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Show Highlights

It’s no secret that the inventor of the float tank, John Lilly, was also an early psychonaut and used the tank for mental exploration in conjunction with LSD. Not everyone in the float community appreciates this shared history and some actively try to distance themselves from it given the taboo nature of psychedelics.

Graham and Ashkahn share their thoughts on psychedelics and floating and how, as a business, they can be completely separated while still being important, as well as explaining why some people might reasonably decide to disassociate from them.

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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Ashkahn: Okay, welcome. Hey. How’s it going, everybody?

Graham: Hi.

Ashkahn: This is Ashkahn.

Graham: I am Graham.

Ashkahn: That’s right. This is another one.

Graham: We’re doing it again.

Ashkahn: Whole ‘nother day.

Graham: Today’s question is, “why do some people in the float industry” Not gonna name any names, Ashkahn-

Ashkahn: I’m not gonna name any names either.

Graham: ”distance themselves from the psychedelic community? They seem to go hand-in-hand to me.” Yeah.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Yeah, honestly, I think this is one of those things where psychedelics are largely illegal and a lot of-

Ashkahn: And taboo.

Graham: Yeah, and especially in a lot of parts of the country, much more taboo than here, for instance, in Portland, Oregon. We run a legal business, and we can’t encourage people to come into the tanks under the influence of psychedelics, and we have to actively screen them out. There’s a little bit of, what were you gonna say?

Ashkahn: The legal side, to me, feels like part of it. I almost feel like the bigger side is, you know what, I think with float tanks, it’s easy to associate them with a lot of things, like new-agey medicine or non-Western medicine or things like the whole world-

Graham: Consciousness exploration.

Ashkahn: Consciousness exploration, which ties into psychedelics and stuff like that. I think there’s people out there who because that’s people’s natural assumption, I think, when you hear about float tanks, your assumption, for most people, is to categorize it into that world. I think people wanna push to get it out of that world, or spread the message that, “No, this actually has empirical data with practical medical benefits, and it’s been studied, and this and that.” Really just push it into the mainstream. Whereas psychedelics is very much something that is not in the mainstream, or kind of counter-culture.

Graham: Yeah, float tanks are already so fringe that something which threatens to make them even more fringe to people who are already nervous about them is understandably just a marketing stance that some centers don’t necessarily want to take.

Ashkahn: Yeah, they wanna make it open to the general public.

Graham: Yeah. There is also this part, I will just say on the more subtle version of the legal side, even ignoring the exact legalities, there are a lot of descriptions out there of float tanks, especially from people like Joe Rogan and a lot of the more vocal celebrities endorsing them, that talk about really psychedelic experiences in the float tank, both high, like on edibles, and totally sober. Not everyone has those psychedelic experiences in the tank at all.

But similarly, a lot of people, just because they’re describing conversations with aliens and flying gorillas on surfboards and all these things, there’s this easy pathway to connect to say, “Oh, maybe this is the kind of thing that you take some edibles or you take some psychedelics and you go do.” Even separate from that, I tell people to not go in there with music even for their first few times floating, because I don’t want any influence. The same goes for being under the influence of anything.

So separate from the legalities, I think there is also this purity, certainly, that we endorse in Float On, but a lot of float centers do, where float tanks are one of the few places you actually get to have nothing going on, even your senses. So going in totally sober, not worrying about altering your state of consciousness, is probably the best way to approach the float, at least from a lot of people’s perspective. So just that purity of experience. I’d put it in there as another reason.

Ashkahn: There’s definitely the legal liability of having people on illegal substances floating in your commercial place of business. But I almost feel like way more people would take a stance of actively telling people they can’t be on any sort of drugs in their float center as would specifically go out of their way to disassociate the idea of psychedelics and float tanks. I think there’s a lot of people out there who can appreciate the connection, and of course there’s a history with John Lilly and other people like that. I would certainly say there is an overlap in the world of consciousness exploration that covers both float tanks and psychedelics and other things that can alter your perceptions of the world.

