Yet somewhere in Lakewood, I found myself there. I was floating on my back, in a chamber so dark I questioned whether my eyes were open or not. According to the clock on the wall, I spent an hour inside, but it felt much longer. When I finally lifted the hatch and emerged, it was like a small rebirth. My body had decompressed in the low gravity and was tingling with potential energy. I showered off the salt water and adjusted to the light. I tried to piece together the journey my mind had just taken. There were vivid memories and colorful visions. Sudden revelations and moments of focused meditation. I felt like I was on the edge of discovery. I didn’t want to leave.
If you’re looking for a different going out (or going in) experience, Lakewood’s Optimal Wellness Center is Cleveland’s closest and only float tank option. Essentially a saltwater bathtub with walls, the float tank was invented in the 1950s and is enjoying a renaissance of late. Supporters tout it as both a therapeutic and exploratory tool and claim benefits ranging from depression and chronic pain relief to increased creativity.
While science can back some of these claims, floating also maintains an interesting role in hippie culture. It is true that Dr. John Lilly, the father of the float tank, experimented with hallucinogens in combination with floating. The float tank is, after all, the ideal tool for studying the effect of a drug on an isolated brain. A prominent modern floater, comedian Joe Rogan, is not shy about augmenting his sessions with marijuana, but believes the tank is a powerful psychedelic in itself. He’s said, “Everybody should do the tank. You will learn more about yourself than any other way.” And more directly: “It’s a fucking amazing way to think.” For the record, Optimal Wellness Center makes you sign a waiver stating you are not under the influence of any substances. Not that you need any help getting high on floating, because you will.
If you can get past the initial fear of climbing in a coffin-like box, you will find the lack of stimulation to be, well, stimulating. Floating can help give us some perspective in our non-stop way of life. It can turn us inward and help us foster a deeply intimate relationship with ourselves as well as the greater cosmos. While the outside world may tell us otherwise, unplugging may be the best way to become more connected than ever before.