entering the terrifying darkness…again

It took a whole year – literally! – but last weekend I revisited one of the scariest places I’ve ever been – a sensory deprivation (isolation) tank, aka ‘float tank’.

My first experience was, for the most part, harrowing. I had no idea what to expect, as I never considered myself claustrophobic. (Then again, I’d never been enclosed in a small space, floating on water, in complete silence and blackness.) I didn’t know just how deafening my mind was (is), until I had to spend 90 minutes tuned into its inane soundtrack, with no distractions whatsoever!

It wasn’t all terrifying; there were moments of stillness and peace. And for weeks after, I couldn’t stop thinking about that darkness. Why had I been so scared of it? What made that void so powerful? Was there anything beyond the fear? What possibilities could be created from that space of nothingness?

float

my home for the next 90 mins

Well, a year later, I decided to revisit the tank. I was slightly dreading the experience; I remembered some of the ridiculous thoughts that plagued me the first time around (What if there’s an earthquake and no one can save me?), and I did not feel like reliving all that again. But, as I’d realized after my first session: that enclosed, dark place isn’t just located in that chamber. It’s always there. Lurking in my consciousness, guiding my every day reactions and decisions. In the tank, I can’t avoid it. Sure, I can physically get out…but it will follow me. So I knew I had to face it again.

Almost immediately after starting my float, I felt petrifying fear at my core. I became aware of acute pain in my neck and shoulders, which lasted throughout the session. Adrenaline coursed through me and I often felt short of breath. Is this how I feel all the time, and just don’t notice it?

Lying there in complete stillness, I felt defenceless. I am very vulnerable in this place…open to attack…I need to be on guard in case something unexpected happens…When I let my guard down is when there will be attack…I’m a mouse, not a lion…I live in fear, trying to control every aspect of my life…

The fear made me hold my breath. Which made me start to panic. Which only made me more fearful!

Then I would remember to breathe. Deeply. And remind myself that it’s not the situation itself that makes me hyperventilate – it’s my thoughts about what could happen. Thoughts that, no matter how ludicrous, seem so real they take on a life of their own, distorting my reality so that I’m blinded to everything else.

In this void, there was nothing to hold onto, to ground me. There was no ‘Aleya’ here. I was reminded of a previous Ayahuasca journey, where my physical reality dissolved in front of my very eyes. My ego did not enjoy that one bit, and the experience still haunts me to this day. I also remembered being in my ex’s presence years ago, and feeling an immense void within. It was something he could never fill, and we both knew it. He was showing me something I’d have to face on my own, sooner or later. It came sooner than I wanted it to.

We are told to ‘look within’ to find love. But this has often felt very conceptual. Many spiritual teachings refer to a loving Mother/Father God, a universe that only wants the best for us. And this is such sweet relief for those of us who grew up in religious upbringings with a judgemental, patriarchal God. In environments where we became intensely self-policing in order to avoid disapproval and punishment, because in survival mode, disapproval = death.

What if I look withinand there is nothing there?

This is the core of all my fear. And it stops me from seeing what could be on the other side of it.

What if there actually was an earthquake? I let myself really sink into that fear, and stay with it. My resistance yielded a little. Even if the worst did happen, I would be ok. This body in the tank wasn’t all of me. I sensed something dormant – huge creative reserves I have not yet tapped into. Are they really there? What will activate them?

I pictured myself floating on a beautiful amber-pink liquid – the colour of a soft sunset. I imagined my little self in the womb, about to emerge into this world. What would I want her to know? That her only ‘mission’ is to live this expression called Aleya, and let her do what she loves to do, no questions asked. Living the expression is enough. On a cosmic level, it’s doing more than she can consciously comprehend.

Will I do another float? Yes, definitely. There are many treasures in this darkness.

41 thoughts on “entering the terrifying darkness…again

  1. I can’t face the darkness. It has gotten worse over the years. As more heartache occurs in my family and I lose people I love, the darkness grow until I feel it suffocating me. I pressed the button right after the technician left me in the MRI. I hit the fake panic button in the Epcot simulation ride through outer space. I’m impressed that you tried this box twice, even after the fear it invoked the first time around. I wish I could let go of the fear and the darkness.

