When I shared the story to Facebook, a friend reminded me of the drastic measures taken to stop homeless people from napping in public via hostile architrecture.
Here’s an example.
I remember one time my partner Jeff tried unsuccessfully to spend the night in a park in Florida but was woken when sprinklers came on. They weren’t needed for watering. Their purpose just was keeping people from making the park their overnight home.
So for the rich there’s the privatization and commodification of sleep and for the poor, there’s the policing and forbidding of sleeping.
For my latest birthday a friend gave me a coupon to try “float therapy.” I hadn’t heard of that before (even though as I just learned, Cate blogged about it over THREE years ago). It reminded me of the “tranquility tanks” from the eighties (I think it was the eighties). You may remember those sensory deprivation tanks where you would float for an hour in dark silence. Now it’s called “R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy),” because, you know, everything in these days of wellness is “therapy” of one kind or another.
It didn’t appeal to me then. And I wasn’t so sure it appealed to me now (claustrophobia!). But when I checked the website I saw that you could book either a room or a pod. They seemed aware of the possibility that people might have claustrophobia, so they suggested that first timers try the slightly more spacious room over the pod.
It’s supposed to be totally relaxing because you’re floating in a shallow pool where the water has over 1000 pounds of epsom salts in it (more salt density than the Dead Sea) and that means you effortlessly float. Once in your floating position you’re in a zero gravity state, and that’s supposed to relieve your muscles, central nervous system, and spine of their usual load, thus alleviating the effects of gravity on these systems. If you turn off the lights and sound and move as little as possible, you purportedly go into a state of deep relaxation. The website makes the bold claim that research has shown one hour of floating is like four hours of sleep. I guess that’s if you do it right for the whole hour instead of taking 40 minutes to settle into it.
I think the first time is almost a throw-away experience. I was a mixture of skeptical and worried. Even though the room was recommended for first timers, when the attendant showed me the room I felt claustrophobic at the mere sight of it. You enter into your own space where there is a shower and a place for undressing and leaving your clothes. The float room is adjacent to that. It resembles a very large shallow bathtub, perhaps 8 or 9 feet long and about 4 or 5 feet wide, with ample head room of at least 6 or 7 feet.
I had a brief orientation where she showed me the room and told me to keep the salt water out of my eyes, mouth, and ears (they provide ear plugs). I would have seven minutes to shower before and some time to shower after as well. I would know my session was beginning because a woman’s voice (who sounds like “Mother” from the movie Alien) would come through the speakers to tell me it was starting. The attendant also repeatedly reminded me that the floor was very slippery, both in the anteroom with shower and the floor of the tub. This proved true and made me wonder how anyone with the least bit of balance or mobility issues could do this (I don’t think they could safely get in and out of the float room alone—I had to be very careful myself).
I found it alarming that there is no panic button inside the floating room. But the attendant made it seem as if I was the very first person ever to ask about that. She said if I was really panicking I could bang on the door (which turned out to be a useless piece of advice, as I will explain in a moment).
I undressed, showered with their super luxurious bath products, put in the recommended ear plugs and the head float thing (a flat buoyant circle of floaty stuff that fits around your head for extra support), and climbed in.
When you pull the large door shut, you’re in an insulated enclosure. The floating area (the tub) extends entirely to the sides, so there is no “edge” to speak of. Just four walls. Beside the door are two buttons to control lights and music. The water is not hot or cold — 93.5 degrees F, or the “skin-receptor neutral” temperature. The air within the enclosure is about the same. The air outside, in the shower and change area, is cooler, making it a bad idea to leave the door open.
Why might you want to open the door, you ask? Well, for my part, I found it difficult to breathe. The air is thick. And the enclosed nature of the thing, with no obvious ventilation system to circulate air into it besides the door, made me afraid to let go completely for fear that I would run out of air and suffocate. I kept thinking of things like refrigerators and container trucks where trapped people die from lack of air.
Once Mother told me my session was under way, I lost track of time, so what follows are estimates. I spent the first 15-20 minutes fiddling with the lights and music. At first, I had them both on. Then I remembered it was recommended as a sensory deprivation experience, so I turned off the music and tried to dim the lights. They were a lot like those hot tub lights that change colour every few seconds. If I could’ve steadied them on red and kept my eyes closed, I think that would have been fine. But I could see the changing brightness through my eye lids and I found it distracting. I messed around with it only to discover that there were just two settings. Completely off or cycling through the colours. I tried it with the lights off.
In this windowless enclosure, when the lights go off, it is capital “D” Dark. Like, can’t see your hand in front of your face Dark. I tried to settle into it, lying back in my floating position suspended in the salty water. But the level of Darkness just freaked me out even though I had my eyes closed. So I wanted to turn the light back on. But by then I had floated into a different position relative to the door and the light switches and I could find neither. And that’s when the panic began to rise and I thought for a few moments that I would lose my mind. And I absolutely couldn’t breathe and felt sure I would die right there. Which is why the instruction to bang on the door if I panicked did me no good at all because if I could find the door I wouldn’t be panicking.
