Monday over Coffee

Need a Word of Encouragement?


Toward the end of last year, I felt I needed some spiritual focus, so I tried something I’d never tried before — a sensory deprivation tank. I brought my Birdwell bathing suit and went to a place offering an hour in a float tank near my home. 

I filled out some forms and went into a nicely appointed room with a floatation pod in it. Once inside, the pod provides a pitch-black, light-proof, soundproof environment. It’s filled with about a foot of water heated to the same temperature as one’s skin. Dissolved Epsom salt creates a specific gravity that allows the person inside to float effortlessly on the surface. The primary function of an isolation tank is to eliminate the inputs from your external senses so you can explore your consciousness. While I was on board with this ambitious goal, my main aim was to simply reduce the distractions bouncing around in my head that might be blocking me from a better connection to God during the hour.

It didn’t really work. The main thing I thought of in the tank was... it sure is weird that I’m floating in this tank. But then I thought, the clock is running and the point here is to connect with God, so let’s start. Ready? Go. Nothing seems to be happening here. This is pretty boring. How much longer in here? Come on, concentrate. I’m here to connect. But maybe I should just go on a hike next time. Or try one of those retreat centers. No, this is better because there are no distractions. So, let’s refocus. It’s really dark in here, isn’t it? Suppose I can’t get out? I can’t really feel my body anymore. I wonder if anyone’s trying to call or text me right now. This must be safe, right? Time’s going by and I’m not even praying. This is a waste of time. I’m just here floating in a tank. In the dark. I wonder if I should try this again sometime. Maybe you get better at it the more you do it. But I’m not sure if this is really my thing. I hope I can get out. This went on for about 45 minutes.

Not exactly a spiritual breakthrough, but it certainly wasn’t a useless experiment. It held up the nature of my mind to me. It was as if I was at a train station. I got on a train of thought and after a few moments, I hopped off. Then I got on another and, in a bit, hopped off again. Then another, then another. It was obvious this wasn’t just what I was doing in the isolation tank; it’s what I’m always doing. Some of the trains of thought lead to actions, form behaviors, lead to habits which craft character, leading one way. Others just criss-cross these tracks back and forth and head off elsewhere. Others, most in fact, just float around in my head, then float out. It’s the nature of the human mind. At least mine and I expect yours too.

But what if at least for this week, we gave our train station a theme? We could call it Thanksgiving. What if, as we float hither and yon, when we realize our minds are floating about, we try to bring them back to center with a single thought: Gratitude?

What if, for just this week, that single thought led to a few actions — a note to a friend which expresses thanks; an appreciative encouragement to a family member; a generous donation of time or help to someone in need because we can, due to our station in life; perhaps just an act of grace, one devoted to God who’s given you consciousness. Maybe just a week of such action could become a habit which influences our character. It might even give us a glimmer of a new direction here, near the end of a difficult year. You don’t have to do it — it’s just an idea I’m floating.

God — 
The mind You have given me is a curious and marvelous thing. Help me better direct it formatively this week toward actions which build habits that say this one thing: Thank you. 

—Greg Funderburk