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    • I’m sorry to read of your heartache, loss, and struggle with the darkness. I don’t see myself going into that box again anytime soon. I’m learning to just accept that there are some things I fear, and that’s ok. I don’t have to force myself to be anywhere where I’m not right now. I just need to have self-kindness and compassion. Sending you peace and strength…thanks so much for commenting here. Aleya

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. Yes, facing the void can be terrifying.
    This tank is a symbol for the void inside of us. That is also terrible to face.
    At first at least. My ego threw a temper tantrum when I attempted to turn inside ( that manifested as itching sensation all over my body).
    But after a while, I have found it quite peacful.
    And after even more of a while I found it quite joyful. Quietly joyful.
    I did never go into a floating tank. But to dive right into my own void I use the 180 degree backward meditation method ( which I found best described at John Sherman’s website http://www.justonelook.org).

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    • Beautiful. Those tank experiences were very profound and they’ve stayed with me…I can’t turn back, after facing the void so dramatically. Thankfully I am finding that quiet space within and, like you, it’s becoming more peaceful and joyful, rather than terrifying. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, and for the link too – I’ll check it out. 🙂 Aleya

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  3. Great post. And thanks for liking one of my posts at Evolution Made Easier ….it’s always nice when someone takes the time to do that, plus it helped lead me to this post of yours. And it’s interesting you mentioned “because in survival mode, disapproval = death.” I’m in the process of finishing putting together a booklet on the various survival realities (and strategies we come up w/ for navigating them) and how they lead to so much self-imposed suffering because of our fear of disapproval, rejection, being found unworthy and/or unlovable. Ah, the human condition!

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    • the human condition indeed! your booklet sounds fascinating. i enjoy the messages and links in your blog…reading them reminds me that i’ve not listened to abe hicks in a while…maybe it’s time to start that up again! 😉 thank you for commenting here. aleya

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      • I signed up for getting the free Abe quotes in my inbox each morning….that’s my source for a lot of them I use on the EME blog. A great way to start the day and good at getting you back on track if you’re “off.” 🙂

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  4. Love this, Aleya. I have a post coming out next month on facing our fears. I love the exact and exacting question you asked yourself…what if you looked inside…and found nothing? Incredibly powerful (and yes, frightening). I love even more your closing, the surrender and the images you told yourself to obey. Thanks for sharing.

    Xxx
    D.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your experience Aleya. To face the void is definitely scary but when you embrace it, you realise it is everything as well as nothing- as are we all. I had never really considered going into a deprivation tank- it is on my list of things to try in 2015 now!! As always, an inspiring post.x

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    • love it – everything as well as nothing, yes! i highly recommend the tank to anyone who’s not super claustrophobic, it’s really an amazing experience. i’m already looking forward to my next session! thanks laura. 🙂 aleya

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  6. This is absolutely fascinating – what an experience and I can absolutely imagine the way that your thought process went. It has great depth – I’m feeling inspired! xxx

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  7. Sounds like a fascinating exploration… going into the depths.. the dark.. the void. I don’t know if I would panic physically being in a tank–although it would be very interesting to see what else came bubbling to the surface for me. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Aleya!

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  8. Dear Aleya,
    Thank you for sharing your experience! I did a float last year. I had the same thought: “what if there’s an earthquake?” I’m looking forward to my next float. I expected all these visions. None. There was just a voice. I remember then that I heard my husband’s voice, and I was like: nope. I’m not quite ready for that yet. Did I see pink, too? I’m not sure… there was a quality of pink to it. The music they played was very, very faint. Who knows what we will encounter when we embark on the path of facing our fears? True courage doesn’t look like lion, does it? Not to me… but I’m still thinking about it.
    Love,
    Ka

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    • oh you also had the earthquake thought? glad i’m not the only one. that one went on for far too long! 😉 i’m not sure true courage looks like a lion, these were just the thoughts running through my mind… i’m also looking forward to the next float, it seems to get easier yet go deeper at the same time. mostly it’s about being in the complete stillness and silence long enough to feel something new emerging. and that’s kinda exciting! thank you ka ❤ aleya

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  9. Wow — this sounds really intense! And well worth it for what was revealed — living the expression which is more than can be consciously comprehended. Did you find the whole experience to be similar to an Ayahuasca journey? I’m so curious!! x x

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    • oh there were some interesting parallels to ayahuasca, that’s for sure. but also a completely different experience, in the physical journey as well as messages delivered. you’ve made me want to reflect on this some more – thank you! ❤

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  10. I had always wondered about trying one of these, thanks for sharing your experience! I just got done with a 10-day silent meditation retreat, so I probably won’t try the float tank anytime soon, but maybe this summer 🙂 I loved the last part you said, that was so touching and beautiful: “Living the expression is enough. On a cosmic level, it’s doing more than she can consciously comprehend.”

