Weekly Message from T. J.

Floating Ideas

The rumbling of the jets overhead is near constant. And the roar from those few that streak out of sight makes it hard to hear the television. Flapping helicopters chop the air, too. And then, of course, there is the noise of traffic. It’s rare to sit in a place free from the sounds of people moving from one place to the other as fast and as efficiently as they can. More and more of us actually spend less and less time in absolute, uninterrupted silence for very long anymore. In fact, people spend money for silence now.

Over the last few years, some friends and I have tried “float tanks.” This is perhaps a more friendly way of describing sensory deprivation tanks, which came into fashion decades ago. For the uninitiated, sensory deprivation involves floating in highly saline water warmed to body temperature in a space impervious to light and sound. Today, floating experiences range from a small tank in someone’s garage or apartment to places with a range of tanks and other floating experiences, like pools in rooms heated to body temperature to accommodate couples who’d like to share the experience.

I know, for some, this already sounds like a nightmare—a confined, dark, silent space accompanied only by my mind. I had a friend who said once that the most dangerous neighborhood he knows is the one between his ears. And I confess that in the beginning of my first floating experience, my self, my mind, my thoughts, my regrets, my inner-most fears, all began to surface like creatures from the dark, silent, salty, confined lagoon…until they didn’t.

Somewhere in the hour I spent in the tank, I shook the leash of time, just a little. Deprived of seeing the angle of the sun in the sky, deprived of wondering where the jets overhead were going, deprived of confidence in what was day and what was night, I sensed something that was and wasn’t my body. I felt myself tumble upward and out. A friend later explained this real and physical understanding: “I am not my body.” For me, the experience continued in ways that are harder to explain than piecing together sleeping dreams from months ago. But my friend’s summary is apt, as much for its accuracy as for its brevity.

The sound of birds woke me early this morning. In the dark hours before jets could scream or helicopters could beat the air, I opened the door to the lanai. The cool morning air poured past me and carried with it the plumeria scent drawn out from the flowers overnight. We are tumbling through space—but I’m sitting on a deck chair. We are all one—but I’m alone on the lanai. We are not our bodies—but I’m biding time before I move through time and space once more today. We can feel the outrageous extravagance this gift of life can be—but I’m not wealthy enough to buy it, even if I could. No-body is.

And may it ever be so.

Rev. T. J.
minster@unitariansofhi.org