Entering the Void: Isolation Floats in Portland

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Right smack in the middle of Portland’s Hawthorne District, at the foothills of a dormant volcano, there is a portal. It won’t take you to some exotic place in the far reaches of outer space, but where you’ll go is just as cool. Step into one, and within an hour you can reach the deepest recesses of your own mind. I’m talking, of course, about sensory deprivation floats.

If you’ve heard of sensory deprivation before, chances are you don’t recall it being a good thing. That’s partially true. Hit up Wikipedia and you’ll see that sensory deprivation is sometimes used as a form of torture, but doing it in a spa in Portland is entirely different than doing it in a cell in Guantanamo. Isolation floats are actually quite therapeutic. Think of it like LSD: when done in moderation it can be a fun, spiritual, mind-opening experience, but too much of it at once can fry your melon. Willingly step into a flotation chamber like the ones they have at Float On in Portland, and the experience isn’t torturous at all. In fact it’s just the opposite – floating is widely regarded as a healing and rejuvenating experience.

Here’s how it works: You lie on your back in a pool of water that’s been loaded with epsom salts. This super salty water makes you incredibly buoyant. As you float there, suspended in the salty water, you’re essentially weightless. Without the need to use any muscles to stabilize yourself, suddenly your body has all these extra resources it can direct back to your brain. Without any external stimuli to analyze and process (it’s pitch black inside the tanks), your brain gets a chance to relax and focus on things like healing and rest.

After about 40 minutes into a float, your brain stops producing it’s normal Alpha waves, and begins to pump out Theta waves – lower-frequency waves that generally only occur during deep meditation or just before you fall asleep. This state is where your mind’s most deep-seated programs are – the state where people often experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, and profound creativity. Float On has even compiled a book to showcase the various pieces of art that people have created after spending time in their tanks. Check out their site to learn more or book an appointment.