Thursday, June 19, 2008

Excellent Adventures in Floating

From reading a lot of Ken Wilber's books I've been getting the idea that it's not enough just to read about these concepts, that you have to practice them. Because just reading about them only gives legitimacy to your beliefs and only is translative to supporting whatever stage your ego is in. But in order to gain authenticity and transform your ego to a more inclusive stage of development, you have to put them into practice.

"... in today's America, this is much more disturbing because this vast majority of horizontal spiritual adherents often claim to be representing the leading edge of spiritual transformation, the 'new paradigm' that will change the world, the 'great transformation' of which they are the vanguard. But more often than not, they are not deeply transformative at all; they are merely agressively translative. They don not offer effective means to utterly dismantle the self, but merely new ways for the self to think think differently. Not ways to transform but merely new ways to translate. In fact, what most of them offer is not a practice or series of practices like yoga. What most of them offer is a simple the suggestion to 'read my book on the new paradigm.' This is deeply disturbed and deeply disturbing...

...Because, you see, the alarming fact is that any realization of depth carries a terrible burden: Thiose who are allowed to see are simultaneously saddled with the obligation to communicate that vision in no uncertain terms: that is the bargain. You were allowed to see the truth under the agreement that you would commincate it to others (that is the ultimate meaning of the Bodhisattva Vow)..."

When I first read about Isolation Tanks that were developed by John C. Lily about 15 years ago, I thought it was a good idea. Since I haven't been feeling up to doing any projects and just watching a lot of TV and DVD's I figured it would be a good idea to try it.

In newer tanks, epsom salt is added to the water in the tank to raise the density of the water above the density of the human body, so that the subject floats with his or her face above the water. However, since the ears are submerged when the subject is in a relaxed position, hearing is greatly reduced, particularly when ear-plugs are also used. When the arms float to the side, skin sensation is greatly reduced because the air and water are the same temperature as the skin, and the feeling of a body boundary fades. The sense of smell is also greatly reduced, especially if the water has not been treated with chlorine.

I had heard of the theraputic benefits of them and I hoped it might help with breaking out the the blocks of creativity and lack of being able to focus on doing anything lately

A therapeutic session in a flotation tank typically lasts an hour. For the first forty minutes, it is reportedly possible to experience itching in various parts of the body (a phenomenon also reported to be common during the early stages of meditation). The last twenty minutes often end with a transition from beta or alpha brainwaves to theta, which typically occurs briefly before sleep and again at waking. In a float tank, the theta state can last for several minutes without the subject losing consciousness. Many use the extended theta state as a tool for enhanced creativity and problem-solving or for superlearning.

They have been gaining in popularity in recent yearsand I found this news story about them on YouTube.

So I looked them up on the search engine to find if any were close by. There was a web page called that showed a few in the Bay Area with the closet one called The Float Center in Oakland. They were kind of expensive $70 an hour and they had a package deal of an hour of floating and a massage for $140. Then it was $62 for a round trip Greyhound bus ticket with the 7 day advance purchase.

I saved up some money from my birthday and got the ticket. It said on the web page that if you want to get a massage that you have to get an appointment ahead of time so I got one of those debit cards that you can preload with cash and use like a credit card to be able to pay for it online. The trouble was that I only put the exact amount on that card and apparently there were some transaction fees so it was declined and I only had enough to get the hour of floating not the massage.

Since I had been looking for a chance to make another vlog, I decided to take some footage with my camcorder to document the trip.

The best thing I can say about it is that at least it was something different to try and it's another video to add to the amount that I have to use as response on YouTube. It definitely shows how much more practice I need at it and that I'm a long way from being competent at it. It does point out the importance of storyboards and a plan to make something worthwhile.

It started out pretty good, the first leg of the trip to Sacramento went by fairly fast while I watched "Back to the Future" on my portable DVD player. When I got to the Sacramento bus station it was almost a 3 hour wait until the bus to Oakland so I tried to charge the DVD player so it would last the trip. I did some more footage for the video while I was waiting.

While it was charging, I went to get a coke from the vending machine and when I came back it was gone. It was a shame to lose it but it was my fault for letting it out of my sight. I knew better than to trust anyone that was around in such a public place. But it was no use beating myself up about it and crying over spilt milk. So I let it go and fell back on reading my books, listening to my MP3 player and playing the games on my cell phone.