I fumbled around and then remembered that basically it was just a room with four walls and if I traced a path along the wall with my hand I would find the door handle (it was like the bar you would find in the accessible shower stall). Beyond the door I found the light switch and turned the lights back on and then opened the door for about 30 seconds for some air.
At that point I started wondering how long I’d been there and how much longer and was I doing it right and I’m a seasoned meditator so why is this so hard? I didn’t do enough research into what you’re supposed to do, so I just tried to relax as much as possible and calm my mind. And breathe, which remained difficult. I settled into it enough after about half an hour to keep the lights off, but I opened the door for air at least four or five times. Finally, with I’d say 20 minutes to go, I settled in, confident that there was enough air in the room to last me to the end and that any sense that I couldn’t breathe was actually not accurate. I could breathe just fine, salt is supposed to be good for you, and in any case it’s almost done. I only had brief thoughts of abandoning the whole thing and had already decided this would be a one-off because…why am I here?
And that’s when I floated into a state of total, zero-gravity, sensory deprived R.E.S.T. I stopped thinking “when will this end?” and drifted off into floaty, relaxing, thought-free bliss. I’m guessing about 15 minutes passed before Mother’s gentle voice coaxed me out of my nothingness. If one hour of floating is equal to four hours of sleeping, my 15 minutes of mind-free floating must have been equal to an hour of sleep. And I did feel revived and recharged, disappointed that it was over.
Getting out was a careful process of trying to climb over the edge without slipping on the floor of the tub and then the floor of the shower and changing area (which is, to me, unnecessarily more slippery than it needs to be). I got a bit of the salty water in my mouth, and it tastes like something sour and disgusting and almost rotten. I showered with the luxurious bath products again, dressed, and went out to the vanity area to fix myself as best as I could for the outside world.
I asked to see a pod before I left. One look at the pod and I knew I would not be signing up for that. But I do think I will try the room again. Now that I know what to expect I think I can settle into a good experience a lot more quickly. I liked the final feeling of weightless zero-gravity and temperature neutrality. It’s comforting and stress-free (if you can get there). I’m not sure if it’s any more or less “therapeutic” than any other thing that forces you to quiet yourself for an hour, suspending the demands of the world. But the added bonus of zero gravity and sensory deprivation invite relaxation a lot more easily than, say, an hour of Vipassana meditation.
It’s not cheap. When Cate went, she paid $39. I had a $55 gift card (because it was my 55th birthday present) and I paid a $29 top-up for my hour of floating. I’m keen to give it one more go, which is more than what I would’ve said 30 minutes into it. But the price makes it an indulgence.
Have you had a floating experience? And if so, what was it like for you?
I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.
” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.
My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.
I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!
My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.
Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.
This is technically Day 4 of my kicking challenge but I have to insert a rest day.
After I wrote and scheduled my post yesterday my dizziness alternated between better and worse for a couple of hours and then it took a huge turn for the worse.
Then my left arm got tingly and I got scared so I had my son call an ambulance for me. If this was something serious, I wanted immediate help.
I spent Tuesday afternoon in the ER but apparently my symptoms were inconclusive. They have pretty much ruled out anything too serious but I am supposed to pay close attention to how I feel in case I get any other weird symptoms and I am supposed to ‘take it easy.’
I hate directions like ‘take it easy.’
What does ‘take it easy’ even mean? I don’t know what they consider taking it easy. Is that bed rest? Being up but staying at home? Cutting back on my schedule? Mental rest or physical rest? For how long?
I was too groggy yesterday to ask all of these questions but I have decided to spend most of today lying down. I may do some reading or some writing. (I’m lying down as I write this)
I’m not going to try any kicks today, I’m ‘kicking back’ and relaxing instead.
I’ll check in tomorrow and let you know if I feel up to some exercise.
PS – I really struggle with rest like this. Not because I feel like I shouldn’t rest or that I should be working. My problem is that my ADHD makes it so easy for me to ‘lose’ time that I worry that I will cross the line from necessary rest into avoiding things I need and want to do and not notice that I have crossed it until things have piled up to annoying levels.
There’s a social media hashtag that amuses me, #NapOrWorkout.
Mostly the people who use it are sharing about their drive to overcome the desire to nap and make it to the gym. It’s presented as a struggle. And I get it.
But on Twitter there are a few people who are taking it literally, as an actual choice goal. Like when I was in grad school my roommate had this deal with herself each night she’d either floss or do sit-ups. So the Twitter person is treating nap or workout that way. Each day she pledges to either nap or workout. I kinda love it.
Last week I published about my back troubles that ensued a few days after Anita and I ran the Around the Bay 30K. Lots of people jumped in with sympathy, empathy, encouragement and suggestions. Thank you!
The best suggestion came from Susan and others who recommended I try an osteopath. I know some people have had good results with chiropractors, but I’m deathly afraid of the idea of a snap adjustment. And I was in so much pain there was just no way. So a week after the race I contacted an osteopath who a friend had recommended for my neck issues but I’d never gotten around to calling.
