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.