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 In Perswaysion

I had heard of the tanks at Floating Shanti in downtown Fayetteville from a friend in Southern Pines, who said I had to try it. After Cryotherapy, I guess I’ve developed a reputation for being down for anything.

The place is pretty, right? If I’m going to be alone with my thoughts for an hour in a pitch-black chamber full of warm saltwater, this is as nice a place as any to do it.

So, float tanks are said to provide relief for chronic pain (which I don’t have), by lessening the pull of gravity on the body. They are also said to alleviate stress and anxiety (which I do have) by giving the brain a break from processing information, which helps inspire creativity or new ways of thinking.

Inside, there’s a sign instructing you to leave your shoes at the door, slip into a pair of their sandals, and put your phone away. It smells like warm citrus, and there’s a table full of “grown-up” coloring books to doodle in while you wait. I don’t wait long, though, because a woman with glowing skin soon emerges from the back and offers me tea.

My dirty-ass flip flops are in the cubby by the door.

As she assembles paperwork, I thumb through a cookbook called “Flavors from the Void,” with recipes dreamed up by chefs during their hour in float tanks in Portland, Oregon (where else?). I’m reading about a black hash, featuring a yellow egg yolk (which represents you) floating in a dark mass of cow tongue, purple potatoes and butter (which represents the tank), when the glowing goddess tells me the room is ready. No offense to cow tongue, but I’m hoping my time in the tank yields better ideas.

I’m led through a hallway to a room in the back, with the tank on one side and a shower on the other. I’m instructed to wash thoroughly, including my hair. This is because the 11 inches of water in the tank are saturated with 1,200 pounds of epsom salts, and are not drained before each session. Before entering, you have to agree to pay anywhere from $200-$1,000 if you get something in the tank that clogs the filter, or if any body oils or *bodily fluids* make the solution unusable for the next client.

Climbing into a warm bath that just served someone else is a little disconcerting. But I swim in public pools, and I’m wearing a bathing suit, so it’s not all that different. Probably. The shampoo and conditioner aren’t marked and the consistency is such that I can’t tell which is which, so my hair is immediately a hot mess. Sigh. I put in a pair of earplugs, provided to keep the salt at bay.

The dim light in the tank cycles through the colors of your seven chakras (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet and yes, I had to Google that), but you can turn it off and elect for total darkness if you like. The spray bottle on the left is there in case you need to rinse salt out of your eye.

The tank is probably about 7 feet long, and wide enough for two people. You know, if that was allowed.

There’s a speaker so you can pump in your own music, but it had a traditional headphone jack and I didn’t bring an adapter for my iPhone. Silence it is, but that’s what I wanted anyway. I turn the lights off in the room and face what’s to be my home for the next hour of my life. Not creepy at all, right?

I step in, pull the door shut behind me and lower myself down into the water. My legs float out from underneath me. As I relax I realized they’ve managed to create a formula that keeps your head suspended at the perfect level. Props.

So, when I say you float effortlessly, I mean you can’t put your arms and legs down. You can, but they spring back up. And when I say it’s quiet I mean you can hear your heart beating in your ears. You can hear the whoosh of air through your nose when you breathe in and out. When the occasional movement causes a splash of water? Deafening.

It’s dark enough for me, but I have to try it with the lights off. That doesn’t last long. Ignoring the fact that I am completely slippery and vulnerable to sudden murder, floating inside a pitch-black tank just seems like I’m inviting something to slither up out of the water — physically or metaphorically. Either way, it’s giving me major Stranger Things vibes and I am not having it.

The constant drumming of my heartbeat is driving me crazy (I feel you, Edgar Allan Poe) so I decide to close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I settle into a comfortable position with my arms floating above my head. Gradually, the sounds diminish. My brain decides it doesn’t have to worry about my arms and legs. They, along with everything else, just … go away. Space and time lose their dimensions. I feel my brain ratchet down a few notches. All this happens in what I assume to be about 20 minutes.

The rest of the hour goes by quickly. The light clicks on, signaling my time is up, a rude interruption from another world.

I assume I looked just like this lovely woman, who hangs outside of the float room. I don’t know why there is a basketball hoop.

Did I have any spiritual or creative breakthroughs? No. Not even a single cow tongue. But I did doze off for a few minutes. It was the best tiny nap of my life. When I emerged from the tank, I was more relaxed than I have been in awhile, and the feeling stayed with me all day.

The thought of being in that space still gives me some goosebumps — there may be something hiding in the quiet I’ll eventually have to face. Yes, I’ve already booked another session. If the experience didn’t cost more than a dollar per minute I’d be back every week.

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