Graham: Yeah. So our personal stance at Float On is very much, you need to come in sober, and you’re not allowed to be under the influence of things when you float in our float tanks. That’s our stance. As to our both fondness and love of psychedelics, in my case, those tie in very directly in consciousness exploration, but I don’t think they need to overlap in terms of happening at the same time. We don’t need to have customers who are taking mushrooms in a float tank for them to both get great personal exploration out of both of those mediums.

Ashkahn: Yeah, or to see the overlap or related aspects of them. It doesn’t have to be a simultaneous experience to even have them be related.

Graham: Fortunately, I think we’ve found a lot, I don’t know really of many cases. We’ve talked about it on other episodes, about clients doing psychedelics in float tanks. For the most part, people are very responsible. I don’t know of many things happening. Which isn’t to say they happen without us knowing or anything like that. But it is to say that they’re under control. People are following our policies, as far as we know, which is great.

That’s the most you can do as far as policies. Then it’s these other things of, do you make If MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, releases a new study, do you put that on your Facebook feed? Ignoring even someone just coming into your float tanks high or something, do you make that connection? I would say, I like to. I like to use our business as a mouthpiece to support other enterprises that we enjoy. I personally don’t mind making that connection between psychedelics and the float tanks, and I personally am also not too scared about those crossing over and that really encouraging this huge extra group to do psychedelics in the tank, or think that we’re putting our business at risk or something.

Ashkahn: For some people, this goes as far as just trying not to even spread John Lilly as a person. Trying to kind of-

Graham: Yeah, which to me seems a little wild.

Ashkahn: I would put that in a different category, ’cause it feels a little bit more like … One is, we’re relating these two things and you may think one of them is taboo or puts people off or separates the mainstream from coming in. The other one is, listen, this is the guy who had a big hand in making these things a reality. You can’t just pretend that that didn’t happen or that’s not a part of the history of this. It feels a little bit odd to me to actively try to block information about people realizing that John Lilly both had a hand in float tanks and had a lot of psychedelic experiences and research and anecdotal writings about it and stuff like that.

Graham: Obviously that sounds crazy to us. We publish John Lilly books. We go so far, not only to carry them in our float center, but to actively republish them so they can be more accurate.

Ashkahn: The flip side is, there are people out there, researchers from back in the day who definitely think that John Lilly’s association with that world discredited the legitimate science that was happening with float tanks, and in many ways cast float research out of the mainstream medical research of the day because of its association with that. I certainly don’t think it’s a very one-sided argument, or there’s not merit to thinking about this in different ways.

Graham: Yeah. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal passion and your business. We covered at the beginning a lot of the reasons why someone would want to separate these out a little bit more. If someone doesn’t do psychedelics, if they’re not familiar with a lot of the MAPS research, if that’s just not their passion area, for sure, just don’t tie it into your business as much. We don’t sell crystals at Float On, for example. That’s just not the kind of people that we are. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t do that at other centers or tie that in. In our case, we do have a big interest in psychedelic research that’s going on, and in the actual benefits of psychedelics. Just like float tanks, I think they’re hitting this interesting spot where it’s actually being documented, the good that they can do for humanity, whereas before it was more anecdotal. I love being able to promote that in the same way that we are able to promote floats.

For us at least, I really embrace that connection. That’s just a personal Float On thing.

Ashkahn: Yeah. Be true to yourself. Keep it real out there.

Graham: Yeah, exactly. Don’t think that you have to do anything because other businesses are doing it, like pay taxes or let your clients out of the float tanks or keep the doors unlocked during business hours. Anything. Do whatever you want. That’s what I’m saying.

Ashkahn: Yeah, you’re a free spirit. Go for it. You’re already here.

Graham: In the province of a float tank center.

All right. Good question. Thanks for sending that one in. If you have anything else, anything you wanna know about either of us personally, about our lives or interests, our loves.

Ashkahn: Float tanks, also, you can ask us questions about.

Graham: Or float tanks, yeah. Or just float tanks.

Ashkahn: Yeah. You can go to Floattanksolutions.com/podcast.

Graham: All right. Thanks, everyone.

Ashkahn: Talk to you tomorrow.

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