Pay Attention: What I discovered from sensory deprivation

In our series, Pay Attention, we're looking at the role technology plays in our lives in a different way: its impact on our ability to focus and how we can recapture our attention from the devices that distract us. In this installment, "CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson explores one way to short-circuit the noise – by floating in a sensory deprivation tank.    


How interested am I in getting a handle on my attention? I went to Tulsa to talk to psychologists studying how sensory deprivation can help with focus. But I didn't just do it for this segment. 

After what I learned in Tulsa, I returned to New York and did it again. I visited Lift in Brooklyn to repeat the experience – this time without the sensors on my heart and head and the cameras in the room. It was far more peaceful. 

The room was dark so I spent the entire time with my eyes open. You can really lose yourself when there's no stopping point to the fishing line you cast. Time also dashed by. There was no boredom. Just being – and then suddenly I was awake and the hour was over. 

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John Dickerson floating

CBS News

If a watched pot never boils, this is the opposite. I wandered out into the light energized and yet feeling empty from an hour of no conscious thought. I wasn't inspired to write an epic poem and I didn't have an insight for the next great American innovation, but my senses were awake. 

I heard the jangling of keys from one of the employees like they were being jostled right by my ear. I tasted the tea without thinking about it, but responded to the flavor as if I were studying it for a televised taste test. 

Was I more focused for a long period of time? I don't think I was any more focused such that it kept me from the daily interruptions of my digital life, but I was acutely aware of returning to that frantic world. I was, to use the phrase, mindful. That's the route to capturing attention, so I'm going to keep the practice going and see where it leads.