sensory deprivation tank

A New Appreciation for Silence

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Photo courtesy of True REST

I have a list of things I want to try this year. A kind of subset to my list of things to do before I die. This list is compiled of offbeat things that sound interesting to me, or artistic pursuits I’ve always wanted to try.

A Groupon came through for a one-hour float session at a local float spa, and I jumped on it.

Float? Huh?

Basically, you float in saltwater, free of outside stimulus. A sensory deprivation tank.

Why did I want to try this? Well, it was something new and interesting. And I wanted to get away from the noise of life and see what it was like to have an hour of little to no stimulation. No one needing my attention. No sound or images in my ears or eyes. Just total quiet.

The experience was fascinating. Here’s what I learned as a result.

1. We live in an always-on world.

We really are bombarded with noise and stimulation all the time. Fifteen minutes into my float, I realized just how noisy the world is. When was the last time you experienced true, uninterrupted quiet?

2. My brain is like a pin-ball machine.

After I appreciated how quiet it was during my float, I tried listening to my thoughts. Totally eye-opening. My brain bounces from one thing to the next. I tried to focus on my breathing (which, by the way, is really loud when you’re in the tank, wearing earplugs), and even tried counting my breaths to focus, but I never was able to truly get my brain to quiet down. This is something I definitely want to work on. I’m good at concentrating in certain situations, but not being able to focus on one thought for any length of time was very disconcerting. As a creative, I need to learn to filter out the static and focus on my art.

3. I crave quiet.

Getting to experience such stillness and quiet made me realize how much stillness and quiet are missing from my life. I don’t actually like running from one thing to the next. I’m a creative person who enjoys sitting and thinking, dreaming, scheming, etc. But I’m also a mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend. I don’t live in a retreat or monastery (though I sure would enjoy a membership at one). What I’m saying is, my life is busy and loud and more frantic at times than I’d like. Yours probably is, too. The float session made me realize how much I crave quiet and how good it is for my spirit. And my creativity.

4. I need community.

Leaving the spa and re-entering the world, I was amazed by the brightness of the sun and the beauty of the sounds around me. I walked to the cafe next door and had lunch on the patio, and I just listened to the sounds of people chatting, the cars in the parking lot, birds and planes, etc. I enjoyed them all. I had a new appreciation for the sound of laughter, the sound of transportation, all of it. And I realized, I need community. As much as I crave quiet, I also need people and interaction in my life.

If the idea of spending an hour in a float tank sounds intriguing to you, I highly recommend you try it. I plan on going again. Next time, I’ll know better what to expect, and maybe reach a new level of quiet.