I have recently discovered the benefits of salt tanks, also known as sensory deprivation tanks or floatation tanks. A salt tank is a lightless, soundless tub filled with highly concentrated Epsom salt water heated to body temperature. In today’s fast-paced world, we are consistently stimulated by external stimuli that prevent us from being able to be still, sit with ourselves and our thoughts. Allowing ourselves to go within can lead to moments of remarkable clarity. I could make a long list of the benefits of what is sometimes called “restricted environmental stimulation therapy” but today I wanted to tell you about my experiences in the salt tank, which allowed me to gain clarity around my mission and my purpose as an autism mom and autism thought leader.
I first heard about salt tanks through a friend, who told me it helped her with anxiety, so I wanted to know more, and she encouraged me to look into it. As a high-energy person, I wasn’t sure this form of self care was for me. Most times I can’t even bring myself to soak in a bathtub. So the idea of spending an hour in that tank without light and sound seemed like it would bring out a sense of claustrophobia. It sounded uncomfortably close to my own personal idea of hell. But as a mental health professional, I wanted to see if this was an experience I would feel comfortable recommending to my patients.
My first experience in the salt tank
I went in for my first session with a sense of dread, but also anticipation. I dreaded the idea of feeling like I could forever be stuck in a lightless, soundless box, and no one would ever let me out. But let’s face it, a salt spa is a safe environment, so I had to put my irrational fears aside. I also felt a sense of anticipation because it was a new thing to try, and it would give me the opportunity to spend some time with myself, without any outside distractions, which I never do at home. Little did I know this was going to change my life.
But if you thought I had this life changing experience the very first time I sat in the tank, you’d be wrong. After my first session, I came out feeling like I didn’t get much out of it. I just laid there, unable to shut off my brain. My thoughts never stopped, which was rather intrusive because I was hoping to relax. But when you are completely cut off from any sensory perceptions, it’s just you and your brain. When I told my friend about my experience, she urged me to try again, and while I didn’t love the tank, I didn’t hate it either. So I tried it again!
My first breakthrough in the salt tank
As I laid there, I realized that the reason I felt like my first experience wasn’t satisfactory was because I listened to my brain instead of my body. My brain distracted me too much from what my body needed to tell me. Eventually I drifted around to the side of the tank. My toe touched the edge and I immediately felt extremely uncomfortable. I tried to get back to the middle of the tank but I couldn’t, so I reverted to what I’m used to doing in a pool: focusing on my core. I gently arched my back, pointed my chin upward, and attempted to feel my innermost core. I was able to get back to the middle of the tank, or at least what I perceived was the middle. Little by little, I was able to drown out the noise in my own head and really allow myself to go within. This second experience taught me how to find my center – the center of my body and the center of my self.
I decided to let my mind run with this idea of finding my center, and my arms began to bend around me, almost forming this circle, as though I was hugging someone. This led me to thoughts of my family and my daughter Sabita – my immediate circle. I connected with the feelings of frustration I had due to my difficulties in finding the right school and the right resources for her.
Then it hit me like a lightning bolt. What if I was able to create a centralized space where people with autism could come and get everything they needed? I could bring special-needs families together who felt alone and needed help and support, essentially giving this entire community something that is not only much needed, but like a giant hug from me. I realized that this was what my daughter needed, and this is what the community needed as well.
What came of that
When you get out of your own head and get a vision like this, one way or another, you need to get back to the real world. You need to put your feet back on the ground, and that’s when your cognitive abilities should be activated. After a vision like that, I had to think of realistic plans: “So this was my vision. Is it realistic? Is it possible? Is it sustainable? What timeline needs to be implemented? Am I ready for it? If not, what do I need to do to be ready for it?”
Little by little, I was able to come up with a structured plan on how to open a one-stop shop for special-needs families, a place that can be trusted to take care of their children and to offer the resources that they need. So I was able to make a structured plan to turn the vision I had in the salt tank into a reality. Pressing pause and listening to what my body and my mind were telling me led me to create something I am truly proud of. This experience in the salt tank allowed me to get in touch with my purpose.
When it comes down to it, you’re not going to have this sort of experience if you don’t open yourself up to it, and if you don’t make a conscious effort to drown out the noise and go within. I wasn’t going to have this kind of experience at a grocery store! I had to make a point to set time aside for my self-care to check in with myself and gain some clarity around my life and around my mission. Whether it’s a salt tank or some other tool for tuning out the world, when you allow yourself to be alone with what your brain and body are trying to tell you, you need to stop resisting and listen, because in the end, it can lead to great things.