I’m not a guy who likes to be alone with his own thoughts, and I’m not really into the “spiritual” stuff: I’ve never been to a meditation retreat, I’ve watched people get ”washed in a sound bath” and couldn’t understand a reaction to a man blowing a glorified shofar in your face other than laughter, and any time I’ve tried to focus -- I mean, really, really focus -- I end up focusing on, like, what I may have in my fridge, or what’s on TV, or... anything other than focusing.
So, when I got the opportunity to lock myself in a small room, with absolutely no stimulation, alone with my own thoughts, totally naked, floating in extra-buoyant salt water, for an hour, in total, 100% pitch black, as a supposedly healthy spa experience, my initial reaction was, “well, but what am I going to do for an hour? I mean other than think??” But thinking, they say, is good for you, and I’m up for anything once. So, despite my fear, of course, I said yes.
And it was amazing.
Just Float in Pasadena is one of a growing number of sensory deprivation spas popping up around the country, but it’s also the biggest one in the world; with 11 rooms in a massive complex just outside of Downtown Pass, they’ve committed to what seems, on the surface, like a sort of ridiculous premise.
After all, “flotation therapy,” as they call it, has all the signs of hokum, especially the medical claims: a quick internet search reveals promises of everything from stress to pain relief from, well, what seems like the equivalent of taking a 60 minute stay in a hot tub. Just Float’s own site also talks of decreasing blood pressure and lowering heart rate (OK, that last one makes sense -- you are, you know, lying down for an hour.) So yeah: I was skeptical.
The waiting room at Just Float feels like what you’d see at a great dentist’s office, with cushiony chairs and couches in cool pastel colors. After walking in and signing my life away -- of course -- I was given a tablet with a quick, five-minute instructional/promotional video.
Warm music played as I was shown what to expect: I was to strip totally naked and wash myself off before stepping into the tank, where -- according to the video, which starred someone far better looking, thinner, and more female than me -- my apparently lithe body would stretch out and bob above the water, while even more warming music played. I’d hit a button along the wall, and slowly the music would fade, the lights would fade, and it would be pitch black, completely silent, and I’d be alone.
A nice guy in scrubs led me to my room, which looked like something out of a ‘90s Schwarzenegger movie: behind the first door was a small anteroom with a shower and a shelf, as well as a robe, but towards the back was where the magic was allegedly going to happen. A branded, aqua-colored door in the middle of the wall, with a massive handle pulled up to reveal a low-lit, square space, much shallower than a typical pool and much wider than a bath -- 8ft long and 5ft wide, full of 250 gallons of water and 1300lbs of salt, to ensure that I would be floating the whole time. I’d assumed that the whole thing would be a claustrophobia-inspired casket-sized space, so I was glad to see the ceiling five or so feet above me, glowing a cool blue hue, with the knowledge that I could sit up if I did get panicky a relief.
After taking that shower, I took a deep breath, closed the door to the room, and climbed in, first sitting and then laying all the way down with my head floating in the water, before hitting the button by the left side of my head to signal that I was ready to start the experience.