respiteIn a full to overflowing bathtub, I relax, soaking the ache out of legs and content to be surrounded by water. It’s not long before I slide down, legs crawling up the wall under the shower, head dipping below the surface. My right hand plugs my nose and my left hand covers my eyes like a sleep mask and water fills my ears.

I savor these few moments I have to just float in nothing.

The water amplifies noise but bends the sound waves into something more beautiful. Even the passing fire truck with its shrill siren and blaring horns sounds almost musical when passed through my warm, clear water. The rhythmic hum of the clothes dryer puts me in a trance and I enjoy this until my lungs ask politely and then not so politely if we can surface and take in some new, unused air.

I reluctantly rise up and gasp in a big breath and go under again. It’s just too delicious and quite addictive. This time I think about buying a snorkel so I can stay under the water and still breathe. I’ve considered buying a snorkel so I can stay under my bath water ever since I was a kid.

Even as a child I was drawn to the solace and quiet of being under water. One early evening as I was taking a bath and creating my own sensory isolation chamber, my mother walked in to check on me. As any protective mother of three children would do when presented with the sight of her youngest lying apparently lifeless in a bathtub full of water, she freaked out.

My mother yanked me from the water and shook me hard, shouting my name. I unplugged my nose and uncovered my eyes and said, “What?”

I got a well-deserved and thorough chewing out and was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to simply slide under the water and remain motionless. Ever.

When I later emerged from my bath and got dressed and ran a comb through my unruly long hair, I was confronted by my father who ripped into me for scaring my mother.

I always thought that was quite unfair. I didn’t set out to intentionally scare my mother. I simply wanted a moment, if even half a minute, where I didn’t exist in the world. Where everything was blocked out and time slowed down and sounds bent in pleasing ways.

My solution thereafter was to continue to dunk my head well below water and plug my nose with my right hand. With my left hand, I would raise it above the surface and wave it like the Queen on parade so that any passerby would know I was still conscious, just submerged.

This seemed a suitable solution for all. A nice compromise.

I’ve always wanted to visit one of those sensory isolation tanks. It sounds like a little slice of heaven to me. Floating in a tank with no light and hardly any sound and just the quiet to embrace me. Yes, I think I would love this very much.

The Good Man thinks I’m half a bubble off level to consider this. “I always figure while you are locked in there, the people outside will steal your stuff or do something weird,” he says.

This is how his mind works. This is not how my mind works.

A few years ago we visited a spa in Calistoga, California. The spas in Calistoga are known for their mud baths. You give them money and they allow you to slide your nekkid body into a warm tub of slightly sulphurous goo. The weight of the mud resists your body, you actually have to dig in there. Once settled, you are surrounded and suspended and oh my goodness I could have stayed in there for weeks.

The Good Man did not feel as kindly toward the mud. He said he was antsy the whole time he was in there and ready to vault from the tub. He couldn’t wait for it to be over. I never wanted it to stop.

Perhaps it’s something Freudian that I like to slip into warm suspended places and forget about things for a while. I choose to think it rather normal to want to seek out genuine moments of respite where the world and all its crazy spinning and shouting and clanking and cruelty goes away, for just a moment. For as long as it takes me to hold my breath.

Until I buy a snorkel.

– Karen Fayeth

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2013, all rights reserved. Bathtub image found on Rodale.com and all rights remain with the website and photographer. Bio photograph by Claudia Akers.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story will be published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.

6 thoughts on “My Moment Of Zen

  1. My son talks with excitement about the isolation tank experience he would love to have some day…is that a wish to escape to bliss? to be left alone? to be relieved of the responsibility of reaction?

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  2. I’ve had several sessions in a flotation tank… and didn’t get the thrill I hoped for … it’s like a very deep meditation. I stopped going when I discovered they don’t change the water… so everyone is lying in the same water in the tiny enclosed tank…not my thing !!!!

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  3. Hi Michael – Oh my, I suppose time spent in an iron lung would very much change your perspective on isolation tanks. I completely understand that!! About your comment regarding listening to one’s own central nervous system, I couldn’t agree more. I also like wearing ear plugs. That whoosh sound of my own blood in my ears is incredibly comforting. Thanks for your comment!!

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  4. Hi Naomi – Strangely enough, I have never tried snorkeling. I think I would like it. And scuba diving. I think I would like that very much. Thanks for your comment!!

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  5. I loved this post. I remember long baths and holding my breath under water, loving the silky feeling of my hair floating in the water, and teeny tiny bubbles tickling my skin. Snorkeling is one of my passions. It is entering a beautiful new world where I am weightless, an observer, a virgin again. I can be quiet as life goes on and goes by. I never thought of it as so, but I guess it’s where I find my zen moments.

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  6. I had access to a tank for a while in the 80’s. I found it claustrophobic, perhaps as I had spent time in an iron lung when small. At the same time, I experienced fascination. There is something amazing and deeply moving about hearing one’s own central nervous system hum.

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