In the interview he is asked about what floating is like, how it all works and what exactly floating is.
Below is the audio of the interview, as well as a transcript.
Richard: “Not Quite, The first float centre was in 1983, and I came on the scene about 1988. But they imported tanks from America then.”
Sonia: “Okay so are these the first built in Australia, or just among those built?”
Richard: “The new ones. Well I was the first to do a new design in 20 years.”
Sonia: “Why were floatation tanks developed in the first place?”
Richard: “Good Afternoon Sonia, Thanks for having us in.”
Sonia: “Now Richard, is it true that you were the first person to bring Floatation Tanks to Australia?”
Sonia: “So was it thought that the mind would go blank and that was a vulnerable state, and therefore could be filled with other things?”
Richard: “It was thought to be a state of stillness and nothing would happen. But since then, they’ve discovered that the brain is constantly searching and monitoring the environment. And so what developed from there was instead of getting into a negative state, they got to positive, generally full hemispherical states. Like balanced hemispheres of the brain.”
Sonia: “So that’s like a meditative state is it?”
Richard: “Well there are different brain rhythms, so when you go into a meditative state, you tend to utilise more of the your brain. What happened is, if you deprive the brain of the body and a lot of the functions it normally has to deal with, in particular temperature control and dealing with gravity. It actually frees itself to search itself really. And so what happens is you tend to utilise more of the brain and have a more balanced left and right hemisphere. Tends to be with most people, right hemisphere activity which has more to do with creativity and whole brain thinking.”
Sonia: “Okay, we’ll go down that path in a little bit. But for people like myself who have never seen a floatation tank. Practically and logistically, what does it look like? What does it do? Is it like a little swimming pool? What is it?”
Richard: "Well it's like a big bath. The reason you have top on it is to control the environment. Because it’s important you get that sensory deprivation result. So it's basically a big bath. There’s a few different designs. We designed on with a sliding door that’s easier to get in and out of. You have total control. So it's not claustrophobic, because claustrophobia is about not being able to get out or have control. But you can even watch TV or listen to music in the tank. You have a light, all sorts of things.”
Sonia: “But doesn’t that go against the actual purpose of it?”
Richard: “Well the issue with floating is, you need to actually wean people off of their fears to get them to that state. More and more that’s been the case. The western world has got a problem with over stimulation and sleep deprivation. And so you have to get used to not looking for stimulation and so we have to get them to lie still.”
Sonia: “That’s interesting, because I think it was only last week on the program we were talking about how most people find it impossible to be bored these days. We always want to be so stimulated, that we don’t know how to do nothing. A lot of us cant just sit and do nothing anymore.”
Richard: “Yeah well, the thing about it, is the beauty of the sensory isolation is they’ve found that you actually automatically go into that state. And then you’re not the normal person that you think you are. You actually enter in a so called ‘altered state’. SO you actually think differently while you’re in that state. So the perfect meditative state is called fearless presences mindness. It's perfectly in the present. So when you’re in the present, you have no fear and you don’t think that same way. So basically it alters the way you think. So you don’t have any of that fear or negativity that you might bring with you.”
Sonia: “And so you cant get the same response when you’re lying quietly in bed?”
Richard: “You can. But floatation, it's call R.E.S.T which is Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy. But instead of a 24 hour REST chamber stopping someone smoking, the found that floating is quicker. The thing about floating is that it’s a very quick way to get to similar state to maybe a Buddhist Monk. Maybe not in your first float, but it may take a few. So it's an induction technique. There are a lot of techniques out there; people may have tried yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis, all these things help. Some people go into those states maybe while they’re watching TV or they’re knitting or even when you’re driving. Have you ever gotten to a place, but you don’t actually remember the drive? In a way you have gone into that present mind and hypnotic state. So hypnosis is really where you start to change your brain rhythms – well your consciousness is.”
Sonia: “Richard, I was surprised to learn that some countries ban floatation tanks and the CIA have looked into it. So, they must do something that at least causes concern”
Richard: “Well I’m sure some if the listeners out there have floated, or maybe at one of my centres. But when you go into a deep state, a deep relaxation response, it's very, very powerful. And your own neuro chemistry and hormonal levels do have a big influence on you. So quite a lot can happen. But yeah, I was told that a French psychiatrist banned it in the 80’s. And I know the Singapore government banned it because they didn’t want people thinking for themselves too much. I think it’s a little bit misunderstood, but really, people go into similar states, like I said, when they’re doing other things. It's just that this is a threshold experience, it’s not just a straight line experience. You can go into very deep states, which is what I found when I did my initial research.”
Sonia: “What was the CIA’s interest in the floatation tanks? Was it that you blank out people’s mind so much that they tell you everything they know?”
Richard: “Well they’re always interested in anything that makes people more suggestible. I knew a guy that used to be friends with Timothy Leary, when they used to take LSD and go in the tank. This was back in the 60’s. The famous Timothy Leary the director of psychology. This was back in the days when they could do any kind of experiment without any sort of ethics committees. This chap had a witch’s coven sort of technique, which sort of confused your mind about whether you were up or down and they actually stole that idea from him. I’m sure there’s drug now that are quicker. But they certainly would have looked into it.”
Sonia: “But the way you’re describing that, does the floatation tank experience compare with an altered state drug experience then?”
Richard: “Well drugs only elicit responses in the body, and what the body can do. All you have to do is look at the research of Buddhist monks. Your own endorphins can be 4 times more powerful than heroin. So really they just interact with receptor sites and all that.”
Sonia: “So it’s allowing your body to do that for yourself?”
Richard: “That’s right. You have control over it, rather than having an external way of doing it. Which of course, any drug you take is the external source.
- Caller rings through about bipolar and how tanks helped him.
Sonia: “Now the experience that the caller had. How typical is that?”
