My First Experience Floating in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

“Don’t try to float,” he said. “You just will.” With that, I was left alone in a small room with a sensory deprivation tank and a shower. As instructed, I took a quick shower, stripping all the product and oils off my face, body and hair. Next, I opened the lid to the tank. I mindfully climbed in and set myself on all fours for a moment, allowing my body to get used to its new surroundings. Instinctively, I grabbed the doughnut pillow, placing it under my head and as I rolled onto my back, I located the button that controls the color of the light and gave it a push. Without warning, I was plunged into darkness. After a moment of panic, I found the button and pressed it again. A red light filled the pod. I pressed it again, blue light. I settled on the blue, hoping I would feel like a mermaid floating in the ocean. A moment later, as if reading my mind, the light switched to purple, then to red. I touched my toes to the bottom of the tank and my fingers to either side of the tank. I zeroed in on the location of my tension—upper back and shoulders. I slowly removed the doughnut pillow and let my head fall further into the water. I bent my arms upward and let my hands cradle my head. I stretched out long, touching my toes to one end of the tank. I played with my hair, splaying it out underneath of me. As it touched the source of light, colored bubbles filled the ceiling. I massaged my scalp and let my hands float over my body. I felt slick and slippery. I lifted my hands to my cheeks, smoothing the salt water over my face, carefully avoiding my eyes. A chill spread through me and it was in that moment that I asked myself, “Am I even floating?” The tension returned to my upper back and shoulders. “Why wasn’t I relaxed?” I asked myself. The more I thought about it, the more I tensed up. Before long, I was a knot in salty water. Anxiety washed over me. In typical Leah fashion, I was trying too hard to do it exactly right. There was only one thing left to do, stop. So I stopped. I stopped asking myself how I should be doing it. I stopped thinking about what I should be doing. I stopped trying so dang hard to be perfect.

I forgave myself. And somehow, between gazing up and running my fingers through my long hair, I let go. I let go of trying to change people’s minds and pleasing everyone around me. I let go of all the mistakes of my past and all the things I can’t change. I kept letting go until all that was left was my breath in my ears. My eyes drifted closed and the pain drifted away. And just like that, I was floating. My arms still danced through the water. I still played with my hair, fanning it out medusa-style. I bent side to side like a banana. I star-fished, touching the four corners of the pod with my toes and fingers, and my hair tickled my back. I talked to myself as I tapped my toes to one end of the tank and pushed myself to land on my fingers at the other end of the tank. I watched the colors change more closely. The sunrise red morphed into the green of daytime, then a brilliant blue of the late afternoon, and finally a royal purple. There was a brief moment between the purple turning to red that reminded me of a sunset over the water, which made me smile.

This is freedom, I realized as a gentle melody filled the tank…

Which meant it was time to get out because my 60-minute float was over. I slowly lifted my head up, my salt-infused hair much heavier than usual, and rolled back onto all fours. I opened up the tank and gingerly climbed out. I quickly showered and dressed. But before leaving, I took one more moment to myself and let the melody finish floating out of the tank.

I walked out and immediately booked my next  float at Float Los Alamos.

Until next time,

Leah Pinkus

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