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lia float tank

There I was, on a Friday afternoon, floating in a pitch-black tank filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of salt, stressing out about earplugs, and trying to relax.

(How’s that for catching your attention?)

Dear readers, you may be shocked to hear this; but last week, I decided to try something NEW.

When my friend Lindsey and I thought about taking a mini vacation over spring break, we were thinking along the lines of a trip to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or a Caribbean cruise. But when our wallets, our calendars, and our mothers disagreed, we decided to go with a new plan: A Chicago Staycation. 

If we had been in Mexico, we would have spent most of our time relaxing on the beach. What’s a way to do something similar in cold, winter-in-March Chicago? One idea popped into my head: A sensory deprivation tank.

I first heard about the sensory deprivation tank from my friend Josh. He said it was an incredible experience that was almost impossible to describe; you had to experience it for yourself. My interest was piqued, and so was Lindsey’s when we planned our staycation. We booked our flotation tank appointments.

On Friday afternoon, we had been instructed to eat a snack beforehand so as not to focus on our hunger in the tank. With scrambled eggs in my belly and a tuna melt in Lindsey’s, we arrived at SpaceTime Tanks in Lincoln Park, not knowing knowing what to expect. We were instructed to take off our shoes and wait in the dark, calm waiting room. The owner then showed us into a room where we were given detailed instructions on how to make the most of our flotation experience.

When our rooms were ready, Lindsey and I waved goodbye and went into our separate rooms. Or at least I thought I was waving goodbye to her; I was told to take out my contact lenses, so I couldn’t see much of anything.

In each room there was a shower and a tank that looked almost like a very long file cabinet. I rinsed off in the shower and then put in earplugs — we were told that without earplugs, we’d get salt in our ears. I opened the door and entered the tank, which was filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of salt. Like the Dead Sea, with that much salt, your body immediately floats. I closed the door and it was pitch black.

I had a whole hour to float, close my eyes, relax, and enjoy having my brain freed of the senses of sound (earplugs), smell (you just have to get used to the salt smell), sight (opening my eyes and closing my eyes were the same), taste (don’t swallow the water!), and touch (floating in water set to around 94 degrees causes the body to feel weightless and like it’s not touching anything).

And now, for your reading pleasure, I present to you: Lia’s Thoughts During the Flotation Tank Hour:

Alright. Time to relax. After a stressful week, this is my time to just be alone with my thoughts.

Or wait, was I supposed to NOT have thoughts?

My earplugs are falling out. Did I not put them in right? Does my ear canal go up or down? Why don’t these earplugs fit me? I should have practiced before I came here. Why didn’t they warn me I’d need to be certified in Earplugs 101? 

Try to relax, Lia.

Maybe I should push the earplugs back in. But no, then the salt will be pushed deeper and deeper into my ear! I will have salty ears all week!

Clear your thoughts. Ohmmm…

Aw, what the heck, I’ll just take the earplugs out. Wait, where are they? Oh haha, they must have fallen out of my ears 10 minutes ago. 

I wonder how much time has passed.

Okay, NOW I’ll really be able to relax.

I bet Lindsey’s earplugs stayed in her ears. Ridiculous.

It sure is dark in here. But I think I can still hear things. Is that the receptionist answering the phone? Maybe that’s what the earplugs were for, drowning out the sounds.

Do they make brainplugs? To drown out my thoughts? Go away, thoughts!

Well, if I’m in here thinking anyway, I might as well be productive. The lady at the front desk said many writers will come here when they have writer’s block and need to think of new ideas. I wonder what I’ll blog about next week. Maybe this! Yeah, I’ll write about how I keep thinking of things when I’m trying to let my mind be blank. But other than that, I can’t think of any new blog ideas. And even if I did, how would I remember them? I can’t write them down in here.

I feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode. This is totally the kind of thing that would happen to Elaine.

When’s the last time I watched Seinfeld? I can’t believe I’m two episodes behind on Glee. Here I am, floating in here for an hour, when I could be catching up on Glee.

They should totally put TVs in these things.

Floating is fun. My skin feels soft. This reminds me, I should really go swimming. I wonder if I know anyone with an indoor pool. 

I’m going to close my eyes now. Wonder if I’ll fall asleep.

[5 minutes later]

Nope, not asleep. I wonder what would happen if I rolled onto my side. 


Or my stomach.

Ooh, this is nice!

I’ll go back on my back. My head feels like it’s going to fall in. Is my head too heavy? I’ll rest my head on my hands. Oh, this is nice. 

Is the time up yet? How long have I been here? I could probably get out now. But I’ll give it some more time.


About 30 minutes later, my time was up. I showered, got dressed, and put in my contacts. I put on my shoes and my coat, and I walked back into the real world. The world where, even while I was in the tank, taxis were picking up passengers, restaurants were serving waffle fries, and people were buying movie tickets. I had to turn on my brain to preparing for the lunch I was hosting the next day, thinking about when I would do my reading for grad school, and wondering when I’m going to get the time to clean my apartment.

And in a way, I wished I could have had another hour in the tank. 

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