Richard: “People do vary a lot. Generally if you are younger you’ve already practiced techniques so you’ll go there quicker. Some people take a while as you get older or have more stress. Eventually everyone can get there. It actually automatically creates a response. The beauty of it, is that if you only do, say, 5 or 10 floats – this applies to other techniques- then you actually attain this skill. Psychological skills like that are easy to obtain physically but they don’t necessarily stay that long. So the beauty of the float tanks is that you don’t actually have to try. So what we’re trying to get people to get to is to be a human being, not a human doing. So what people generally do wrong that they try to do and not be. And that can be hard because they actually try to get there”
Sonia: “What is there to do in there? Like they’re trying to be relaxed aren’t they?”
Richard: “Well it’s like trying to get to sleep. When you try to go to sleep you just lay there”
Sonia: “Because you’re thinking about it”
Richard: “Well what used to happen was we would get people to play a video game, at least they would lie still. That wouldn’t be quite as de-stimulating, but at least they would be still and they would automatically close their eyes.”
Sonia: “We’ve been talking about the movie Altered States, that movie had a big impact on the industry here in Australia didn’t it?”
Richard: “Well particularly in America, it doubled the floating in America nearly straight away”
Sonia: “Is that right? People were so interested?”
Richard: “I sort of came on the scene in ’83 and I think the film was ’80 or ’81. But yeah, it did have quite an impact.”
- Caller says they’ve floated and never been so relaxed and peaceful.
Sonia: “But Richard, I’m yet to be convinced, because I don’t understand what actually happens. Can you explain how you’re in there? I mean, I’m not a bad floater in a swimming pool, but it does require a bit of an effort doesn’t it, to float? So how do you do it in the tank, if you’re not having to think about it?”
Richard: “The whole idea is no effort. SO basically what happens is, you have a shower, you go in. The water is kept at skin temperature, which is less than core temperature, which is 34.5 degrees. And basically you enter the tank, go over all the controls, you don’t have to shut the door, it’s completely under your control, you can leave the light on. It doesn’t really matter too much. Basically you just get used to the controls and environment. You’ve got neck pillow if you want it. Then you just settle back. The interesting thing is that because it has 25% salt – magnesium sulphate- in there, you can completely let go. So if you don’t let go, you’ll feel very stiff and have a lot more awareness that of you do let go. Particularly for athletes, they have pretty symptomatic hamstring tightness or that sort of thing. It’s actually a layered effect. SO you actually become more and more aware of your body as you go into it. And when you come out, you feel different again”
Sonia: “So you’re not working hard to stay floating?”
Richard: “No. No, you completely let go. And that’s hard for people.”
Sonia: “So you don’t just sink?”
Richard: “No, since there is 25% salt, that means there is an upwards force that negates gravity. So the brain doesn’t have to deal with gravity. And also because it’s at skin temperature, if you lie still, virtually all the nerve fibres in your skin aren’t stimulated and your body generally disappears from your feet up. SO eventually you can just be a mind floating and no body. So it’s a very interesting experience. To get to the loss of your body is automatic and you’ll go into a very deep relaxed state.”
Sonia: “So at no point are you trying to hold your body up to float? The water is doing that for you?”
Richard: “Well people do. And they tend to get a bit of neck tension when the do, because they’re so used to trying”
Sonia: “Okay, but you don’t have to do that?”
Richard: “No, the idea of it, is that you completely let go”
Sonia: “How does it compare to the Dead Sea. I’ve floated in the Dead Sea before and that’s a weird experience because you actually turn around because it keeps pushing you up”
Richard: “And that’s the thing, you can’t sink in the float tank – if it’s the right density. The Dead Sea is interesting, I’ve heard of people reading the paper while being pushed around. The reason there is so much salt in there is because of the temperature and what’s called a super saturated solution which should be denser than the Dead Sea”
Sonia: “Now, people are asking some of these basic questions that I’m very interested in too. One is: Can you risk drowning if you turned or fell asleep during relaxation?”
Richard: “you cant turn over. Just the way you are and your centre of balance makes it hard. You’d have to sit up in order to turn over”
Sonia: “If its anything like the Dead Sea I understand, it was virtually impossible to roll on to your tummy”
Richard: “Yeah, look, I’ve had over 500 people float with me, and millions in the world, there’s never been a problem since the ‘60’s or ‘70’s.”
Sonia: “So you can’t drown?”
Richard: “Its designed to make you feel the best you have in your whole life. SO all these negative, or potentially negative comments are fair enough. But it’s actually there to male you feel great. It’s not designed to create any problem.”
- Caller says they felt great.
Richard: “Well what we want to see is more peace in the world and that starts with inner peace. That’s what meditation is about. They claim that if 1% of the population meditate, then the crime rate would go down 10%. And if you talk about war on the outside, if you have peace on the inside, you don’t really want to go to war do you?”
Sonia: “We know so many illnesses that stress cause, just to get rid of that for a short period of time would help.”
- Caller asked about mind absorption and being able to learn quicker.
Richard: “I’m glad you asked that question. That is certainly the case. Initially floating can be about relaxing, but it’s application can be even more powerful because of the suggestive state we’re in. Whereas some people may play a tape or something when they are sleeping which is a Delta state but the Alpha and the Theta state that you’re in in the tank sends it to your subliminal straight away. So just say that super learning techniques use music at 60 beats a minute to put you in a deeper state for learning, the float tank or meditative experience pushes you straight there”
Sonia: “But couldn’t that also mean it can have bad applications? Which is why I can understand that the CIA is interested. Because if you can be suggestible like that, you can be suggestible for negative things as well”
Richard: “Well that’s right. It just depends where you float I suppose.”
We hope that you found this interesting as we did and had some of your float questions answered.