Week 11: Plugged or unplugged — which is which?

For my birthday this year, my wife gave me a gift card for a 90-minute float session at Remedy Float, a small business run by a young couple here in Savannah. They’ve been open about a year. They have two float tanks and a room where a friend does thai yoga massage.

They also have dog named Henry, who hasn’t quite warmed up to me yet.

Float tanks — also called isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks — were conceived of in the mid-20th century by John Lilly, who was also an expert in interspecies communication.

While I’ve heard people like Joe Rogan and Duncan Trussell discuss the benefits of climbing into the tank, I figured the experience also had the potential to be positively terrifying.

There are several kinds of float tanks; I’ll describe the chamber I was in.

I had a private room, with a door I could lock, a shower, a shelf for my stuff and some hooks for my clothes. I got in the shower, put in some earplugs and, in accordance with instructions, thoroughly dried my face.

Next, I looked at the door to the float chamber. It sat about 18 inches off the ground. I opened the tank and was confronted with a room about 7 feet tall, maybe 3.5 feet wide and maybe 7 feet long. It was entirely black. On the floor were 13 inches of water containing 1,000 pounds of epsom salts, heated to 94 degrees Fahrenheit. There was a foam pillow to rest my head in.

I had the option to prop the door open slightly if the experience became too harrowing. I was in, though, all-or-nothing. I climbed over the short wall, closed the doors and grasped for the bars to steady myself against the very slippery floor as I laid down.

Much like the Dead Sea, there was enough salt to keep me afloat; I wasn’t worried about that.

Not being able to see or hear anything, and barely being able to feel anything (the water wasn’t quite to body temperature)? That sounded like it could be terrifying.

And it was. As soon as I closed the door and got myself afloat, my heart rate, which normally rests at 48 beats per minute, went straight up over 150 bpm.

It took about 20 minutes to work it back down to normal, but once I was able to relax, everything started flowing.

I started with Haanel’s Week 10 sit. As a reminder, he had us focus on a blank spot on the wall, mentally draw a square, then a circle within the square and a dot within the circle, pulling the dot forward to make a cone with a squared base.

In the darkness, I was able to create the cone in full in space, and manipulate it in space, rotating it, moving it toward the ceiling and toward me, toward my feet and back toward my head.

We call this sort of thing “unplugged” — as in, leaving our phones off, our computers at home, our televisions dark. But is it, really? I think what I really was in the isolation tank was plugged in. Like in “Mindwarp” or “eXistenZ” or “The Matrix.”

We need to be plugged in to experience real life, to affect the planet, ourselves and those around us. How do you plug in?