Flotation tanks – How can they be used to achieve goals and how this was discovered. Part 1

on August 30, 2018

How can Flotation Tanks be used as a tool?

Flotation tanks are an extraordinary tool for achieving personal goals but it must be said that they have amazing, positive effects just by floating without any pre determined goal or purpose. This is the way most people discover the benefits of flotation tanks, just by trying them out. In fact it is probably better to begin ones journey into flotation with as few preconceived ideas about it as possible and by going in at first without a goal to achieve. The first few floats gets your mind and body acclimatised to the unique environment and as a person adjusts, their awareness can go to deeper levels. It is when deeper levels are reached that so much can happen physically and mentally. So at first just to go in with a mind open to discover.

In this blog though we are going to talk about using flotation tanks as a tool. They can be used in an extraordinary variety of ways and indeed for a vast array of purposes. So much so that almost nothing in the world compares. It is, in short, a tool like no other. Applied correctly to the right person, with the right input, at the right time and at the right frequency, flotation tanks can achieve remarkable results. Floatation is known to affect the human nervous system, endocrine system, the cardiovascular system, the muscular, respiratory and immune systems. It even affects the skeletal system by aiding healing. If almost all the major systems are affected by floatation is there any wonder that it is such a powerful medium that can be used in so many diverse and productive ways. Over the coming months we will be increasing the frequency of our blogs and interspersed amongst the usual blog news we will be telling you exactly how flotation tanks can be used as an effective tool.

Float Tank Experience

We will touch not only on the theory; we will share our knowledge of real and practical ways to achieve results. This valuable information will be drawn from a wide selection of sources such as from 35 years of media coverage and the many research papers. Arguably though the most valuable source is drawn from Ocean Float Rooms’ own direct experience. This is from the experience of our two Directors who between them have been involved with floating and floatation tanks for a total of 55 years, 30 and 25 years respectively. They have gained their own personal experience exploring many of the fascinating avenues down which floatation can take you and have also worked with floatation therapists and of course directly with people floating by advising and supporting them as they used floatation as a tool to achieve their goals.

They have this experience because they both opened float centers independently in the 1980s. Chris opened one of the first Flotation Tank Centers in Brisbane Australia and Ron started the first dedicated float tank centre in the UK which was in London. Ron was also involved in helping to set up the Flotation Tank Association of the UK and Ireland and ended up running it for 20 years. His floatation centre The London Float Centre operated for twenty four years until 2010. It was open for clients to float for 12 hours a day seven days a week with four Ocean Float Room flotation tanks. That equates to the experiences of tens of thousands of people floating. Ocean Float Rooms also gets feedback from hundreds of our amazing customers around the world who have either bought one or more Rooms for either personal use or for their commercial float centres. Between them those Ocean Float Room business customers would have floated hundreds of thousands of people. That is one heck of a lot of experience to draw on.

The London Float Centre opened with two of the first commercially manufactured British floatation tanks called the Satori Express. The word Satori comes from Japanese Buddhism and is the state of enlightenment which is a step further than the probably more appropriately named Hindi named Samadhi tank which refers to a state of stillness of the mind. Either way flotation tanks for many are an easy and fast way to achieve what for others takes years of meditation. The connection to meditation is not spurious either as during deep floatation the brain produces abundant Theta wave patterns which are not often normally seen, but these patterns have been recorded in Zen Buddhist and other deep meditative states. Hence they called it “satori express”, a fast way to achieve the result. The Satori Express was a very innovative design being the English inventor John Allcock’s second float tank model, his first being very similar to a Samadhi tank. The Satori Express was the first float tank to incorporate the water filtration and sterilisation system within the shell of the float tank body rather than have it sitting outside it. Integral to every Satori, as well as built in audio speakers, was also a built in video screen window with adequate space behind it to house a monitor which in the eighties, before the flat screen, was still quite a bulky size. The video and audio had already accessorized the flotation tank so it could be used in specific ways as a tool to achieve goals. The overall shape of the Satori floatation tank although curved and cleverly styled, looked unfortunately similar to an Egyptian sarcophagus being wide at the head end and tapered at the feet end. It also tapered towards the top and bottom.

After a fairly short operating public float tanks it was realised that the unfortunately common public negative reaction of feeling claustrophobic to flotation tanks was not being helped at all by the ancient Egyptian burial image association of the Satori Express. Those though who did try it were having such amazing experiences and giving such positive feedback that a solution was clearly needed to help those with claustrophobic tendencies that were being put off trying floatation simply because of the limited float space and shape.

