Friday, December 20, 2013

My Experiments On Sensory Deprivation By John LeKay

My Experiments On Sensory Deprivation 
By John LeKay
(Excerpted from the author's Book: “A Glass of God” (Under Publication))

[John was kind to post his article at this Blog on "Sensory Deprivation Tank And Induced Samadhi" in July 2011. But within a few months, he had withdrawn the write up as he suspected that it could lead some of the readers to unwanted experiences and even dangerous situations if the experiments were carried out under unsupervised conditions. 

Chris Hebard (Stillness Speaks) made the significant observation that the discoveries made by John were rarely available in the literature to a Seeker.   The popularity of his article can be gauged from the fact that it received over 1200 hits to date. Readers keep visiting this Post  even today. So I requested John for a revised version of the article.  He has been kind to share here a few Excerpts on this subject from his forthcoming Book, "A Glass of God."  

I very much suggest that our esteemed readers interested in studying the effects of sensory deprivation to please do get in touch with John (at this e-mail) before embarking on any trials with the Desensitization Chambers on their own.

I express my sincere thanks to John and hope the readers will be benefited by the studies made by him -- ramesam]


My Experiments On Sensory Deprivation 

By John LeKay

[Caution:  
Kindly Note that any Experiments with Desensitization Chambers should not be  attempted  unless one is a very experienced meditator and is carrying them out under the guidance of an experienced teacher.  

The technique using a sensory deprivation tank described here Should Not be practiced for more than an hour at a time.]  

Sometime in 1988 I read a book written by Dr. John C. Lilly about the experiments he conducted on sensory deprivation. Not long after that I purchased a sensory deprivation tank for myself. At the time I had been conducting experiments on the practice of deep meditation and the state of samadhi, so this made perfect sense to me.
John Lekay

The sensory deprivation tank is designed to isolate the mind and body from all known forms of external stimulation: tactile, auditory, visual, and olfactory stimulants. The blackened out soundproof chamber eliminates touch and pressure on the body. Floating horizontally in 800 lbs. of Epsom salts and water solution negates the effects of gravity and pressure. The salt solution temperature and the outside body temperature are both 94.5 degrees, thus eliminating any need to adjust to the salt-water solution. As a result of total deprivation, one is induced into a deep meditative state of consciousness.  

What I immediately discovered was that it was possible to deprive the visual sense totally by extinguishing light, but it was impossible to do a similar thing with hearing. Even when one is placed in a completely soundproofed chamber with no external sounds, one will still experience auditory sensations such as one’s own breathing movements, as well as occasional rumblings of the stomach. In addition, the skin could itch from the Epsom salt solution or have a burning sensation if one had just shaved or had a cut or irritation.


I remember my first experience of opening the door to the white tomb-like box filled with two feet of water. I sat in the water and closed the door, laid back and began to float. After a few minutes, I could see white flickering dots appear in my mind’s eye. As I began to relax, pictures and images appeared as if I was watching a movie. These were my thoughts passing by, coming and going, some in color, some in black and white. I did not attempt to interrupt the flow and just allowed anything to enter my mind. While doing this I had flashbacks from various times in my life, some going back to my earliest childhood memories and beyond.


During the 80s and early 90s I spent countless hours in the samadhi tank. At this point, I was able to immediately put myself into deep states of meditation in which all physical sensations completely disappeared. I felt like a naked astronaut floating in infinite space. It felt like being pulled into a magnetic field and into a hole filled with light. The experience was immensely blissful and, in fact, became quite addictive. I wanted to repeat the practice as often as possible because when I first dissolved into this light, all sense of boundaries and time seemed to disappear and a peace and white light and bliss filled my entire body. It felt as if my muscles and bones were disintegrating from the internal massage of the white light, and the sound of my breath was all that remained. It felt as if I was in my mother’s womb again, and then this disappeared as well.

Sensory Deprivation Tank

Once, I suddenly realized that I had been in the tank for six hours. I cracked open the door to the tank and that light that flooded in was nearly blinding. I looked around my art studio (where the tank was situated) and was struck by the vibrancy and intensity of the colors of my paintings and artworks. Everything appeared to be energized with life. Even the sounds of my footsteps seemed louder than usual. It was like walking out of a movie theater after a matinee on a bright summer’s day, although magnified a hundred times over. Getting acquainted with gravity after floating for so many hours in silence and pitch-black darkness can be disorienting.

Afterwards, I began to think about the similarities between the womb and the tomb; about how, in some ways, birth and death are the entrance points to rebirth and transformation. In reality, they are one and the same; it’s just a matter of perspective.

At times, it felt as if my skin and the usual sense of me were being stripped away. At first this was beautiful, but then it shifted. It left me feeling very vulnerable and unsettled because my defenses were gone. At the same time I became much more uninhibited and felt a cold detached depersonalization that led to some confusion.
The aftereffects of the sensory deprivation experiments left me in a rather unpleasant state in which remnants of my unconscious shadow began to the surface. It was as if the shadow self had been amplified in some horrible way and all of the contents of the unconscious were being thrown at me at once. Everything felt absolutely futile and meaningless. I would look out at the world and it all felt empty, cold, and useless; quite a contrast to the beautiful high I had felt while in the tank. All roads seemed to lead to either nowhere or to an abyss of some kind. Inside the tank had been blissful and at times absolutely amazing and beyond words, but that blissful state would inevitably change after a few days once I am back in my dismal day-to-day reality of the time.


The polarities could be shocking and quite extreme. Once while in the sensory deprivation tank, I went into a black vortex that opened up into light, and it felt as if I were being pulled and absorbed into it. I disappeared for several hours. When I came out, it felt as if my flesh had been ripped off and my mind left completely exposed. I felt more like an apparition, like an ethereal form of energy with no physical body. There was a disconnect that lasted a week or so. I one day remember walking around Soho in Manhattan and feeling like I was already dead, as if I were outside myself, watching myself walk down the street. I felt very detached, like watching a character in a film. It was one of the strangest feelings I can ever remember, because I felt like I was looking in from the outside. I remember experiencing that everything was connected; however, a subconscious internal conflict remained that would not allow the integration. 

This is one reason I wouldn’t recommend sensory deprivation for more than an hour at a time, unless you are an experienced meditator or you have the guidance of a teacher.



Wishing All Our Readers
Seasons Greetings and
Best Wishes For a Happy And Prosperous
New Year

2 comments:

Peter Francis Dziuban said...

Fascinating description of the experience. Thank you John and ramesam.

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Thank you Peter for your time and the kind comment.

For general information, I am repeating here my Note which I posted on Jan 24, 2013, at John's previous essay:

"Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks in his latest Book "Hallucinations" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012, pp: 323 ISBN 978-0-307-40217-2) writes about "sensory deprivation" research studies carried out during the decades of the 50s and 60s in the 2nd Chapter, p: 34-46. Almost all the research carried out showed that the subjects suffered from hallucinations.

Dr. Sacks mentions that a 1969 book edited by John Zubek entitled "Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research" listed 1300 references. However, the scientific interest in the subject later petered out A 1984 paper pointed out that the hallucinations derived from sensory deprived conditions "can be magnified sometimes to madness, especially when combined with social isolation, sleep deprivation, hunger, thirst, torture, or the threat of death." More recently, Alvaro Pascual-Leone and his colleagues reported on their work on pure visual deprivation. Ten of the 13 subjects experienced hallucinations during the first hours of blindfolding, but always by the second day, whether their eyes remained open or shut behind the blindfolds."