When one of DGO’s advertising gurus asked me if I wanted to go float recently, I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Float? Uh... float?” I asked, confused.
What, pray tell, was a float? Did it have something to do with the river? A pool party? Some sort of weird new drug? The answer to whether I wanted to do any (or all) of those would have been a resounding no, but as it turns out, floating has nothing to do with the river, a pool, or a novel new street drug anyway. Nope. It turns out that floating is allowing your body to suspend on top of salty, womb-temperature water in a very dark room. It’s much more sophisticated.
It’s also much more salty – Epsom salty, in fact. Our float destination was Salt360 Float Studio (3750 N. Main Ave.), a float studio that uses 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt in just 12 inches of water to create a solution that buoys your body to the top of the tank. The water is warmed to 95 degrees.
The idea behind floating is that the warm water and lack of stimuli will help you relax and clear your mind, which could ultimately lead to a meditative state. You know... kind of like those sensory deprivation chambers of old. The giant metal ones that look like oversized pills or Medieval torture devices.
I have admittedly not tried a sensory deprivation chamber, but I have seen them on TV (“The Simpsons” counts, you guys), and I knew if this float business was anything like what Lisa and Homer went through, my answer was going to be hard pass. Shutting myself in a metal container did not seem relaxing; it seemed like a recipe for disaster, and/or trying to claw my way out.
“Yeah, no... I don’t want to do that. I’m pretty claustrophobic, and I don’t really sit still. Like, ever,” I said.
“Come on!” she said. “It’s actually really cool. You should try it.”
This back and forth went on for a few days until I gave in. I’ll do pretty much anything for a story, so I agreed to float with the stipulation that my DGO ad buddy go along with me. I needed someone around to shove the Valium in my mouth in case I freaked out.
She, of course, did NOT end up going, and left me to face my fears alone. (Thanks a lot, Liz.)
I found out quickly, though, that my fears of dying at Salt360 were unwarranted. Their version of floating is more spa treatment than torture chamber, with individual pools and modern private rooms. There is nothing enclosed about it – the tubs have high ceilings and there’s plenty of room in there to splash around. Each room comes with a raindrop shower to wash away any grooming products pre-soak, and the salt residue after. They even provide ear plugs – the awesome silicone kind.
As nice as the digs at Salt360 are, though, I was still slightly nervous about spending a solid 90 minutes in a room devoid of... anything. Luckily, owner Cassidy Bruno – a calming force in the madness – caught on. She walked me through the process, even giving me a few float hacks along the way.
“You can always roll up one of the washcloths and prop open the door a bit if you need some light,” she said. “We’ve had people do that. It might let out some of the warmth, though.”
I was left to my own devices a few minutes later. I’ll be honest with you. The process of lowering myself into a dark tank of water, accessible only through a door in the wall of the room, was not an easy one. All I could think of was what could be lurking within its confines.
As you may have guessed, there was nothing in that room other than 12 inches of salty water and me. I knew this because I did indeed wuss out and stick a washcloth in the door for some light. Crisis averted.
The first 30 minutes: This was the toughest. My mind was a disaster – a cluttered, cobwebbed disaster – and it was tough to relax. I had email to check, stories to edit, and phone calls to make. Laying in the (admittedly very nice) water felt like a luxury I could not afford. I distracted myself by counting the beats of my heart – which I could hear in my ears, thanks to those impenetrable ear plugs – and spinning in circles as I floated freely on top of the water.
30 minutes in: Relaxation attempt, round one. Or, I think it was half an hour in. I was deprived of a clock, but it felt like half an hour. It also felt like I doing pretty well. I was committed to this process, and I was no longer worried about the dark. I removed the towel, shut the door, and tried to relax. And then it hit me – Epsom salts right in the eye. And the nose. Sitting up had caused water to drip across my face, and in case you’re wondering, Epsom salts frigging burn.
45 minutes in: Relaxation attempt, round two. Once the burning abated, I gave myself a little pep talk. It’s time for you to really focus, I said, and stop being such a mess. I remembered reading somewhere that if you’re having trouble relaxing, you should talk to each of your body parts, from your toes to your head, and tell them to relax.
Toes, relax. Foot, relax. You get the idea. My arms released themselves from the death grip they had on each other behind my head, and my toes unclenched. I relaxed.
I’m not going to tell you I had any float inner-epiphanies or cubby wubby womb-room meditations, but I did, indeed, relax. Screw email, I thought. This room is warm, and it’s so comfortable in this water. Whoever it is – whatever it is – can wait.
And then, just as quickly as it started, it was over. The rest of the time had gone by in a flash. Three solid knocks – the ones to alert me that my float was over – invaded the silence that had finally washed over me, and the spell was broken.
I don’t know if I could have ever gotten to the meditative state that some floaters can get to – I’m just not sure that’s in my DNA. But I do know that I was a little sad to wave goodbye to my tank on the way out, destined for real life with sopping wet hair. Destined for noise.
If you’re in the market for a new way to center yourself, I think this floating business might be worth the time commitment. It might even be worth the burning nasal cavities. Would I have told you this a few days ago? No. No I wouldn’t have. I would have told you to run for the hills. But I’m telling you this now.
I’ll be back, Salt360, and next time I’ll just shut the door and take my chances. It’s probably safer than Epsom salts in the nasal cavity anyway.