I have asked, with tears streaming down my cheeks, to be taken off roller coasters before the wheels started turning. I've had cringe-worthy, almost breakup-worthy, panic attacks on ski lifts, and I have avoided haunted houses like the plague.
Hi, I'm Michelle, and I'm an admitted wimp. For some reason, though, I love to keep traumatizing myself. I'll try anything once just for the thrill, or at least for a good story to tell.
This new series will put my fears to the test, as I take on various challenges around San Diego. Maybe, just maybe, it will inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, too.
First up: I went into a float tank and survived.
The website for Float Sanctuary - nestled in Bankers Hill across from Balboa Park - reads, "May the experience of nothing give you everything."
Sensory deprivation, or float tanks as they're more commonly called, have been around since 1954 when a neuropsychiatrist named John C. Lilly thought it might be a grand idea to cut off stimuli to the brain and let it "sleep," creating an environment in which the individual could be completely isolated.
In the late '70s, a few scholars began to experiment more seriously with the therapeutic benefits of these tanks. The research concluded that regular float tank sessions could provide significant relief for chronic stress-related ailments including anxiety and depression.
Recently, float tank spas have been popping up around San Diego, typically offering hourlong sessions of floating with no light, no sound and no feeling as you lay weightless in salt water.
This is not your average day spa.
A little background: I'm terrified of dark spaces and easily bored when under stimulated. In other words, I am quite possibly the worst candidate for a float tank. Leading up to my Monday night appointment, I sent text messages to a few friends who I know have floated and also survived to tell the story. I was expecting some sort of consolation.
This is a text from my best friend, Amy:
And this, from my meditating, yogi friend, Nina:
Everything I read ahead of time told me to try and mediate. Okay, sure. I've read "Eat, Pray, Love." I have a CorePower Yoga tag dangling from my keychain. I can do this.
Before stepping into the tank, I was instructed to shower first to take off any chemicals, makeup and general grossness from the day. The shower is located in the same private room as the tank, and everything you could need is provided and explained. Once in my birthday suit (swimsuits are optional), it took a bit of careful maneuvering to gently lay myself into the water, plus another dose of courage to close the tank's door, leading to complete darkness.
Address: 3138 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill
Phone: (619) 795-9264
Price: $60 for 60 minutes
So there I am, lying on my back in about 10 inches of water heated to the average body temperature. The water is saturated with Epsom salt, allowing even the most non-floaty person to drift to the top. The antigravity benefits alone encourage decompression of the spine and eliminate pressure points on the body, so I truly felt weightless, as if I was detached in space.
While I'd love to say that my mind shut off and drifted into complete blissful oblivion, I had about 1,000 thoughts going through my head, covering everything from to-do lists to worrying about the effects of salt water on my hair.
Time is difficult to pin down, but probably about halfway through, I sort of drifted off between these thoughts and entered into that warm, cozy space you feel right before you fall asleep. Research has told me that this is the brainwaves transitioning from beta to theta, which typically occurs before sleep and again at waking. In a float tank, you're able to reach a theta state without losing consciousness. I was also informed that the more often one floats, the longer the theta period can be, enhancing creativity or problem-solving.
Music hummed when my time was up, and I carefully exited, toweled off and walked sleepily back to my car. While the potential to enter into this total mindless mode is certainly there, it might take a few more tries until I reach it with ease.
Do you have a dare for me? Send an email to michelle.dederko@... with subject line "I dare you."
Or dare me in a Tweet! @michelledederko