Aussie 20-something's journey to a floatation tank in the middle of Japan.

imageNot a week after my previous post, a personal friend of mine, Michael Philp, (no relation to myself and pictured to the right), had his first float in a sensory deprivation tank.  Given the timing and content of his experience, sharing this first-hand account is an opportunity too good to pass up.

Though floating in an isolation tank is far from a traditional pastime, I’d wager that Mike’s path to the tank was even less traditional than most others’.

As a 20-something Aussie expat educator and DJ living in Nagoya, Japan, Mike is a busy guy. Between his job, his fiancé, friends and gigs, you might think something as esoteric as an isolation tank would be the last thing on his mind.  However, like many of us, Mike grapples with some of life’s bigger questions.  These general fascinations began to solidify and take shape about a year ago, when he began to voraciously consume podcasts, most notably the Joe Rogan Experience and London Real (both of which I highly recommend).  The conversations in these shows led him to a deeper interest in the mysteries surrounding consciousness and the various tools at our disposal to explore it.  Mike found the idea of using a sensory deprivation tank especially compelling. “The more I heard people speak about it, I knew I had to try it,” he said.

Let’s step back to about a year ago, when I was also living in Japan.  Mike and I would get together and often end up philosophizing about our mutual interest in the nature of consciousness and the human condition.  As a matter of fact, we spoke specifically about isolation tanks. We concluded that these were areas and questions we needed to ultimately explore personally.  We encouraged one another to take action in some fashion, yet always found excuses not to (an easy thing to do when you’re living in Japan).

Not long after these conversations began, we started hearing rumors about an American guy in Okazaki (about 30 minutes away from Nagoya) who, supposedly, had a tank of his own.  This seemed odd, sketchy even, but we were intrigued.  Unfortunately, I never pulled the proverbial trigger and before I knew it, I found myself back in the States.

Fast forward to a few days ago—

Overcoming the doubt, excuses and nerves, Mike finally did what too few of us do, took action.  In this case, action included getting on a train bound for Okazaki, trusting a stranger and sealing himself in a huge tank of water (a collection of actions well outside the comfort zone of most Australian Expatriates).  Mike put it this way—

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I had two distinct feelings running through me. One of pure excitement, of finally trying something I’ve been yearning to for ages. The other was one of nervousness, butterflies in my stomach…  Anyway, I pushed through all of that, opened the door to the tank and stepped into a new world.” 

This world was one of salty water, heated to the temperature of the human body.  Because of the salt, there’s enough buoyancy, so that you may float freely and comfortably.  The view inside the tank?  Total darkness.  Again, from Mike’s perspective—

Stepping into the tank, at first, is a surreal experience. You duck inside, close the door behind you and are immersed in complete darkness.  I have to say, the first 10 minutes or so were spent trying to find my bearings, control my breathing and find the most comfortable floating position. After that, my mind started running.”

The idea of being enclosed in a tube of blackness while floating in salt water may sound a bit daunting, but to someone trying to obscure his or her senses and attain a state of meditative stillness, many say there is no quicker way. This environment frees your mind of distractions and leaves you with only your inner world.

After gaining some semblance of comfort in the tank, Mike reported the following

 “People, places and things started flicking through my brain. My mind started darting from one thing to another. Then, pure weightlessness.”

 “I let it all go. My body melted into the water. Ideas, not people, started filling my mind.  I focused on my own self-growth. Theories on living and life— What am I? How do I define myself? This went on for who knows how long, time became irrelevant. Slowly I started to focus on all the roles people and objects play in my life.” 

Toward the end of Mike’s float, things started getting more mysterious and psychedelic.

“I started seeing visions, similar to the ones when you push too hard on your eyelids with your eyes closed.  I felt something emerging in my mind.” 

What was it?  Mike doesn’t know.  It was too elusive for him to get a good feel for.

 The next thing Mike heard was the faint sound of music from the alarm in the tank.“That was my cue to finish up this journey. 1 hour and 15 minutes of pure isolation. I must say sitting up after spending all that time suspended in water was an experience unlike anything I’ve felt before.”

 Mike already has definite plans to return.  “I don’t have an end goal or anything. I want to gain deeper view of myself… To think about the grand scheme of things, rather than the gritty, day to day details.”

If my previous article was a call to action, this is an example of how to take action.  In this anecdote, we find a man with a busy, largely content life, who still isn’t satisfied.  He makes a point of finding time to explore his inner worlds, to peel back the layers of his own consciousness and really strive for self-improvement and understanding. He’s making an active effort to look for a truth beyond the ego that operates on the surface of his psyche.  Mike is doing what we must all endeavor to do, fight.  For if we don’t fight, we will become victims of an unexamined life.  I can’t abide this, Mike can’t abide this and I hope you’re thinking, “Neither can I.”

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