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    • thank you! yes, the messages i received towards the end were very comforting. the silent meditation retreat must have been very powerful. i have several friends who’ve done this and i’ve always been in awe, as it’s been something that my mind just cannot fathom doing. but there is that resistance. maybe i should start with a 3 day! 😉 if you ever do a float i’d love to hear about your experience. aleya

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    • it’s so funny because some people find the floats really relaxing and rejuvenating! like they actually fall asleep! i cannot imagine that, at this point. the guy working there seemed to totally understand my experience as i’d shared a little with him after my session. and he said once you do a few, it gets much easier – to the point where you crave the time in the tank. it would be amazing to get to that place…i have hope! lol. thanks, aleya

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      • I had a couple of floats when I was much younger – in my late teens I think. The door was left ajar slightly, so I didn’t get the full experience of sensory deprivation. That was probably a good thing, but it would be interesting to try now. Good on you for facing your fears – I like that in a person 😊

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        • thank you, i really appreciate that! i think the universe was seriously wanting me to receive this, since both sessions were complimentary. i wasn’t allowed any excuses not to do it! haha ❤ aleya

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  11. More power to you. A confirmed claustrophobic, I would opt out. I have however, experienced other modes of darkness and isolation and found them to be rewarding — one of the most beneficial being deep hypnotherapy. It was when in that state that I found more connectedness with my heart than ever before. Different techniques work for different people. I’m glad to learn your chosen ‘return’ in darkness was a good one!

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    • thanks eric! being in the tank was a big wake up call for me – especially to physically feel my body sensations in response to the fear. the pain in my shoulders and neck was so strong i could barely stand it. it shocked me that this tension/pain (resistance) is probably always there and i don’t even notice it! fear is a major block to heart-centered living and i’m glad i was able to tap into its grip on me. i’m also glad there are so many different techniques out there; so many of us are seeking relief from this generalized fear and anxiety. aleya

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  12. It is indeed amazing what lurks in our minds, so well hidden by the busyness and stimulation of the everyday. I know exactly what you describe, though not from a sensory deprivation tank. I was on a fasting retreat once, without contact with any other persons, and one of the rules was you had to wait until the those conducting the retreat came for you… After several days, I was tired, and waiting, and there were gunshots or fireworks I could hear in the distance. And I had this weird thought: what if there was a revolt or something in town, and no one is coming for me…?

    I really think that digging deep and touching these places opens up the space to also contact the real beauty and power within us, and that it matters to far more than ourselves. Thank you for sharing this… and for doing this work.

    Michael

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    • wow, your retreat experience sounds so powerful! i can totally relate to that feeling. i remember in my first float, the immediate sense that i was very far away from everyone (even those in the next room), and how easily i could be forgotten. the sense that life was going on without me, and that i was totally alone, was so strong and ran so deep. i also feel that this space, when truly felt, allows us to touch on something even greater within. the universe has been guiding me to ‘look within’ for years and years, but till now these were just words – and now i’m being lovingly forced to put that into action. or else let fear continue to run my life. it’s my choice… thank you for sharing your experience. ❤ aleya

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    • thanks kimberly. the experience definitely shook me to my core…funny how the most simple of experiences (just being with ourselves) can be more powerful and emotional than anything external. i can’t wait till the fear flips! 😉

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  13. I really enjoyed accompanying you in this process ( by reading your account). I do have claustrophobia so I don’t think this activity is on my agenda. But it is so fascinating. Fear Fear Fear, how do we live with it and not ” manage” it?

    You are beautiful as is and I am certain there is more beauty and love at your core. I feel it ❤

    love,
    Linda

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    • thanks linda. ❤ what really got me in this second experience is how very easy it is to numb fear out – so many distractions and addictions, esp if you're a city girl like me who can find a million things to do instead of just 'being'. but just the physical reaction i had to the fear let me know that the numbing really, really does not work. and so i have to sit with those very uncomfortable feelings for however long it takes. aaah! big love, aleya 🙂

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