That time I locked myself in a sensory deprivation pod
The early part of 2014 was a really frustrating time for me. Following a nasty breakup, a stagnant writing career, and just. . . winter, an unshakeable slump led me to seek guidance from the patron saint of the flaky and uninsured: the tarot card-reading lady by where I work. She mentioned that a “mental and spiritual blockage” was “dimming my light,” and although I had no idea what the heck she was talking abou,t I ensured her, nodding yes, that I knew exactly what she was talking about. In an attempt to brighten my light (yeah?) I resolved to step up my prayer and meditation practice, exercise, and just attempt to be a healthier person in general.
Then I saw a deal for a session in a floatation pod on Groupon.
Being the good obsessive underachiever that I am, I immediately thought, “This will solve all of my problems!” Instant gratification for me these days doesn’t go much further than Xeletrator hand dryers, so when I learned that many people used the pods to further their mind/body experience, I can clearly remember the phrase “f*ck yes!” making its way into my brainwork. My appointment booked and paid for online, I went in for my session the following week: sixty minutes of sensory-deprived weightlessness on a cold Friday evening.
I rinsed off before stepping into the pod. Set at 95 degrees F, it felt slightly warm, though relatively close to body temperature. I closed the top, shut off the lights, and forcefully committed myself into experiencing the most profound and intense meditation $90 could afford me. I focused on my breathing. I inhaled, and exhaled, and inhaled, and repeated, times ten thousand. I focused on the sound and feeling of my heartbeat. I attempted to ignore any bubbles that surfaced around my skin, reassuring myself that they were not indeed eels, somehow released through the jet that supplied water to the pod, and that I was, although alone in the dark with only my eel-obsessed brain to entertain me, safe from said nightmares conjured up within the dark depths of my mind. I went back to focusing. Meditate, meditate, MEDITATE GOD DAMMIT!! I tried so hard. Not much was happening. My feet kept hitting the sides of the tank. I could hear people stomping around on the floor above me (this was actually really terrible, as the entire purpose of the pod is to provide total sensory deprivation from any weight, light, and sound. BOOO!). I entertained the idea that maybe someone was stomping on the floor of my mind (!), but after another few minutes I realized that, no, someone was definitely vacuuming up there, and that’s when my brain went into fight or flight or “this is stupid” mode, and I got really pissed off. I paid $90 for this, and all I was counting on doing was lying there in the dark while the pod solved all of my problems and it wasn’t freaking working!
So I stretched out. I twisted around like a fish in water, bending at my sides and arching my back. I stopped thinking about it. I gave up trying to force the perfect experience. And that’s when a tiny dot of light entered my field of vision.
I concentrated on the light as it was literally the only thing going on in the pod, and I just looked at it, not focusing terribly hard, but not looking away either. As I focused on the dot I began to notice very dim shades of light along my perhipheral. The longer I focused only on the dot, the brighter and more expansive the other lights became, until before me displayed several whirls of blue-green lights: always moving, constantly changing shape and direction. At this point I experienced what I can only describe as the sun rising, not quite like a flash of light, but more like a curtain was raised, slowly revealing brightness in a fluid motion. The next part becomes very hard to put into words, but it was almost as if a film had developed over my eyes, keeping me from jumping in, restraining me. I remember wanting to commit to one specific section of the display, but the film kept me detained in my place—not allowing me to attach, but insisting that I view the show from afar. As much as I wanted to jump in and feel the movement of colors as intensely as I could, I simply could not, and was forced to admire as a passive spectator. I stayed there for a few short minutes.
And then it was gone.
I tried hard to get it back but quickly resigned upon realizing that forcing it was not how I got there in the first place. So I lay waiting. As always when I’m in the middle of doing something, I suddenly had to pee but really didn’t want to get out of the pod. I spent the last several minutes of my session figuring out how many minutes I had left in said session, and weighing the pros and cons of getting out versus just peeing in the pod. I came up with no “pros” for either argument, as it was either pee in here and risk having the water turn bright blue, dodging the humiliating glares of staff members and people too moral to pee in a several thousand dollar floatation pod, and being asked to leave, or get out of the pod and be cold for a few minutes. Both options seemed unthinkable at the time (being wet and naked really is the worst, though at least I would be spared peeling a wet bathing suit off my body, a sensation I can only compare to separating deli slices from one another—but you know, on your body). So I just stayed in the pod. I enjoyed my weightless state for the remaining few minutes, making bubbles with my mouth and splashing water on my chest.
Needless to say, the pod didn’t solve my problems, It didn’t bring me a writing job or a new relationship or a profound spiritual awakening. It did, however, remind me not to get hung up on the small stuff, or I’ll miss the whole big picture in all its beautiful glory (or however that Bruce Lee quote goes that’s much more eloquent than anything I could ever think of myself). Sometimes I have to let go of obsessing over every tiny detail in order to experience the benefit of the greater good. For example, it took me seven months to write this piece. With each attempt at completion, with each paragraph I edited, came even more frustration as I continued to allow myself to become obsessed with creating the “perfect” essay. I had to put it down.
When I picked it back up, I realized it’s sort of like when I’m trying to weave my way through a large crowd of people. I can’t look directly in front of me: I have to look at where I’m going. If I spend too much time focusing on all the small spaces I can fit in order to move forward, they will always seem too small, or I won’t realize I could have gone until it’s too late. I have to keep my eye on where I’m headed. Yeah, I may run into a few people along the way—and by that I mean I am constantly running into people everywhere, all the time—but I do reach my destination eventually, as opposed to just standing still, intimidated and overwhelmed by all that passes by.
Krissy Howard is a writer living in Queens, NY. She creates humorous content for her blog, thankyourodserling, and her work has appeared on The Hairpin, xoJane, and Mouthy Mag.