By Nick Beaulieu, Editor-in-Chief
Being in college is about searching for that ‘aha’ moment. That quest to find your career, your passion and your path in life. But with pressures and stresses from parents, classes and a social life, it can be a distraction for students to find what their calling in life might be. Not known to many, there exists a technology available that aids in that internal search and it’s something that the University of Nebraska at Omaha could easily obtain.
As a follower and listener of Joe Rogan and his podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” I have regularly heard about the benefits of sensory deprivation float tanks. Rogan, a jack of all trades as a color commentator for the UFC, a comedian and podcast host, has credited the tank to his mental development.
“The sensory deprivation chamber has been the most important tool I’ve ever used for developing my mind. For thinking. For evolving,” Rogan has said of the technology.
Curious, I researched where I could float in the area and upon a Google search, I found one place within a drivable distance that offers the unique experience: Revitalize Massage and Spa in Lincoln, Neb.
The spa calls their tank the “Escape Float Tank.”
Much like Dead Sea in the Middle East, the water in float tanks has a buoyancy level that allows our bodies to float on the surface. The tanks are filled with Epsom salts which create the weightless feeling in the water.
I called and made an appointment with Revitalize and Massage and Spa and scheduled a 90-minute float session.
When I arrived, I signed a quick form and entered the room.
Before floating, you must put in ear plugs and take a shower to clean yourself of anything that could come off and into the water in the tank.
Then, you enter.
It feels like going back to your roots. You are weightless, it’s dark, it’s silent. It’s like being reborn.
At first, it reminded me of childhood swim lessons when you practiced the back float. Except in the tank, there’s no effort required.
It took me a few minutes to get accustomed to physically releasing the tension of my body and to be completely still. Periodically while trying to relax, I would drift into one of the walls and feel the edge with my hands, a problem occasionally experienced with taller floaters.
Other times while trying to mentally slip away, I would get an itch on my face. (Word to the wise, don’t itch it. I brought my hand to my face and got water in my nose which led to a nagging sting).
My experience was somewhat turbulent for what is supposed to be the most relaxed state of body and mind achievable. My issue was that I failed to relax and let the tank do the rest. I’m someone whose mind is always racing. It takes me a long time to sleep and I often can’t sleep in cars, airplanes, etc.
Now, the goal is not to doze off in the tank. But if you struggle to shut your mind off to relax, floating may be a challenge for you at first.
One thing about my floating experience was time did go incredibly fast. For 90 minutes, it felt no longer than 45. Sadly, I felt as though I was finally starting to release myself in the final minutes when music was played to signal the end of my float.
I was a little discouraged by my failure to reach the full potential of floating, but realized it’s not something everyone can achieve on just one float.
Again, Rogan put it best. It’s like an onion. You can only uncover so many layers the first time. It’s a work in progress.
I left my session feeling fresh yet drowsy, which is a typical side effect after a float. As far as physical benefits go, Revitalize Massage and Spa owner Jami Toman explained to me just what the tank can do for the body.
“As far as physical benefits, it’s the most relaxed your body can get,” Toman said. “Because you have no weight, no pain, no strain. Just completely effortless. There’s no weight to you at all. So that allows your muscles to relax allows you to mentally reconnect with yourself and figure out where you are in life and where your body is at.”
Mentally speaking, the realm of possibilities are endless.
“Emotionally it has effects on people,” Toman said. “Some people have seen what their future is like. Some people have seen what their life is like presently and realized ‘Oh my god, I need to change my life.’ It’s different for every person, that’s what is really incredible.”
Toman said people with chronic pain or who rely on heavy medication have even tried the tank and that it’s changed their life.
“We’ve had chronic pain people come in and not have the pain and it will last for several weeks,” Toman said. “So I think anytime you can get people off of medication, that’s incredible.”
Being one of the few places in the Midwest to offer the experience to the public, and the only place in Nebraska, Revitalize Massage and Spa has seen floaters come from across the map.
“We’ve had people from Washington D.C., Kearney, Texas, Kansas,” Toman said. “And sometimes it’s people [who] just know that we have one, and they’re going to be in town and they’ll call and say, ‘Hey I’m going to be in town I know that you have one can I set up and appointment?’”
Personally, I was able to have a peaceful time away from distractions and stimuli where I could have time with myself and my thoughts, something all students could benefit from.
“A lot of times, the younger generation [is] a little fearful of spending times by themselves,” Toman said.“Away from cell phones and social media. That freaks them out. So again it’s all about just taking time to focus on you. Alone time with you and see where you are at.”
Rogan is on the record of saying all universities should offer the experience and he’s right. Surprisingly, not many seem to offer it. Upon research, you won’t find a college who advertises having one.
With an already state-of-the-art health and wellness program and facility, UNO could set the bar even higher and make a progressive statement by investing in the technology for the Health, Physical Education and Recreation center.
For me, I have a strong desire to get back in the tank and try it again and continue inching closer to reaching that trance and meditative state of self-discovery that is hard to achieve with just one float.
But floating regularly may be tough for the average student financially, as a an hour-long float costs $65 and a 90-minute float costs $75.
Although floating at a center may be pricey for students, It would not be expensive for the University to acquire a tank and it would not require high maintenance or space.
The website “Isolation Tank Experts” says the most state of the art tank will cost $30,000 maximum, with brand new, high quality tanks starting at just $10,000.
So with a tank somewhere in the middle, UNO most definitely has the funds and means to acquire the technology. With one staffer there to schedule appointments and make sure sessions move along, UNO could have their own floatation center in HPER.
With money continuing to be wasted on unpopular student entertainment year after year at UNO, the university should invest in this technology to not only make a significant impact on students, but show the dedication to technology advancement, health, well-being, and the future.
Instead of offering free food and gimmicky games to combat stress during finals week, let’s go to the next level. Let students free their minds, let students float.
While the first sensory deprivation tank was developed in 1954 and they began to be available to the public starting in the 1970s and 80s, the technology has still yet to be regularly recognized. It’s a nearly unheard of practice in this part of the country and UNO has the opportunity to get ahead of the curve.
“It’s out there, it’s just not really popular here in the Midwest,” Toman said. “It takes us a little bit longer to get comfortable with these types of things. It’s coming around.”
If you would like to float, you can call Revitalize Massage and Spa at 402-570-9555 to schedule an appointment.
In the meantime, students should research what others have said about their floating experiences and ask themselves where they stand in life right now.
If it’s a hard question to answer, floating may be exactly what you need.