Very early on in the project I tried meditating after tiring myself out and, to my complete surprise, it actually worked really well. Normally meditation is just an exercise in hating myself, but for once I got myself into a headspace that I hadn’t been before and that was a really cool experience all around. After that, I decided to see if there were other avenues of relaxation to explore. I may not be able to stop the mental hamster running miles in my head, but I figured I might find something to tire it out for a little bit every now and again.
Fairly quickly into the research I found sensory deprivation tanks, and promptly stopped my quest for a while. The idea of being alone in a pod with nothing to see, smell, hear, or really touch was right up “nope” alley with a couple of hoodlums lurking just for good measure.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized this was exactly the kind of thing I needed to do for the project. Everything in me was telling me to fuck off in the opposite direction as quickly as possible, so I needed to lean in to that just to see what it was like.
The problem with that, as with most things in this project, is that floating is expensive as fuck. Most places price it around $50 for your first float, and around $80 thereafter, putting it firmly out of my price range of “free”.
But a little more digging found a Groupon for floating in a spot fairly near my new house: $35 for 60 minutes in the tank. Still high, but fuck it, #YOLO and all that jazz. I printed that coupon, punched in the address, and promptly got lost for 35 minutes because my phone doesn’t realize the Henday is now an actual loop rather than a sad cluster of construction.
My first thought upon finding the place was “holy shit, I’m too poor for this.” Honestly, look at this fucking foyer and tell me it isn’t true:
There were two other people waiting with me: a couple whose combined net worth was probably more than my entire life’s earnings. The fellow who was wrapping up (and whose pod I would eventually take over) literally walked out wearing a Burberry coat and Prada shoes. This white-person trend is not for the poor, but here I was with my coupon, dressed like a bag of smashed assholes, ready to soak in the leftover booty water of the rich.
This is my life. These are my choices.
The lady at the front desk made me watch a quick film of “how not to fuck up the tank’s filters 101” and sign away my life via waver. After that, I threw on a pair of slippers and toddled into the room. The pod was waiting. There was no turning back. I stripped down (because of course you do this shit naked), showered, threw in the complimentary ear plugs, and gingerly made my way in.
My first thoughts upon getting in and laying back were, in order: “What the fuck?”, “What the fuck?”, “Oh, this is weird,” and “I’m 100% laying in someone’s ball sweat right now.” I know the pods are heavily filtered and all that jazz, but seriously. Ball sweat.
After those first few thoughts, though, I consciously tried to get myself to relax. I was here to have an experience, after all, and dwelling on the status of the
questionable purity was only going to hold me back. So I released the tension that I was carrying, shut off the light in the pod, and settled myself in for the most relaxing roller coaster I’ve ever been on.
For the first few minutes I was totally disoriented. I knew, logically, I was floating, but I couldn’t really register what my body was doing in the space — it felt like I was simultaneously falling and spinning uncontrollably, even though neither of those things were happening. I could register that my foot was gently brushing against the side of the tank, but when I tried to actually apply some pressure against the wall I wasn’t actually touching anything at all. I knew I was okay, but my mind was not at all believing it. I ultimately used some of the mindful breathing exercises that my therapist has me working on to get through it, and eventually I settled myself down to my normal head-hamster speed rather than the head-hamster + Red Bull combo that I was experiencing at first. All this time while my head was losing it, though, my muscles were relaxing and I didn’t even know it.
Honestly, I didn’t grasp just how relaxed my muscles were until I tried to grab the neck support. My posture is hilariously awful, so I had a little bit of pain that was taking me out of the moment — when I went to reach for the support, though, my left arm was basically a glorified noodle, and it took so much effort to lift it from the water. The only times I’ve ever felt that lethargic were right after a massage, so it was totally unexpected. My neck was now more comfortable with the support, but my head was still going. So, in a last ditch effort to get myself into that relaxed place, I did the most boring thing I could think of: I ran lines.
Now, I didn’t want to sound like a fucking idiot for anyone who may have been passing by in the halls, so I decided I’d just whisper the lines to myself. Which was a good decision, because I was unknowingly so relaxed I could literally barely move my tongue. All I could really do was exhale and kind of form the basic shape of the words I was saying, which actually turned into a really cool exercise. My brain eventually got on the “relax” train and it got to the point where I was just having lines kind of float into my brain, that would get mildly worked out via my breath, and the soliloquy would just continue on that way. My prof keeps saying to just let the words exist without thinking or reacting to them before they happen, and for the first time ever that actually occurred.
Who the fuck knew floating was a useful acting technique?
Anyway, this carried on for the bulk of the experience, and I honestly didn’t feel nearly as weird about it as I expected to. By the end of it I was kind of cold (apparently a few people have reported that particular pod is chilly which the lady told me after the fact) but I couldn’t tell if my nips were cold, and I was too relaxed to check.
I realize that’s probably not something that any of you needed to know, but I found it an interesting thing to dwell on while submerged in a salt bath.
Anyway, after it was all said and done I showered off, threw some vinegar in my ear (to ward off salt crystallizing in the ear canal, apparently) and made my way back into the real world. The feeling of relaxation wouldn’t last for too long after I left because driving, but while it was there it was great. 10/10, totally recommend for people who are willing to think about some weird ass shit alone, in the dark, bopping around in a puddle of other people’s liquids.