The Ocean Float Room flotation tank concept

It was at this point that the penny dropped and the concept of the Ocean Float Room came into being. A year later a prototype float room was trialled with great success and after several more years of development and relentless testing the first production model was launched at a development cost now equivalent to around $150,000. That long period of research and development really paid off because believe it or not those very first Ocean Flotation Rooms were so well made that some are still in operation today twenty four years later, with clients enjoying them in businesses that are still open to the public all around the UK. That initial commitment to quality and longevity has been the hallmark of the Ocean Float Room and one of the reasons for its global success. It was called a Float Room rather than a float tank to differentiate it from the original float tank, float pod or float capsule design. The Float Room is of course a type of float tank but with several marked differences. These differences are usually not properly understood or appreciated and in future blogs we will go into more detail and explanations of the benefits and advantages of a float room.


John Lilly and the Float Tank

Excuse us for the digression but hopefully it was an interesting one and gives a glimpse into a corner of floatation history but we had better get back to the original topic of this blog, that of the float tank as a tool. Dr. John Lilly the inventor and original developer of the float tank was himself a scientist and was determined to discover more about the how the brain worked. As a physician, psychoanalyst and neuroscientist he was fascinated by the human and also the dolphin brain and he wanted to explore and understand what in the early 50s was a mostly unknown realm. One of the big questions at that time amongst neuroscientists was “Would the brain function if there were no external input?” That is no sensory input to the organ through the five senses. “Is the brain reliant on that input for normal functioning?” “What would happen without sensory input?” So it was that John Lilly devised a series of experiments to find the definitive answers. Like many pioneering scientists he had to design and build his own equipment for the experiments and after much trial and error he succeed although his first tanks were pretty crude. In his early attempts at restricting as much sensory input as possible Lilly had the subject suspended, upright and fully submerged in a tank of ordinary water breathing underwater with the aid of air tubes. Another of his designs had them floating and spinning slowly in a large circular bath. His experiments did eventually find the answer to the question neuroscientists were asking and as a bonus the experience of those restricted environmental sensory subjects turned out to be so positive and such a revelation that Lilly went on with Glenn Perry to help develop the Samadhi float tank which went on sale to the public. The Samadhi was a far more user friendly affair and after trying various types of salts in various solution concentrations to get the best buoyancy without any negative side effects settled on Epsom Salts. And so it was that original research project went on to change the lives of countless people all around the world.

Dr. John Lilly quickly realised that with the natural effects of sensory deprivation the brain not only continues to function but that there were considerable beneficial effects. He then realised that these effects could be controlled and modified. Lilly very soon started to use the flotation tank he had created for his original research as a tool to achieve his own personal goals of self exploration as well as for his own further scientific research. He was an extraordinary man who contributed in the fields of biophysics, neurophysiology, electronics, computer science, and neuroanatomy and dolphin communication. He also played an integral part in the 1960s alternative thinking movement in collaboration with many of its key figures. The amazing scientist died in 2001 in Los Angeles at the age of eighty six. He was not afraid to be controversial either as some of his ideas and beliefs came not from pure science but from his many personal experiential exploits. Well worth reading are his books such as “The Scientist”, “The Deep Self”, “The Centre of the Cyclone”, “The Human Bio-computer” and other books on Dolphin communication.

Float Tanks as a Research Tool

The float tank born of a research project itself then went on to become the tool used for further scientific research. Discoveries were made and theories and suppositions about floatation were proven or dis-proven. For instance in the London Float Centre a research project was conducted by Jody Raab using Ocean Float Rooms which showed that during and even after floatation the activity of right hemisphere of the brain was enhanced and it also showed more surprisingly that the left hemisphere was not inhibited as, for example, during hypnosis. For most people who are left brain dominant this meant that flotation brought the two hemispheres more into balance. The findings were published in a peer review journal Psychological Medicine, 1994, 24, 457—462. Copyright © 1994 Cambridge University Press

Even more interesting than this sort of finding to most people are the practical ways that you can use a flotation tank to help you achieve your goals. The float tank can be used to achieve both long and short term personal goals. They can be used to enhance learning, creativity, sleep, performance, healing and much more. In future blogs we will go into details together with tips and ideas of how to help you or your clients get the very best from this great tool.

sarah goodhewFlotation tanks – How can they be used to achieve goals and how this was discovered. Part 1