I have returned to the United States at last. While abroad, I tried floating, which is complete sensory deprivation. It is something that eventually catches the eyeball of anyone who fancies themselves interested in health and wellness, which is every millennial, right? So it was perfect. Possible greater inner peace, time and space for thoughts — sign me up!
I love being a guinea pig, and I’m here to report back.
When I first walked through the door, as before a massage, I filled out a form. There was a man who looked like he was into health and wellness (think Whole Foods) at the front desk, and I asked him what got him interested in working at a float center. He elaborated on travel and mentioned getting sick while on a meditation retreat in India (haha) and that floating was the best he had found for meditation.
When it was my turn, I was given access to the shower, bathroom, and tub. Tub size varies from place to place, but mine was as big as they come. “Even ball players can float inside,” the man who owned the business explained.
After warning that you don’t ever want salt water to get into your eye, mouth, or ear and after telling me to get wet in the shower beforehand so that the earplugs would expand (again, I’m sure this varies from place to place ha), the owner left me alone.
At this location, I got the whole bathroom and shower to myself.
After undressing and getting my earplugs wet, I got into the tub and shut the door.
I’m not one to feel claustrophobic, but it did feel eerie and also warmer than I’d like, so I left the top up to let the air in at first. I could smell the incense burning, which is not my favorite scent, but I figured it could help with relaxation. Even though the water was the temperature of my body, I could still feel it.
The idea is complete sensory deprivation: no sound, no sensation on the skin, no sight, and no taste (if you’re not swallowing salt water). Once the top and side doors were shut, I could smell nothing. The amount of salt in the water keeps you buoyant easily.
After getting adjusted to the tank for five minutes, I cleared my mind of anything mundane like errands or worries, things that don’t serve dwelling on anyway. I pondered the existence of life, much like airplane thoughts, only more in-depth. My thoughts were clearer! Then my back started hurting.
There was no hallucinating or expanding of consciousness haha, although you could have guessed that with my kind of every-duck-in-a-row mind, there would have been none. I did clear my mind and focused on breathing. My thoughts were a step above shower thoughts. Focusing on breathing is important in the tank, they say. I do have a bad upper back from court reporting, and staying in one position for over an hour is not pleasant for me, in any situation. I like to turn over or move, but if you do so, the dreaded salt drop will get into the eye! Thankfully this didn’t happen until the 45-minute mark. It also got into my mouth. Let me just say that, there’s nothing quite like the taste of salty, salty water — except maybe muffins that you’ve put too much cinnamon in because you’re seven years old and think more means more!
“Don’t rub. Don’t rub. Don’t rub.
Okay. Clear thoughts again.”
It was definitely hilarious at times, and it reminded me of getting a haircut, only I’d never pay for only the experience of a haircut — well, maybe, just once, if someone said great things about the thoughts you could have while in the chair.
I like trying new things, and I’m glad that I tried it. The music came on in the last five minutes (as it plays during the first five), and before it ended, I got up, showered, dressed, paid, and Ubered home, like a true American. The walk to the float was worth the price I paid — it was beautiful and relaxing — but you will want to drive home as your hair will still be wet.
My summary, which you’ve probably already assumed, is that I do not recommend floating, but I can see the benefits for those that do not have back problems and for those that are imaginative creatives or for those who have high-paced lives. For those who meditate frequently, it could be a treat. It is something worth trying if any of the aforementioned sounds like you. Some say that it takes two or three times to get deeper into a meditative state, but for me, I know that massages were made for my body and personality. In the end, I realized I enjoy sensation more than most things.
Have you tried sensory deprivation? What did you think?