ImageYou’re in a coffin floating in half a foot of unrecycled salt water. The air is warm and swampy, it’s cave dark, and there’s a slight burn in your body orifices. You’ve been floating for fifteen minutes, but it feels like a few hours.

Payment for Pain

Deprivation chambers fall into the expanding “payment for pain” category of self-enhancement. The idea is that, isolated from noise, light, and people, you enter a womb-like meditative reverie. “Womb-like” is the operative adjective in deprivation chamber literature, so I will be using it frequently.

According to the gurus on Wikipedia, by the end of the session, users enter an “extended theta state” that can be used ” as a tool for enhanced creativity and problem solving or for superlearning.”

“People sometimes get disappointed because they get in and nothing happens,” whispers the Float Matrix attendant as he opens the door to the tomb-like, womb-like chamber. He’s persuasively quiet, like a librarian. “But that’s the point. Let nothing happen.”

The chamber is surrounded by white curtains, like a hospital bed. It’s long and narrow, with enough height to sit up and length to float horizontally.

He leaves, I shower, disrobe, crawl into the vessel, close the hatch, and begin to wait for nothing to happen.

Waiting for Nothing

For fifteen restless minutes, I pitch a good fight against nothing. My dad, a retired clinical social worker, calls this kind of meandering internal monologue “monkey chatter.” My monkey won’t shut up–obsessed with futures, plans, people, debates, and predictions.

After a half an hour, I start to get it.

My breath and heartbeat slow to a calm, and, to the best of my memory, womb-like state of relaxation. My thoughts begin that kind of shape-shifting pre-sleep dreaminess.

An Expensive, Salty Bathtub?

But the feeling doesn’t last. I get restless and fidgety. Salt gets on my eyes. I remember the line in the contract that I signed that promises to levy a $1k fine if any body fluids, apparatuses, appendages, etc. make it into the water, because they apparently rarely replace it.


I’m halfway out of the pod before the librarian attendant comes back for me. “Perfect timing,” he squeaks from behind the curtain. I shower, change, and exchange pleasantries on the experience.

When I offer my evaluation–“half relaxing, half restless,”–the attendant assures me that this is common. I express hesitant interest in returning, but pass on the $150, 3 session discount.

I don’t mention my suspicion that a lot of this could be recreated in a deep bathtub with the lights turned out, because this image is the epitome of creepiness. That, or floating naked in a salty coffin.