Get Real: Man Becomes Human Cork

by David Volk
For TekBug

The closer the time came for me to spend an afternoon floating in a sensory deprivation chamber at Floatzone.calm, the more I dreaded it.

In theory, floating for 90 minutes on 15 inches of salty water in a dark room sounded relaxing, but that was before I thought about being closed into a 9-by-5 foot chamber full of nothing but water, darkness—and my thoughts.

Offered as an exotic relaxation technique, the sensory deprivation tank at Doron Weisbarth's isn't exactly a typical afternoon at the spa. No one walks on your back, exfoliates your face or pummels your muscles in the name of comfort here. Instead, customers drive to Weisbarth's unassuming Northend home and climb into a Volkswagen Beetle–shaped tank filled with 200 gallons of water and Epsom salts. Once inside, they lie back, bob like a cork and just be.

Before I took the plunge, Weisbarth explained the process so I would know what to expect. His gentle influence calmed me and allayed my fears—until he dropped the bomb.

"What do you hope to accomplish today?" he asked.

Say what?

I had come seeking refuge from a tough day at work and my efforts to plan my first wedding anniversary. Nobody told me I would have to do homework.

As strange as it sounds, Weisbarth assured me that the relaxation chamber works best when you have a goal. For example, a computer programmer who was having trouble creating a piece of code saw it unfold in his mind once he sat back and floated. Another customer, who was planning a relaxing weekend with his wife, ended up figuring out all the things he would have to do at the office so he wouldn't have to spend the weekend stewing about work.

With all of this in mind, I gathered all the courage I could muster to clamber into the chamber, shut the door, turn off the light and float. At some point, I felt an earplug drift off toward my feet, and the pillow that was supposed to be supporting my neck smacked against my head. Still, I knew this wacky relaxation method was for me.

Lying amid 94-degree water is relaxing because there are no other distractions. Plus, your body isn't subject to the pressure of gravity, and, as Weisbarth puts it, it's so close to your skin temperature that "you cannot tell where your skin ends and the water begins." He says the experience is akin to swimming in a dark section of the Dead Sea or the Great Salt Lake. The shallow water is so salty you have no choice but to float, so even non-swimmers can take part.

I discovered that successful floating often takes several sessions. Although it sounded like a sales pitch when Weisbarth first told me this, I quickly saw the wisdom of his ways. Just as I was beginning to enjoy playing bumper butt with the sides of the chamber, I heard him knock on the door 90 minutes later.

What to know before you go:

FloatZone.calm is at 1534 NE 100th St. (206-286-0268). Floats are available by appointment only and cost $50 for an hour or $70 for an hour-and-a-half. Discounted multi-float packages are available. You can also add massage to a float for an additional fee. For more information, see