Deprivation Chamber

Deprivation Chamber

Last week I chatted with a coworker about his visit to a deprivation chamber. It’s a super small, enclosed tub with no light where you’re supposed to go float and meditate without anything around to stimulate your senses. I think it’s to re-create the feeling of being in the womb, or some crunchy granola hippy thing like that. I asked him how he liked it.

“It was cool at first,” he said. “The thing that everyone talks about is that without any other sound, you can hear your heartbeat through the water.”


“Yeah, it’s over powering almost. You can hear it running through you as loud as an instrument playing in a room.”

I tried to imagine floating in a black tank of water where the only sound was my loud, throbbing heart. That frightened me. When I can’t sleep at night, sometimes I get distracted by the beating within my chest. I hear it throb deep in my ear that’s smothered down on the pillow, and the rhythmic thuds tease me. I’m beating. I’m beating. I’m beating, but I can stop at any moment. Once you start hearing your own heart, you can’t unhear it. You think if you quit paying attention, it might stop.

“That sounds interesting,” I replied back to him.

“Yeah for a bit… but then I got bored. After about fifteen minutes I made a little game for myself where I tried to bounce from one side of the tank to the other,” he said.

He waved his arms slowly while he spoke, mimicking volleying through that dark chamber. Almost like a game kids would play in the pool. Slowly twisting in the water, like a seal trapped under ice.

“Plus I’ve been cleaning salt out of my ears for days,” he continued.

“Salt?” I asked.

“Yeah, they up the salinity so you float without trying. To make the meditation better I guess,” he said.

“I think I’d prefer floating in the Dead Sea, where you could stare up at the sky while you find yourself,” as I spoke, I pictured a sky like Texas. Expansive and so open that it almost feels suffocating. Arms stretched out in the water, the chiseled white clouds would reflect down onto the gentle lake of salt and bodies.

“Me too,” he said.

The truth is, I don’t usually need to be alone to find my zen. I like people. Enjoy their company and dramas, their humor. Monday afternoon after a long day of work, someone on my team was frustrating me but I wasn’t ready to turn my back on the human race and float in a dark chamber for an hour. I made plans to have dinner with my roommates that night, and drove out to the barn to hack Simon. It was going to be the night I tried cantering with the neck rope – an untested skill since I’ve just now gotten comfortable cantering him around on my bareback pad with his bridle.

Then at the barn I found Simon left inside with a sprung shoe, and spent thirty minutes trying to pry it off with no luck. Even though he stood quietly for this for a while, eventually his patience wore thin and he kept dramatically snapping his leg away from me while I tried to pick at the shoe. I reflectively popped him on the butt with my hand to reprimand him, and burst a blood vessel on my knuckle. The skin stung as I watched it swell and turn purple, the blood from my beating heart running to the surface.

Well meaning people at the barn kept asking me if I managed to get the shoe off (they even tried to help), but each time someone asked the question I wanted to beat them with the pliers that I ineffectively held in my hand. When I finally went to put Simon back in his stall, defeated, I could barely keep myself from crying while I threw him a flake of hay before leaving.

Driving home in the privacy of my car, I let the tears go. I texted my roommates and told them to do dinner without me. I wanted to be alone. I hated myself for crying about not being able to ride my horse – something so trivial, so stupid. As I pulled my car into the garage of my empty house, I craved Tim’s steady companionship more than I have in a long time. All I wanted to do was to waltz in through the kitchen in my riding boots with messy hair, plop down on the couch and eat takeout with him while we talked about our days. To hear the latest of his office drama. To vent to him about crazy old so and so and their latest poor life choice.

When I opened the door, Eliot barked his high pitched welcome to me and Pascale trotted behind us as I opened up the patio door to my porch. I sat outside in the dark for a long time while the dogs sniffed around the yard. Because I could not have the person I wanted, I wanted no one. I hoped the roommates would stay out for a long dinner.

Sitting alone in the dark, I focused in on the quiet. My ankles throbbed a bit from my tight, zipped up riding boots. Beating of the blood, of the heart. The oak tree in my back yard hid the stars and the weak porch light from the neighbor behind me. Summer threatens Texas but hasn’t arrived yet, and the air felt light and tipped towards chilly. In the dark and quiet, my mind floated from one side of my life to the other. Bouncing from the past into the now, back and forth in the cool, salty dark.

15 thoughts on “Deprivation Chamber

  1. I love, love, LOVE this. You write so beautifully.

    “Because I could not have the person I wanted, I wanted no one.” – Wow, really powerful.

  2. Getting a sprung shoe off is ridiculously hard. This post reminded me (because of the good writing) …about those grad schools…I need an update. 🙂

  3. I hate the pain that you have to endure to write these things, but damn your writing is beautiful. Count on me to be the first in line when you write your book.

    1. +1 to all this

      I am so sorryfor your pain but the way you express yourself is so stirring that I have no doubt your words help others

  4. What a beautiful and powerful piece. As others have said, it sucks that you have to go thru this to be able to write about it, but your raw emotion really comes thru as genuine and I think that’s what makes each post so endearing.

  5. You are doing very well. My husband nearly lost me nine and a half months ago in a horse wreck caused by stupid decisions on both our parts. You can’t even make the slightest reference to it without having him shut down for the day. I can handle talking about it – I’m very curious about the whole thing, really – because I have zero memory from the time I climbed on the horse until the following morning in a hotel room. I’m glad you can write about your loss. My husband can’t even mention nearly losing me. I hope one day you find happiness again.

  6. Thanks for sharing your beautifully designed words and Your heart. When I started reading I thought Oh, Really – a Flotation Chamber! In the 1980’s when I lived closer to San Francisco some of my friends and I went to “The City” to try out the Chamber. I wasn’t a hippy but certainly curious about most everything. We found the experience to be relaxing however very expensive at the time. We always had fun but never returned to the Chamber. It was kind of like – OK, what’s next? Another adventure was Beach Blanket Babylon (google it). Oh those memories. When you mentioned the ruptured capillary in your hand I felt the pain. I used to have that happen to me a lot. How can something so little hurt so much?

    And then, processing grief. I was right there with you. Today has been a hard day for me. I lost my Special Man a little over two years ago and some days it seems like yesterday. Also, my closest gal friend died and then my precious dog went to the Rainbow Bridge. It’s day by day and I try so hard to think of all the things I have to be grateful for. Sending positive energy your way for smoother days that give you comfort and peace.- Mary

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