Sensory Deprivation

flotation tank
Infinity Tank at The Float Shoppe


Overstimulation. You, me, we all know it too well.

I’ve always been sensitive to my physical surroundings. I don’t know if it’s the dancer in me, the Yogi in me, or the writer in me that makes me this way.

Bright lights, strong perfume, and big crowds have always been too much. On the other hand, I’ve lived in the city for the past decade or so.

Because this stimulation also provides inspiration. It teaches me about real life and real people. It shows me who I am as a survivor in the midst of all of this activity.

I get infatuated with the chaos. I think we all do in different ways.

How else can you explain why the world is like it is today? With so much chatter in our lives—the rushing, the busyness, the self-indulgence.

Those of you outside of the city, in your peaceful abodes, you participate too.

You’re online. The kingdom of overstimulation.

I started a new job last month—an amazing one. Through it all, more changes and stress were added to an already hectic year I’ve had since uprooting my life and moving across the country.

It had been an entire year since my last massage, back on my birthday of 2013 when I was still in Milwaukee. With the cross-country move came unemployment followed be a low-paying job.

The luxury of a massage was unspeakable. So, my birthday present this year wasn’t hard to pick out.

I was going to treat myself to not only a massage but a flotation tank as well.

Say what?

Floating is pretty popular here in Portland and I’ve been dying to try it. There’s a place right down the street from me, so I made my appointment.

I heard different things from different people. Some said it was like taking hallucinogenic drugs. Some said they were bored and restless, got out of their tanks after squirming for a half hour and left.

The thing that enticed me the most was the miraculous ability to float. I’ve never been able to. I’m an expert swimmer, but I sink like a damn rock.

See those legs up there? Boys in school used to say I had horse legs. And those horse legs ain’t light.

I was skeptical that it would work. But as soon as I laid back, I giggled as my body rose to the top of the heavily Epsom salted water.

The water is kept at skin temperature so that the body is comfortably cocooned. You want to float naked to avoid any swimsuit hassles. (Carrie Rubin, I know this sounds like an introvert’s biggest nightmare.)

flotation tank
Infinity Tank at The Float Shoppe


Being the claustrophobic gal that I am, I chose the open tank where the room is quaint and steamy. Turning off the light is optional by the push of a white button attached to the tank.

There is no music and the room—or enclosed tank pod if you go that route—is soundproofed. Earplugs are provided so you can connect with the cadence of your heartbeat and breath.

Like many others, I spent the first half hour of the 90-minute session getting situated, my mind racing about the domestic tasks I should have been completing that Sunday instead of “wasting” my day at the spa.

Naturally there were some awkward moments, like earplug mishaps and salt in the eyes.

I was reluctant to turn off the light, because when you do…it’s pitch effing black. Seriously, you can’t see your hand in front of your face.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to push that button to become fully immersed in the sensory deprivation experience that I was paying for.

When I was thrown into absolute darkness, I was reminded of a time Mr. H and I were in a cave in Texas, just outside of Austin. Part of the tour has a very special treat for us claustrophobic types.

Once deep inside, the lights are shut off. Darkness encompasses everything—your body and your mind.

A tingling on my neck, face, and shoulders caused me to splash/flail into an upright position in my flotation tank. I punched the button to turn on the light and my eyes darted around the room, searching for the Boogie Man.

Cut me some slack. I was a die-hard believer in the Closet Monster well into my teen years.

But, it was just me. It turns out I had surrendered to a state of complete relaxation.

So, I tried again. I turned off the light and to comfort myself, I covered my belly with my hands to feel the rise and fall of my own breath.

I don’t really have a way to describe what happened next, because I don’t remember. I was in the zone of weightlessness—perhaps I dozed off for a bit.

All I know is that I reconnected with myself in an entirely new way. What was complicated became simple. What was stressful became serene. What was loud became hushed.

This sense of calm stayed with me throughout the week, and my sleep was on a whole other level. I tried something new, something a little kooky and scary, and I took myself to a place we adults don’t like to visit.

Vulnerable territory, where our only duties are to be naked, quiet, and still.

Will I ever float again? You bet your ass.

25 thoughts on “Sensory Deprivation

    1. It was so neat! Me and another gal were there for our first time together, so we got a short tour. She had a look of envy in her eyes when she saw my open tank. Hope she was able to relax okay in there.

      Those pods are too futuristic for my taste. 🙂

  1. First, let me say those are not horse legs you’ve got. What a great post on sensory deprivation or more properly sensory awakening. I’d love to go in the tube. I’ve been in some situations that removed most outside influences and when I was out the feeling stayed with me.

    Britt. You would love sailing at night, alone on deck, far from land.

    1. LOL…thanks! I can see why some would like the enclosed pod, but I think I’ll stick with the open tank while I get “my feet wet”. 🙂

      My ex-stepdad had a sailboat, so I did a decent amount of sailing when I was younger. I love it.

    1. You would love it, Roy! Floating is one of those newer, and somewhat mysterious, wellness trends. Once you get past the “wait, what the heck is this?” part, I think most can get on board.

      Yes, Jersey is quite a place. That’s yet another reason why I love your blog so much.

    1. You should TOTALLY try it sometime, honey! Do they have these in France? I don’t even know, but obviously you can find one somewhere on your travels.

      Haha! Yes, Portland’s the best. 🙂

        1. Looks like you had a fabulous time! We’ve only had a couple of visitors this year but we are expecting more fam in 2015. There are almost too many awesome things to do, so you have to narrow it down. 🙂

  2. Oh yes, you lost me at the float naked part. I’d spend the whole time worrying about someone having a hidden camera and videotaping me, thereby counteracting the serenity I should feel. :/

    But it does sound very relaxing. Give me a swimsuit and no other people around me, and I might just give it a go!

    (Thanks for the mention. 🙂 )

  3. Always wanted to try this Britt, but I’m claustrophobic too and couldn’t deal with a tank – great that there’s an open version. It sounds like a wonderful experience. Hope you’re still feeling the effects 🙂

  4. Britt sounds wonderful to me, the closest I came to finding that kind of stillness is when I use to do Thai Chi. I was amazed at where the mind and body can go, into a golden ball of light and nothingness. Good for the soul. You will be ready for a crazy writing year ahead. Happy new -rejuvenated year ahead.

  5. Super you got to try it out Britt! I’ve had a floating experience in a small pool a couple of years ago. It was part of a day spa treatment I shared with my husband. The pool was private for us and it was a wonderful treat although I’d like to try the private tank as well cause like you said it really reconnects you with yourself..for a moment (and who knows that moment may be just enough haha)

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