My daughter Catherine gave me a late birthday present today: a sensory deprivation session at FloatFix. It's not something I would have chosen myself, but she knows I practice meditation, and she is prone to thinking outside the square... WAY outside the square... so the little gift voucher arrived a month or so ago, and today I used it.

The idea is to float, in the dark, wearing earplugs, in a tank of water that is saturated with epsom salts and heated to body temperature. In that environment you are almost weightless and, without any sensory input, able to relax in a way not possible anywhere else. And after a week of General Synod, well, this morning relaxing seemed a pretty good idea.

FloatFix is at the very bottom of Hanover St., nearly next door to Anglican Family Care. I arrived on time at 9.30, and was pleased to see that it all looked modern and clean and well laid out. A helpful bloke showed me to a  smallish room in which there was a shower and a sci-fi looking pod like the one Ripley sleeps in in Alien or the one Neo wakes up in in The Matrix. He showed me how it all worked, and the switch for turning on the funky looking red or blue or purple lights, gave me earplugs and towels and a little advice on how it would all work, and left me to it. I showered and got into the tub,  pulled the lid shut and turned out the light.

Birdsong played on a speaker somewhere for about ten minutes and then it was all silent and dark and warm. Time passed. The birdsong started again. I got out and showered as the pod busily cleaned and filtered itself ready for the next floatee.

I can't quite describe what happened in there. I meditate daily and am familiar with a wide range of things that occasionally happen to people when they are very still and very quiet. Meditation techniques aim to do two things: 1.  get the body aligned so that all the inner bits and pieces - physical and psychological and spiritual (which are all really aspects of the same thing) - can work unhindered by the stuff which normally impedes them: and 2. put the body in a position which will reduce pressure points and enable it to keep comfortably still for as long as possible. When everything goes well there is a place your reach where you are not asleep and not in any sort of trance, but where you just are. And in that place time just sort of disappears. You can be still for 20 or 30 or 40 minutes, but at the end it seems like it was about 5, even though you were conscious and thinking all the time.

I tried my centering prayer methods in the water, but soon gave up. My breathing in the warm moist air was all I could hear and the only sensory experience I was aware of. My body was warm and held and still. I was able to completely relax all muscles in a way which is rarely possible. My mind wandered a bit but not much. When the 45 minutes of silence was over it seemed like it had been quite short, so it seems I had been, indeed, meditating after all. 

So would I do it again? Well, probably. I know that the place of inner stillness can be reached more cheaply on the prayer stool in my study, but it took me probably a year or so of practice to get there.


Elaine Dent said…
What a thoughtful daughter :-)
Peter Carrell said…
Here was me thinking Epsom salts were only good for restoring greenness to my yellow lemon tree leaves :)
Kelvin Wright said…
Come to think of it Peter I am a little less yellow this morning. And yes Elaine my daughter is someone I am very very proud of.
Kelvin Wright said…
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Alden Smith said…
I thought Epsom salts were types of Jaffas that had yachts moored at West Haven marina. I'm with Neo, waking up is what it's all about.