When you’re naked, enclosed in a completely dark pod and wearing ear plugs, inside a dark room, it’s best not to think about what happens if there’s an earthquake. Or a fire. Or if you have a heart attack. For an activity that boasts stress relief as a major benefit, floating has a million and one potentials for anxiety attacks.
I’d been curious about the idea of floating in a sensory deprivation tank – especially since psychedelic and plot-changing things always happened inside them in Fringe, one of my favorite TV shows ever — but they’d never made it to the top of my to-do list. Then on the first of December I had an unscheduled afternoon in Seattle. As I walked through the rain toward Plum Bistro, a noted vegan restaurant, I saw the spanking new Urban Float. The promise in the window caught my eye: “Renew. Refresh. Revive.” Exactly what I needed! I veered away from the vegan restaurant and toward Urban Float.
Turned out they’d opened about five days earlier and were already almost fully booked. But they said they could get me in for a three o’clock, and as a newbie I qualified for the $45 intro deal going on through the end of December, 2017. The woman at the reception desk offered to show me a pod so I’d know what I was getting into. The place is extremely clean, almost to the point of sterility – which is good, if you’re climbing naked into a pod full of water – and smelled like new carpet. I decided to go for it.
I came back at the appointed time. A different woman showed me into my room and schooled me in pod 101. There’s a light switch inside, a call button in case you have an emergency, and a handle to lift your lid up or pull it down. Also a spray bottle with normal water, in case you get the salty, stinging pod water in your eyes. The room has a private shower and a bench for undressing. Doors lock automatically so people can’t get in without a key. She gave me a choice of having music on the whole time, not at all, or at the beginning and end of my 60-minute session. I chose this last option. She showed me a list of about 20 musical selections, including about 10 varieties on Native American drumming, something called urban playground and meditation music with piano, which I chose. She told me to put in my ear plugs, then shower and wash my hair, but not to use conditioner before entering the pod. Then she left me on my own.
After undressing and showering, I climbed in. The pod is roomy – much wider, taller and longer than a coffin. I’d opted to turn off the light in my room, so the only light was the purple one inside the pod. There’s about a ton of Epsom salt in the water so I floated on top.
I reached up for the handle and pulled it down until I was enclosed, shutting my eyes so that salty water wouldn’t fall off my arm blind me. So far, so good. Then I pressed the light button.
Somehow I expected a dimmer switch. Nope. Blacker than black. Argh! Next thing I knew, I somehow lost track of both the light button and the handle, so that I was encased in terrifying darkness. And naked. And scared of getting salt in my eyes. I tried to calmly breathe the humid (rapidly disappearing?) air and methodically feel around for the light button. After a long minute or two, I finally found it. Purple light had never looked so good. I opened up the pod and took a breather.
After getting my heart rate back to normal, I decided to try again. This time, I closed the pod and waited a minute or two. When I was ready, I kept one hand on the handle and the other on the light switch and turned it off. It probably took me five to ten minutes to relax enough to let go of both. I also realized that the small pool noodle wedged in the pod hinge was probably for my neck. That helped an awful lot, because my head felt like it weighed 200 pounds.
It didn’t seem like I’d ever relax, and of course there was no clock in there. But I’d estimate that the last two-thirds of my time, I floated past caring. I let go. I made water angels with my arms. Wiggled around. Got still. It was pretty rad. Will I do it again? Probably.
If you’re in Seattle, you can give it a try. They’re running specials for newbies and on monthly memberships through December. This is the fourth Urban Float in the Seattle area. They also have one in Vancouver, Washington. A Houston location is opening in 2018.