Monday, October 17, 2011


I was so excited to check out the sensory deprivation tank.  By the time my appointment came around, I was kind of freaking out.  I felt like my whole body was vibrating.  I was thinking a thousand miles an hour.  Thinking about what I wanted to think about, thinking about my day, making a mental to-do list of what I wanted to get out of this experience.  It was really hard not to at least have a song in my head. I don't know if my anticipation had anything to do with it, or if I just had too much coffee and thyroid meds beforehand.  Either way, when I finally let it all go, the whole experience was amazing.  I didn't know what to expect, but since I love getting lost in my own head (gotta love introverts), I had high hopes for it to be helpful somehow.  It really was.  Afterwards, I felt more clear, more centered, more myself.  It was like lucid dreaming in that it was a mental challenge, but I had less control than I do in lucid dreams. I've had a whole lifetime to practice dream control though, so maybe subsequent visits to the tank will be even better.  When I'm having a lucid dream, I can direct the dream to go almost however I want.  I can decide to walk through a door, or change the atmosphere, or talk to a certain person.  But if I try to control too much, the dream vanishes or I wake up.  This was like that but I had to quiet my mind entirely.  I really had to just be an open channel and see what came into me.  When I thought too much about what I wanted to see, or what I was seeing, I'd lose it.  I'd get stuck in my tangle of thoughts and then I'd become more aware of my body and all the magic would be gone. I think the language center of my brain is super active. I was mentally writing what happened moments after it happened. Redundant and strange, I know. It was hard to shut that down and be only receptive.

My tank was the original old one that the owner built himself. The hippie dude at the front said it was the lucky tank and he had his best experiences in it. It was painted black, and seemed kind of old and gross. Chipped edges on the wooden door. No handle to open it from the inside. Only a notch at the edge that looked like somebody clawed it away with their nails. I kind of liked it though. It had soul. The other ones looked very clinical, clean and white. When I looked into the black water, it looked like a bottomless pit, but the water was only about a foot deep. They give you wax earplugs, a floaty neck pillow, and Vaseline to cover any scratches or sores because the salt stings. I used them all, stripped, climbed in, and shut the hatch. I was a little worried about the pitch black because I get a little freaked in the dark sometimes, but I was fine. It took a little while to get comfy and relax. It helped to put my arms up over my head because my elbows bent out and floated at a strange angle when they were at my sides. Anyway, after 10 minutes or so (I suppose) I felt like my whole body had fallen asleep.  I was all tingly and I was both more and less aware of my body.  Then I started feeling like I was wrapped in a cotton ball.  If people can vanish, I'm sure this is what it feels like. Soon I could have been floating in air, tipping and slowly rotating sometimes but not to the point of being disorienting. My breathing became extremely slow and shallow.  I focused on my it and then only my heartbeat, and then I was just somewhere else.

My first visions were very elemental.  It totally makes sense that my mind went to that place.  Floating in water with no external stimuli, divorcing myself from my body. Of course I'm going to contemplate my place in the universe and all that stereotypical hippie earthy stuff.  This was extreme though.  My emotional reactions and the physical sensations I was having were intense.

It started with swimming in the ocean.  First I saw huge barnacles extending their feather tongues and I was feeling them. They were licking me and then they were holding me up.  A mermaid zipped by, really quickly.  So cheesy.  But then I was swimming with this huge, purply-red octopus. I was staring into one of its giant eyes, and it was blobbing around like octopi do.  It put its tentacles around me and the whole time l was looking into its big eye and we were just taking each other in.  I was feeling its skin.  It felt harder than I thought it would, and I licked one of its suction cups and felt bad that I've eaten them. Mmm, sushi.  I felt extremely connected to this giant beast. It was so gentle and huge.  A woman appeared.  Some kind of ocean mother-goddess or something.  She was enormous.  She cradled me in her arms and breastfed me.  It didn't seem weird. Obviously, I have some unresolved mother issues.

From there I went to the surface.  Not the beach though, I was in the middle of the ocean among the giant waves.  It was the middle of the night and the waves were huge and angry.  The wind was blowing cold, harsh, with a stinging spray.  There was a man standing on a little canoe type boat.  He was furious.  At me.  This storm was directed at me.  I didn't know why nor was I concerned to find out.  The man was glaring at me with his face all contorted in disgust.  I didn't care though because the cold wind and all the power and fury of the sea around me felt so amazing.  I was thankful.  

That may have been the first time the kiwi bird made its appearance.  About different 3 times throughout my float, a kiwi would pop into my field of vision and look at me.  That was all.  It would pop up, look at me, turn its head, peck around.  It was really confusing and interrupted whatever else was going on.  It was like someone had changed the tv channel all of a sudden.  I tried to shoo it away because I was irritated by the distraction.  I didn't feel any connection to this little bird.  It wasn't doing anything or telling me anything.  Just bopping around.   

That made me start thinking too much and my visions stopped.  Wondering, " Why this flightless bird?  Where did it come from? What was the point of that?" I would find out later on.  

