I Tried Sensory Deprivation Therapy And It Totally Expanded My Mind.
You're in a tank full of water, wearing a swimsuit, surrounded by pitch-black darkness. Some 800 or so pounds of salt keeps you nicely afloat.
If you're first timer at this — like I am — relaxing seems like the last thing you can possibly imagine. The silence is indeed deafening: My consciousness is pleading for me to give in, to ease up, to be at peace with it; but never in my life has my head been so cluttered with thoughts.
It's supposed to be therapeutic. That's the pitch anyway from the team behind PROzone Therapy, located near Fair Park, which charges $65 for the hour-long experience. Some people call it float therapy. Others more frighteningly refer to it as sensory deprivation.
Before diving in, PROzone owner David Omo gives me some pro tips. He recommends thinking about some sort of concept — his favorite is electricity — or some higher power while inside the tank. He says it will help get my mind off of myself, allowing me to move into a state of relaxation, meditation or even sleep.
At first, not even that advice helps. Inside the tank, I'm initially consumed by the fact that I'm not really controlling what's happening — and that's not an easy thing to distract oneself from, either. Going with the flow is a lot harder than it sounds.
But it happens with time. After what feels like an eternity, I stated to understand why people come to places like these and do this religiously, sometimes every day.
Usually, I'd fall asleep in a setting like this. Not so here. Instead, my thoughts drift to the Dead Sea. Similarly full of salt and renowned for rendering people buoyant, that was a natural connection, I suppose. Soon, though, I was imagining floating scene after floating scene. I wasn't sleeping, but I was definitely experiencing a dreamlike state. My concept of time was diminished.
If I had to guess, I'd suppose I'd been in there 20 minutes at that point. Actually, it'd been three times that long.
Suddenly, a bright light creeps into the tank, notifying me that my hour inside had came and gone.
“Ah,” I think to myself, “so this must be what it’s like to be a morning person.”
In all, it's a pretty eerie experience. You're in a tank, doing a niche form of therapy, cut off from world, totally trapped inside. And yet here I was, coming away from the experience with complete memory of vivid dreams — something I've been missing out on for years. Places I've never been and will never visit — like the ocean floor and the cosmos — were all clear in my mind’s eye.
Turns out, this isn't uncommon: Hallucinations and all of its cousins, sisters and brothers have been previously connected to sensory deprivation.
It's maybe not as intimidating as it sounds. This is not the cave in the middle of nowhere that you might be picturing. Omo comes off as well-experienced and -informed about this stuff. On my visit, he did his best to make sure I enjoyed my experience.
He offers other therapies, too. There's ozone-infused water, a homemade concoction created when natural water is hooked up to an ozone-infusing machine and stays active with the ozone molecules for about 20 minutes. This bubbly refreshment method, Omo says, can bring your energy level up and help your liver break down difficult substances like alcohol. Another alternative remedy is the hydromassage, which takes place on a chiropractor-like table, except the top portion has the consistency of a water bed and jets circulate underneath the fabric to relax muscles. Then there's the individualized ozone sauna where your whole body, save for your head, is encapsulated, heated to your body temperature and infused with the same ozone gases that went into the homemade water.
Just like any sort of therapy that causes you to think intrinsically, everyone walks always with a unique perspective on these experiences. So, no, I can't predict what yours will be like.
What I can tell you, though, is this: If you've never spent an hour alone in a dark pod full of water and Epsom salt, then you've never truly met yourself.