Jarod was kidnapped and used for experimentation from a young age, he cannot even remember hugging his mother and longs to feel her touch. The tank offers a chance at the physical contact Jarod craves in the form of hallucinations. In there, he can touch his mother and speak to her once more. Young Jarod enjoys floating in the tank. There, he can enjoy a taste of freedom away from his kidnappers. Floating is portrayed in a positive light on “The Pretender.” Jarod uses floating as a relaxation tool at different points in his life and he uses it to access memories as an adult. Still, “The Pretender” does bend reality as it relates to isolation tanks to suit its own purposes. Young Jarod frequently hallucinates inside the tank. Adult Jarod is shown using the tank for days at a time without taking a break – a practice that isn’t recommended or safe. One disturbing aspect is the role an isolation tank plays in scientific experimentation. Young Jared is forced to float as a method of relaxation, so he is refreshed enough to be experimented on by his captors. Real isolation tanks are not used for such diabolical purposes. Real-life floating is an experience designed to improve your life. It creates an environment where stress and pain melt away. Floating is the perfect way to recharge your internal batteries when the pressures associated with work, school, family and daily life wear you down. Hollywood once again fails to pass the reality test with floating in “The Pretender.” Isolation tanks need no embellishment. The effects and realities of what it can do are better than fiction.
Floating in an isolation tank can be compared to watching snowflakes in a snowstorm. It is common knowledge that no two snowflakes are alike. The same principle holds true with floating. No two people share identical experiences in an isolation tank. That doesn’t mean that floating sessions don’t share a few common characteristics. Floating can be broken into two categories: passive floating and active floating. Passive floating doesn’t require much from the floater. Once a person enters into an isolation tank and commits to passive floating, they simply relax and empty their mind. No thoughts. No emotions. They are simply in a state of peace. They know nothing but deep calm as their bodies float atop the soothing water. Active floating is a whole different animal. An active floater can use multiple techniques to achieve some sort of therapeutic goal while inside an isolation tank. The main idea behind active floating is that when the body enters a relaxed state, the mind becomes more open to suggestion. A floater can take control of their subconscious mind and plant suggestions and directions that do anything from helping their body heal from an injury to curbing an addiction. There is no correct approach to floating. Active floating and passive floating both offer benefits to a person looking to give their body a rest from the outside world.
Each person enjoys a different experience when they float in an isolation tank for the first time. The Simpsons offers a satirical take on isolation tanks when Homer Simpson gets to experience being in one for the first time in the 10th season episode “Make Room For Lisa.” Homer takes Lisa to a new age store to find natural remedies for stress-induced stomach aches. She is experiencing these stomach aches after her room is converted into a communication tower by a local cell-phone company. While in the new age store, the clerk offers time in the isolation tanks as a method for reducing Lisa’s stress and ridding her stomach ache. The experiences of Lisa and Homer in their respective isolation tanks are as different as night and day. Lisa undergoes a spiritual and mystical journey typical of what some people who float regularly report when they come out of a floatation tank. She sees an assortment of images and experiences life from the point of view of her cat Snowball and then Homer. Lisa learns to forgive his uncouth behavior and appreciate his efforts to bond with her by doing activities he doesn’t always enjoy. Homer, on the other hand, seems only concerned on whether he can pee in the tank before staring his floating session. Once inside, his isolation tank is seized by repo men and falls out of the back of their truck on a sharp turn. It is found on the road by Ned Flanders and he mistakes it for a coffin. Ned buries the isolation tank and it breaks through the top of an underground water pipe. The isolation tank washes ashore on a local beach and is returned to the new age store. Homer leaves the tank feeling impressed by his “journey.” Both experiences — one spiritual and the other comical — have positive effects on the relationship between Homer and Lisa. The same is true with others who float. They feel better about themselves and their loved ones.
Many people are drawn to floating because it sounds relaxing. Once inside an isolation tank, they realize that it indeed does feel relaxing. Why does lying on top of dense saltwater wash away all traces of stress and anxiety? The simple answer is that floating acts like a light switch. You can turn off the pressures of the outside world and turn on the peace that comes from exploring your inner self. One factor is the environment inside the isolation tank itself. When you are inside the tank, you no longer feel weighed down by gravity. The saltwater makes floatation possible and leaves you resting on top of the water instead of in it. It isn’t exactly like kicking it in outer space in a space shuttle. Still, it is the closest thing to a zero gravity environment that most people will experience in their lifetimes. The human brain undergoes significant changes inside the floatation tank. It releases powerful endorphins. These natural chemicals reduce pain and enhance a person’s mood. They feel better about everything. It allows healing to begin on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. When a person enters the state where this sort of healing can begin, this naturally makes them feel more relaxed. They are free from their normal lives – even if it is only the blink of an eye on the cosmic timescale. Floating is good for the body and soul because it is so relaxing to both parts.