After a bit, I found myself sitting in the treehouse I built when I was about seven years old.  I saw my body from above, sitting there.  It was me in the present, not as a child.  My treehouse grew around me until it was an actual house instead of the sticks and twine lashings I had put together as a child.  The roof was open to the sky.  The tree grew taller and taller, far above all the other trees.  Now I was seeing it from my own perspective inside the house.  I was sitting on my favorite perch where I always sat, but laying flat on the floor, looking out the roof.  The sun was shining and I was soaking in every bit of energy from the sun. My body was like a solar panel.  The chlorophyll in the grass beneath me was glowing, like an infrared photo, reflecting the sunlight back up to the sky.  We were in a sphere of light.  Outside the bubble there was darkness.  Darkness and badness.  A story started to unfold in the back of my mind.  I need to write that too.  The sun slid out of view and the sky grew dark.  The stars came out and started to rain down on me.  I was afraid they might burn me, but they felt like snowflakes, so I caught some of them on my tongue.
I heard, "This is your strength."  I thought of who I was when I was 7 and I built that treehouse, and it made so much sense. What I needed and what I never had, and everything else. It was so simple.

I saw glimpses of things.  Significant moments from my life.  Images I've never seen that I want to make.  I saw a woodcut of a middle-aged man hanging his arm out of the window of an old pickup truck.  I saw it as a black & white print, but the guy is a character with a backstory that came to me along with the image.  I'll have to write that out separately.  It goes along with the bubble of light.  In part of it my mom, or the mother character in the story is frozen and shattered.  The dad takes a piece of her and leaves to live alone in a deep cave beneath an ice tundra so he can keep her forever. 

I started to become aware of the salt crystalizing on my stomach.  I rubbed it and it felt really cool, but made me itchy and then I wished I hadn't touched it.  Then I felt the water droplets running off my stomach where I'd rubbed it.  I would go back and forth between enjoying playing with the physical sensations and feeling like I was running out of time and needed to get back out of my body as much as I could.  Like when you keep looking at the clock because you know you have to get up soon and you don't have enough time to sleep, but you need to get to sleep!  I didn't need to worry about that though.  The 90 minutes felt like 3 hours.  I started wondering if they had forgotten to turn on the music when the time was up, or if there was an electrical malfunction with the speakers.  The thought crossed my mind that I might be fried, or I guess boiled, since salt water is such a good conductor of electricity.

After that I saw a man working in a field somewhere.  I heard music. Seemed like it was somewhere in South America.  He wore a hat and a red button up shirt and had one dark tooth.  There were tons of other people working on the farm too. Women and children as well, but he was the only one I really focused on.  He seemed happy, which was surprising.  Then it was night time and everyone was dancing to some street musicians.  There were colored lights hanging up.

I had a very physical experience of being an oak tree.  I realize how completely trite and ridiculous that sounds.  Like a yoga pose or a kid in an elementary school play, but this just felt so huge and complex.  I don't know how else to say it.  I felt not just grounded, but wound into the soil with root systems plunging far down into the earth and crawling outwards for a whole city block.  The strangest part was the physical/spatial sensation of being so enormous. Of existing down in the earth and up in the sky at the same time.  Blowing in the wind...being so strong, yet still flexible and always at the wind's mercy. Being both solid wood and tender leaves. My leaves were like a compound insect eye.  Each leaf was its own eye, so I could see in all directions.  I also had this amazing sense of place from observing my plot for so many years, and seeing people come and go and live their lives. I saw how things changed or didn't change around me.  I was aware of my mortality and vulnerability too.  I knew I could be used as a resource, but also felt like a member of the community. It was strange how suddenly this vision came about. I was plunged straight into it, and then had to figure out what this feeling was. It was kind of shocking.

Then the music came on to let me know my time was up. When I sat up, I still felt like a giant.  A giant made of black negative space. The change from being out of my body to coming back into it and moving myself around was pretty disorienting.  I got salt water in my eyes and that really sucked.  Blindly groped my way to the shower to rinse it out.  I felt extremely relaxed and rested.  Way better than after I get a massage.  When I get a massage, I have the other person's energy to deal with.  Sometimes that's really good and sometimes it is strange, but it is always there and means I have to deal with it in some way.  On the drive home, I was very aware of the lights inside my car and the noise the tires made on the road.  It almost felt like it wasn't my car because it didn't feel familiar like it usually does.  I slept really well for a week afterward.  I fell asleep earlier than normal, which is very weird for me.  I remembered my dreams every night.  I think I still feel more centered and calm two weeks later.  I'd like to do this every year around my birthday.  Seems like a good way to reassess, reconnect, renew. Re-everything. Reading through these visions might not seem that impressive, but it was really emotional, visceral, and real.  I cried in there.  I heard things I needed to hear.  It made me feel more connected to myself and to whatever I need to be connected to.  Even if I don't even know what that is.  

When I was telling Mahlon about my experiences, he explained the kiwi.  Maybe an hour before I got into the tank, he spent some time with his grandma.  She gave him one of his grandpa Jack's old watches.  The watch was in a wooden box his grandpa brought back from New Zealand with a kiwi inlaid in the top.  He thought that was strange because earlier in the day he had been having a conversation with our friend, David, about bolo ties.  I don't know how that came up, but he mentioned he had a bolo tie with a kiwi bird on it but hadn't worn it since he was a kid.  David didn't know kiwis were birds!  He thought they were only fruits, so Mahlon had to explain to him what a kiwi bird is. Kiwis were a strange theme in Mahlon's day.  When I told my mom, she wondered if that was Mahlon's grandpa trying to send him some kind of message from the other side or something.  I don't think that really makes sense.  I think it was just a connection between our minds.  Either way, that is freaky weird stuff. I love it!

Back to the world of external stimuli, until next year.


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