While I don’t consider myself all that much of a spiritual person (and certainly not on any religious scale), I do meditate. I started doing it more than fifteen years ago, in an attempt to get my brain to slow down and actually pay attention to what it was doing. When I started, I didn’t actually think that it was going to do anything for me. I assumed that it would need some kind of spiritual belief to plug into in order to work. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my preconceptions was wrong. It’s been the most important and most powerful brain hack that I’ve encountered.
I do manage to keep up my practice somewhat, I’m not great about it. This was much more of a problem when I was working an overbearing corporate job. I wasn’t in a position where I could consistently block out time for myself. There were times when it felt like I didn’t even have time to eat or sleep, let alone sit in the quiet and let my brain wind itself out.
On my wife’s recommendation, I went to Spacetime Tanks in Lincoln Park for the first time in 2005. Her thought was that taking an intentional hour out of my day when I could find it, with an enforced removal and unplugging from work, was really something I needed. I thought that a sensory deprivation tank was a bit of an extreme way of unplugging, but I thought it was certainly worth a try. And the first time I went, it was nice enough. I liked that I had to stay focused and had to keep track of my own thoughts, since it was pretty much the only thing in there.
But that second time something happened. I heard a noise that sounded like someone dragging a mental garbage can down an alley. It wasn’t super loud, but it was really present and distracting. I actually asked one of the people working there if it was possible that, through the metal box and the earplugs, if somehow I was hearing something from outside.
On the third trip, I figured out what it was. It was the sound of my jaw muscles as I clenched my teeth while in the tank. And once I figured that out, and actually checked to make sure I was trying to fully relax and check into that moment, that was when floating became something more important than just meditating.
I always come out of the tank with one more answer than I went in with. I can be completely out of practice in the tank, but I will always get one insight, one interesting thought, one little moment of brilliance. It might not be an answer that I needed when I went in, or even an answer to a question that I knew I was asking, but it is an answer to something.
I was in there on Wednesday, after what had been a considerable break. I knew that I was rusty, but I was excited to go back and have that time for myself. I realized that I owe it to myself to go, but also to my partners as well. If I want my relationships to be the best they can, I need to be at my best. If I want to be able to communicate what I’m feeling, then I should have a really clear idea of what my feelings are. If I want to be really stable and centered so I can be present in those relationships, I’d better be doing the work to get stable and centered.
I need that kind of intention and introspection in my life. I’m glad that I have this place I can go and do it well.