Can floating in an isolation tank make you smarter? It’s a valid question to ask. Floating is an activity that does so much good in so many other areas. Why wouldn’t increased brain power be one of the side effects of regular sessions in a floatation tank? The answer is a simple one. You can become smarter from floating. Why? The biggest reason is that floating unlocks your natural intelligence. When you get inside the tank and shut off the outside world, you allow your mind the rare opportunity to be free. A healthy brain given free reign will do what a healthy brain does best. It will think. It will create solutions to problems. It will provide answers to questions. Our brain is designed to operate like this all of the time. The problem is the outside world. When the stress and pressure of everyday life greets us as soon as we wake until we go to sleep, it can overwhelm our minds. That negative energy can cause our brain to focus on the most immediate task at hand at the expense of learning and growing in a healthy way. We have all been told that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Regular floating sessions will help a person to avoid making that mistake. Your brain needs a vacation from the outside world just as much as your body does. How we feel physically is tied directly to how we feel mentally. When we give our brains a chance to recharge and refocus through floating in an isolation tank, it means we are doing everything we can to take care of our mental health.
Dreaming is a natural part of the human experience. The subconscious mind comes alive during REM sleep and bombards us with images of people, places and things that seem all so jumbled and random. People spend time and money trying to understand what influences their dreams and what those dreams actually mean. Others resort to the technique of lucid dreaming to control their dreams. The ability to lucid dream and floating in an isolation tank go hand in hand. Lucid dreaming differs from regular dreaming because the dreamer retains an awareness they are dreaming. In other words, a lucid dreamer knows they are dreaming and can control the dream through their thoughts, words and actions. Floating allows a person to explore their subconscious in a similar manner. The floater can choose to zero in on certain images that emerge when their mind becomes freed from the outside world. For that reason, using a floatation tank can be an effective tool in gaining control over your dreams. Controlling dreams requires active floating instead of passive floating. A passive floater is simply concerned with emptying their mind and reaching a point of simple relaxation in mind and body. An active floater looks to program their mind during a relaxed state. This can involve something as simple as meditation. It can be as complex as entering their own dreams and taking control of the direction of those dreams. If you want to be a lucid dreamer, the first step is learning how to master your subconscious mind. The best way to do that is to purposefully connect with it through a floating session.
If you have never floated in an isolation tank, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start now. Floating is equal parts relaxing and therapeutic. The physical, mental and emotional benefits from this activity are countless. What should you know before you experience your first floating session? Don’t worry about claustrophobia: The tank is not as dark and cramped as you might imagine. There is plenty of room for comfort inside the tank. You can also leave a light on inside the tank so you are not immersed in complete darkness. The bottom line is you are in a place designed to calm you, not scare you. Give yourself time to relax: Some of your muscles may take a few minutes to relax. The human body needs time to adjust to new surroundings. Allow yourself time to soak in your new environment with your senses. The relaxation will come. Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and let the tank do its job. Experiment with floating: Find the position where you will feel most relaxed and comfortable. Some people enjoy floating with their arms at their sides. Others prefer to put their hands behind their head. The most important thing is to relax your neck and shoulders and allow your body to assume a floating position that best promotes relaxation.
Milk isn’t the only thing that does a body good. Meditation also travels down that road. It is designed to open the mind and refresh the spirit. But that isn’t the only purpose Meditation accomplishes. Meditation in an isolation tank has a positive effect on your physical health. Why? Simply put, it eradicates stress. Each time you meditate for an extended period of time, it creates a feeling of peace and contentment. This lowers blood pressure and reduces the heart rate to healthy levels. A person can use meditation to bolster their immune system. It has been shown to reduce free radicals in the body. These are unstable oxygen molecules that cause tissue damage and are thought to play a major role in the development of many diseases. Meditation also improves breathing because it helps people learn to take deeper breaths. This improves the flow of air to the lungs and it also circulates more oxygen throughout the body. Asthma and other bronchial diseases can become more manageable through practicing regular meditation. If stress is left unchecked it can cause damage to a person’s health over time. Their bodies will age prematurely and stress can lower their resistance to serious diseases. Meditation is the cure to stress. It is good for the body and offers the key to a longer and happier life. Make a resolution today to spend time in an isolation tank. What you get out of it will exceed what you put into it by leaps and bounds.
Our senses define the world around us to our mind. How we perceive any person, place or object is colored by how our senses react to those things. We are guided through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Meditation inside an isolation tank should be focused on moving beyond what the five senses offer to a completely different plane. You want to open your mind and expand beyond the limitations imposed by those senses. This makes it easier to free yourself from whatever burdens are weighing you down physically, mentally and emotionally. An isolation tank enhances the meditation experience because it lets you block out interference from the outside world. The sights, sounds, feelings and other sensations that you experience are the ones your mind releases while you float there in the water. It soothes body and soul. It also lets you make discoveries about yourself that normally do not penetrate the wall separating your conscious and unconscious mind. Inside your isolation tank, you can do exercises to focus your mind and achieve a deep state of meditation. Close your eyes and let your mind wander. When an image surfaces in your mind, focus on that image. What do you see? What do you hear? Can you touch anything? What does it feel like when you touch it? Exploring your mind lets you become unburdened and feel like a new person when you leave the isolation tank. Many people embrace the opportunity to spend time in an isolation tank because it offers a quiet refuge from the outside world. The benefits of meditation to your mind, body and soul extend far beyond a single session. Sometimes taking a step forward in your world requires withdrawing from it for a short time.