They say do what you fear and if my fear is being alone with my thoughts then trying a sense deprivation chamber or a “Floating tank” as their otherwise known sounded like exactly what I needed and particularly terrifying. I did some research online and found one in my area. I contacted them and they had me review their FAQ and pricing and scheduled an appointment. My first visit required a 25 minute orientation where the owner shared the technical aspects of “floating” along with the physical and emotional expectations. Every “first timer” has a different experience. Some people take to it like a fish in water and for others it’s not their bag.
We entered the room which had a shower and what looked like giant dryer. Inside the box was approximately 10 inches of water. The whole box was 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. I used the rest room, removed my clothes, took a shower and placed ear plugs in my ears. I opened the door and crawled in and per the owner’s instructions I practiced opening and shutting the door several times just to create a psychological exit strategy. I immediately thought of the many times my brother would lock me in the dryer as a kid growing up. Ahh brothers. At this point I envisioned the owner of the establishment rooting through my wallet and copying all of my credit cards and sending my identity over to a hacker in Russia. I laid down with my whole body submerged except for my face and began to float in a water and epsom salt solution. I was… alone.
I found a comfortable position which was basically on my back with my hands at my sides and I closed my eyes. My ears, because of the ear plugs, were popping as air escaped and I could hear the traffic going down Alameda but for the most part it was pitch black and very quiet. During the orientation she gave a brief overview of meditation and having opened for a hypnotist for many years I began to relax my toes and then my feet and then my ankles, my calves, my knees, my thighs and so on and so on. I breathed nice and easy and then my body shuddered as if it were panicking for a second but then letting go. My shoulders eased up and my neck felt lighter. I’ve been having lower back pain for weeks now but it was no longer present. I was simply floating.
I thought about the last time I had such darkness and such quiet. I went swimming in Lake Michigan once at midnight by myself and remembered feeling very peaceful. It was right before my back surgery and I was a ball of stress. The possibility of paralysis can weigh heavily on a 17 year old. The next thought I had while floating was that scene in “Fight Club” where Brad Pitt’s character pours acid on Edward Norton’s hand and takes him through a ritual of using pain to block out all other senses and live in the moment. I think I’d rather float especially having experienced an acid burn once when I put Drakkar Noir in my arm pits before a high school dance once. I began a ritual of letting go of all the things that were weighing me down. Another failed relationship, the uncertainty of a career in show business, the financial woes of a “starving artist”. They began to melt away and I began to realize that this was how we started our lives out. We started by floating inside of our mothers for 9 months without a care or stress in the world. When you’re a baby your only real instinct or worry is surviving which granted is a big one but if you have halfway decent parents you get to eat a few times a day and you have very little stress. A calm came over me that I had not felt since my religious retreat senior year in catholic high school. I realized that I’m not in charge. I can only control how hard I work and how I treat the people in my life. That’s it. I can’t control how people perceive me or try and live up to someone else’s expectations. As Tyler Durden put it. I had to “let go”. So I did… and then I had to fart.
Apparently my body relaxed so much that it included the relaxation of my bowels. The challenge one faces when needing to fart in a floating salt water box that’s basically air sealed and knowing my body as well as I do I knew that this fart was going to be quite unpleasant. But I was committed to the process of letting go and I knew that all the stress that I felt only moments before getting into this box of terror would come back, my muscles would begin to tense up and this experience would be ruined. So as Tyler Durden insisted as the acid ate through the skin of Ed Norton’s character I simply let go and let it rip. And it was glorious. How awesome is your life when you’re a 38 year old divorced man who left behind a prominent career in sales to pursue a pipe dream that has such a minute probability of success and you give yourself permission, no demand, that you fart in a lukewarm bath tub of epsom salt in the middle of Burbank. I was Jack’s relieved bile duct.
And then for some reason I said the Lord’s Prayer. I assume that was the religious portion of my experience. In fact I said it a few times. I realized that all of the stresses and worries that I have had in my life didn’t really need to be dealt with at all. That I could just let them go and let them float up to the universe like a fart in the wind. I’m not in charge of people’s perceptions. I can’t make someone love me or book me or sign me. But what I was in charge of was having the best set I can have next time I hit the stage. Of working harder to write more jokes and of producing content that I am passionate about. I even came up with an idea for a show as I sat locked in my own methane tank.
“It isn’t until you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.” I used to think that line from Fight Club was about material possessions and living up to the expectations of your peers and in a way it is but you can also give up stress and worry and heartache and fear and pain and you can make the life you want and become the person you always wanted to be. You can be Tyler Durden (without the blowing up of buildings part). You can do that while doing that which you fear the most. For me it was sitting in a dark and quiet tank floating like a baby with nobody but myself to answer to. To be completely alone and know that not only was I going to be alright but that when I get rid of the hundreds of distractions that take over my life on a daily basis all I’m left with is an overwhelming belief in myself and what I can accomplish when truly focused. And as I opened the door to what I considered only an hour before a isolation chamber of my worst nightmares, I emerged, as babies do, born anew and ready to kick some ass again. Without fear, without restraint, without judgement and definitely without gas.
“Obstacles are those things you see when you take your eye off the goal.” – Henry Ford
If you’re interested in trying a “Float Tank” I’d recommend Soothing Solutions in Burbank, CA. Tell them I referred you. The first float is $65 and the second one is free.