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WS #4 – Author of “Maxed Out”

Tell Us About Yourself:

My name is Katrina Alcorn and I’m a writer and web consultant. My first book, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” was just published this September with Seal Press. It’s a memoir about my experience completely burning out at work, and it’s also a social critique about how our work lives and home lives are in profound conflict. You can see why someone like me needs to chill in a sensory deprivation tank. I have three kids and live in North Oakland.

Describe Your First Experience Floating:

I was a little nervous. I’d seen that movie “Altered States” when I was a kid, and so I had this really weird association with the tanks, something about turning into a monkey. But I also was yearning for deep peace and quiet, so I decided to try it.

It took a little while to get used to everything. At first I couldn’t get the wax ear plugs in right. Then I got in the tank and shut the door and immediately felt claustrophobic, so I checked the door a couple times to make sure I could get out if I wanted to (I know–silly). I lay down in the water (it’s amazing how you just float to the top because of all the salt) but I kept touching the wall in the beginning, to get my bearings in the dark. After a while, I was able to stop fidgeting and just BE.

Has Your Float Experience Changed Since Your First Float?

I’m not nervous about being in the tank any more. I still have trouble with the ear plugs falling out, and the last time it got kind of funny because in trying to get the plugs back in I somehow got salt water on my face and up my nose so it was kind of burning when I breathed. I had to get out, take a shower, and start over. But some of the salt was still on my eyelashes. It didn’t hurt, but it dried and so every time I opened or closed my eyes, I could hear this little crackling sound of dried salt. The tank is so quiet that you can hear things like that. I could hear my heart beat, and the loudest sound is my own breathing. I go in and out of noticing it.

The most powerful part of the float for me is usually the last 20 minutes or so. I get this feeling of infinite expansion and complete calm. It’s hard to describe, but it feels like every moment I’m sinking deeper and simultaneously growing wider, and there’s no end point. Maybe that’s the “theta brain activity” you talk about.

Do You Feel Lasting Effects After Each Float?

Yes. It was most profound the first time, but each time I come out of the tank I feel incredibly calm, and I can access that feeling for days after.

Do Float Sessions Impact Your Work, Habits or Hobbies?

Definitely. I’ve been doing a lot of media interviews recently. You have to be so on, so centered, especially for TV where there isn’t much time and everyone is looking at you…The floats really help with that. They’re grounding. They clear my mind so I can focus better.

How Would You Explain the Experience to Someone Who Was Interested?

It’s detox for your mind.

Check out Katrina Alcorn’s blog “Working Mom’s Break” and look for her book, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink”.  Her writing has appeared on The New York Times (Motherlode), TIME.com, The Daily Beast, and iVillage, and she blogs for The Huffington Post.