When I got to Oakland, I tried to get a taxi to take me to the Float Center, I asked one of the clerks that sold the bus tickets to call me one, but apparently she only called one of her friends that wanted make some money since the guy who showed up drove a car that didn't look much like a taxi. I had printed out the directions from Google Maps so he didn't have much trouble finding the place. He wanted to charge me $20 for only a 3.5 mile trip though. I had figured it would be a lot less for that short a ride. I spend most of my money on the debit card so I only had $12 left and I talked him into just taking that.

The lady the ran the Float Center was very nice, she explained all the rules and procedures like showering before and after to keep the tank from getting fungus growing in it and getting the salt off your skin. I'm not sure if I had too hot of a shower since when I got in the tank it was a tiny bit cold and it was supposed to be the exact temperature as your body.

I liked the feeling of floating with no gravity pressing on your muscles and it relieved the strain I'd been having from the mattress I've had to sleep on. I did my deep breathing to shut my internal dialogue and it gave me a big pain in my neck. So I did the OM mantra to let the vibrations dissolve the pain in my neck. It did help since the pain eased but apparently the stress was still there and I couldn't let go even with nothing to distract me.

After I got out of the shower and dressed the gal that ran the place made me some green tea and we talked for a while about floating and the art gallery she had at the place. I showed her the designs I did for The Writer's Nightmare DVD ans she seemed to like them.

I told her about the problem I had about not being able to afford the taxi back since I spent the rest of my cash. While I was in the tank I had the idea of using the money left of the debit card and transfering it to her through my PayPal account and then she could let me have the cash. But it wasn't necessary since when I brought the subject up she just said she would give me a ride back to the Greyhound Bus station. It was a bit harder to get back to the bus than it was to get there since she went a different way and we got lost a couple times but we found it after a while. I thought it was nice of her to go out of her way to help me.

I had over 3 hours to wait for the bus to Sacramento and it was a lot harder to pass the time without the DVD player but more because the seats in the bus station were very uncomforable, I kept having to sit on the floor and then stand up to stand the strain. I guess they had some trouble with the schedule between Reno, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Portland because all the northbound buses with delayed and full even at 3am. I had to wait 4 hours for the bus to Oroville to leave and even then it was an hour late.

I finally got back home around 10am so it was it was around a 22 hour trip. I'm leaning toward it not being worth all the money, the float itself was pretty good, but it certainly didn't have as many benefits as I had hope and any it did have were erased by having to take the bus there and back. I'm glad I had the experience so I know what it was like after all this time but it wasn't worth losing my DVD player and all the hassles of the bus travel. Maybe it would've been better if I had the massage also, if I ever go again I might try it that way.

I took a nap for a couple hours after I got back and woke up at 2pm because I had to go to Chico for a MRI that the neurologist had set up. When he set up the test, they arranged for a taxi to take me to Chico which I thought would help because the B-Line buses take at least 4 hours to get there and back.

The taxi was supposed to be there at 2:30, when it was late I called the office where I was supposed to have the test and they said the taxi was on the way. Since they were the ones arranging it, they were the ones responsible if I was late or not. When they were an hour late I got a call from the taxi company saying they were on the wrong side of the trailer park looking for me. I finally got to the office and it's good thing I never tried to take a taxi from Chico in an emergency because the meter read $55.

I didn't have to wait that long before they took me to where they had the MRI machine. I thought it was a bit odd that it was in a trailer on the other side of the parking lot from the office, but maybe they have to keep it that far away because of the intense magnetic fields it generates and it could mess up other stuff around it.

I put in some earplugs that the guy running the tests gave me a lay on the table. The things he put on each side of my head were uncomfortable, but the pad he put under my knees helped. They slid me into the machine and the enclosed space didn't bother me at all, it was just the very loud noices of all kinds that were fairly annoying. Even the earplugs only helped somewhat. I did a lot of deep breathing and it went on for almost 30 mins for the whole thing until they slid me out.

The receptionist called for the taxi to take me back, but apparently they had brand new dispatchers at the company they used and they didn't know what they were doing so they had more problems bring me back as they did getting me there. One taxi showed up but the driver said he was the wrong guy so I had to wait for another one. The next one showed up about 10 mins later and the receptionist siad the driver had to go inside to get some paperwork and I told the driver that but she didn't listen, it wasn't my problem since I wasn't handling that part, I figured the place that did the tests was going to bill Medicare for it. I told her how to get to my place so we didn't have any more trouble on the way.