I knew Grace from yoga way back when I did Iyengar yoga and she was in my class. She used to be a nurse and she also taught Iyengar yoga, which is very precise. So o felt confident she had the right knowledge base that I could trust her with my back. By the time I went to see her a week ago, I was in excruciating pain by the end of every day. It usually felt a bit better in the mornings after I’d been lying down for the night. And then ramped up throughout the day until by the evenings it had me weeping and almost unable to move.
Grace got me at the end of the day and could see that I was moving in a hesitant manner by then. Hesitant in that way you move when a possible wrong move will result in searing pain that makes the legs go weak.
She had me stand and then slowly walk so she could size me up. Then she got me on her table…very carefully. And started doing very general manipulations of my body (the best being traction, when she pulled ever so lightly on my feet, which immediately released my back). I told Grace I’d been doing back exercises and stretching and yoga and had gone for a deep tissue massage. And in her view, those were all the wrong things, explaining why it was getting worse not better.
What was the right thing? Rest. Total rest. She showed me two lying down resting postures for releasing my back. They both gave me wonderful relief. She showed me how to get into and out of a lying down position without putting strain on my lower back. She recommended I not sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. If possible, she said, take a day or two off of work.
Things were kind of urgent because I was flying less than a week later (Sunday) for a short trip and then a week after that to China for work. When I saw Grace, the idea of sitting on a plane for any length of time seemed impossible.
So though I couldn’t take a day off until Friday, I did go into hyper rest mode as much as possible, lying on the floor with my legs up on a chair or in “constructive rest” with a heating pad and bolster on my lower abdomen to release the entire area and hopefully reduce the inflammation in my back. Grace suspected the inflammation was pushing up against a nerve and that’s why it hurt so much and get worse as the compression of the day’s sitting took hold.
Friday I went to see the nurse practitioner at my family doctor’s clinic. By then, after following Grace’s instructions for a couple of days I felt way better than I had. Thursday, hardly sitting (I even chaired a meeting at work standing up), I didn’t experience a single spasm. I told the nurse everything I was doing and she said “perfect!” So that was reassuring. Then I saw Grace one more time and she tweaked a few things and off I went. By Saturday I was feeling confident I could fly. Sunday came… no problem on my three and a half hour flight to the Bahamas.
I write this on Monday, a day (with Anita) mixed with work, walking on the beach, swimming, constructive rest, and measured amounts of sitting. I’ve had quite a bit of work reading to do, and I have done most of it in a reclining position on my bed, legs bent at the knees. China doesn’t seem impossible anymore.
And I’m a total convert to osteopathy after one round of appointments. Thanks, Grace!
As I write this I am in bed with a cold pack on my right lower back and just got a text message from a friend who used to be a nurse. It said, “do you think maybe you should see your doctor? It’s not getting better over time?” She was talking about my lower back.
Ever since a couple of days after my Around the Bay 30K two Sundays ago I’ve had almost no sustained relief from a pain in my lower back unless I’m lying down. And even then, to get into a lying down position is a slow and careful process that sometimes leaves me weeping. Getting up from it (or from a chair, or into / out of the car) is similarly difficult.
If I move wrong when sitting, standing, or lying down, I get a searing pain and my back and leg go weak, such that it feels as if they are about to give way. Needless to say, I have not run since Around the Bay. I also cancelled my personal training last week. I made it to one actual yoga class, and it felt good, but again I had to scale to my capacity, which meant forward bends and anything that involved getting up or lowering myself down required a modified approach.
I asked Sam whether I should blog about this because I was so pumped after Around the Bay and felt so strong in every way possible, that this back situation feels like an enormous disappointment. Quite the come down, actually. Sam said it’s real and an okay thing to blog about.
Damn right it’s real. I don’t think I’ve experienced physical pain this real in years. The kind that makes me cry. I’ve got great pain tolerance. I didn’t even cry when the dentist drilled into a raw unfrozen nerve during a root canal.
But I tend to be a bit private about pain. Not that I don’t share setbacks and difficulties with my friends. And not that I never blog about challenging times. And not that the people I work with aren’t aware of my delicate back situation this week (because otherwise they would be wondering why I’m walking so slowly and wincing from time to time for no apparent reason). I’m not one to suffer in silence. But it would never occur to me to tell my Facebook friends that I am in excruciating back pain this week. So blogging about it is a bit uncomfortable.
Truth be told, I’m not “rolling with it” particularly well. I mean, I thought and expected that it would resolve in time for me to go for an easy run on Sunday morning. But that was not realistic. I probably shouldn’t have walked home from work on Wednesday. And now, I just can’t even imagine running or walking any distance, or going to the weight room, or even doing a yoga class without taking it super slow and easy.
I’m seeing an osteopath after work today and I went for a massage focusing on that part of my back at the end of the day yesterday. And yes, I’m lying on an ice pack right now and I think I will pop a couple of ibuprofen caplets. I hope, as Susan said, that the osteopath will “gently wiggle” me “back to health.”
Meanwhile, I think this has helped me decide that perhaps, as much as I love running, distances like 30K are too taxing on my 54-year old body. When I do get back to running, I’m sticking with a 10K max for awhile (until Anita talks me into another half marathon or something).
How well do you cope with injuries that interfere with what you’d ideally like to be doing?