What's The Scoop on "Floatation Tanks" for Relaxation ?
Did you ever hear of “isolation,” “floatation” or “samadhi” tanks? They were also called “sensory deprivation tanks” because of the way they worked and what they did. Usually they're just called floatation tanks.
Here’s the scoop on floatation or samadhi tanks in brief.
The famous Dr. John Lilly experimented with sensory deprivation or isolation tanks awhile back in order to cut off his body from any sort of external sensations to see what would happen. If you’ve seen the movie Daredevil, at the end of the day, Ben Affleck (Daredevil) slips into one of these floatation tanks in order to relax because they let you cut off all external sensory stimulations of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. They give you a closed in feeling.
The isolation tanks are usually filled with a salt water solution so that you float in them, and if you use ear plugs while the isolation tank lid is closed, you’re shut off from lights, sounds, smells, and because you’re floating in water that is approximately body temperature, your sense of touch is “neutralized” as well. The target is relaxation, not really meditation.
Lily and others found that submersion in this isolation tank environment would help them relax and enter into lucid daydreams. In fact, what they didn’t know is that Buddhism explained this thousands of years ago! It all has to do with the first 5-sense consciousnesses.
Imagine that -- 2,500 years ago Buddha explained this floatation tank phenomenon.
Abhidharma trainings teach that there is a consciousness for each of your sense organs as well as an organizing or interpreting clear consciousness, called the 6th consciousness. You can find out more about this, in detail, in Measuring Meditation, which honestly has the most extensive explanation of this available in the English language. I get more compliments on this chapter of the meditation manual than almost on anything else.
Now the 6th consciousness or 6th “discriminative mind” has a shadow side called the du-yin, or “solitary consciousness.” It’s called the “solitary consciousness” because it can operate independently of the other sense-consciousness—those belonging to the eyes, ears, nose, taste and sense of touch. It can operate alone without needing the input of these other sense stimuli, while the 6th consciousness has the job of collating and interpreting what these first 5-sense stimuli mean. So unless you're really trained to cultivate clear consciousness (hint: cessation-contemplation practice), after awhile in an isolation tank, you're likely to slip into the du-yin. Yep, float yourself in a samadhi tank while cutting off all sensory input and you'll daydream using the solitary consciousness.
When you turn off the input from these other consciousnesses, it’s easy to start experiencing the du-yin while awake, which can operate somewhat outside the limits of space and time. Hence daydreams, hallucinations and all sorts of shadow-side phenomena that Lilly and others experienced inside the floatation tanks, including psychic phenomena, were the product of the du-yin. No they weren't any high spiritual states, but just the lowly du-yin.
Should you cultivate the du-yin specifically?
NO, absolutely not!
Shamans do that, but this is not true spiritual cultivation. Why? Because it’s not the CLEAR aspect of consciousness that you’re cultivating. You always want to be cultivating clarity in cultivation, not stupor, ignorance, trances or dimness of any sort.
That’s why even the methods of the clairvoyant Edgar Cayce, who would go into a trance, cannot be called true spiritual practice…even though the results of his trances were quite helpful to humanity they are not high stage cultivation.
Nevertheless, this phenomenon of cultivating the du-yin is possible, though it puts you on the border realms of craziness. Yes, you can sometimes experience small glimpses of the future this way, but clairvoyant snatches that come from the du-yin can never be counted on or depended on for BIG things...only small things if at that. In dreams your du-yin is active, which is why you can have true prognostic dreams of the future (such as your score on a school exam or test) as well.
I’ve never been in a sensory deprivation tank myself. I’d love to try a isolation/samadhi tank because I’m naturally curious and know what it can do and can’t. I’m sure my own teacher would love to try it himself just to see the result. If I could, I'd buy a floatation tank for his new complex in Shanghai just so that people can experience the du-yin.
But should you use a floatation tank as the main course of your cultivation?
No. Experience it, understand this, maybe even use it for relaxation, but don't call this "spiritual cultivation." Be clear on that.
Never try to cultivate anything that smacks of lack of clarity along the cultivation trail. The du-yin is one of those things , in addition to astral bodies, that you shouldn’t try to cultivate SPECIFICALLY. Animal spirits and shamanic practices also fall into this category but more on this later....
That's it for your lesson on floatation tanks and sensory deprivation tanks.
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