Phil Safier had been floating for two hours in about 800 pounds of Epsom salt and a foot of water in a soundproof, lightproof deprivation tank when he suddenly remembered he had to make a bank payment.

“It was close to 5 o’clock, so I jumped out of the tank and jumped into my car. I was driving down Central to go to Wells Fargo, and all of a sudden I realized I was not fast enough to be driving a car,” Safier said. “I had to go, ‘Whoa, dude, you’re not a good driver right now.’ I dropped out of one completely quiet, slow environment into this fast-paced world that we live in and it was shocking.”

Safier now does weekly floating sessions at Enlighten Others in Nob Hill, a spa-style business created by 27-year-old Kenneth Pintor. Floating is a physically relaxing and meditative activity in which subjects lie naked in a room-temperature mixture of Epsom salt and water inside a deprivation tank. The tank, which is soundproof and lightproof, is meant to block out all sensory experience.

Pintor said that because the water, air and the person’s skin are all the same temperature, the floating person will often feel like he or she is dissolving.

By Sergio Jiménez
Kenneth Pintor floats inside the deprivation tank at his business, Enlighten Others, on Wednesday. The flotation tank is Albuquerque’s first meditation chamber designed specifically for sensory deprivation.
By Sergio Jiménez
Floating in a deprivation tank, the body begins to lose the sensation of touch. The water inside the tank is heated to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature similar to the human body. “It almost tricks your body into not knowing where your skin begins, where the water begins and where the air begins. It all feels like one,” said Kenneth Pintor.

“It almost tricks your body into not knowing where your skin begins, where the water begins and where the air begins. It all feels like one,” Pintor said. “It feels like you’re suspended up in the air with just nothing around you; it feels like you’re floating in pure nothingness.”

Pintor said a variety of people use the deprivation tank, from college students to retired professionals to people with chronic pain. Pintor said he floats every three or four days and the most common use of floating is stress relief.

“When you’re stressed out — you’re thinking about your midterms, you’re thinking about your job — your mind is constantly pulled away from you. You’re almost giving yourself to this piece of stress,” Pintor said. “So when you get into this tank and everything’s cut off, the only place you have to go is inside. When you get out, you’re able to pull all of yourself back to you.”

Pintor said he started experimenting with his consciousness when he was in the Army and stationed in Albuquerque.

“It took me a while to find myself,” Pintor said. “The reason I joined the military in the first place was to help people, but I realized when I was there that I wasn’t really helping people and it just wasn’t where I wanted to be. It was all part of the path, though.”

He went to Santa Fe to try a deprivation tank for the first time in his early 20s, and he said he’s been hooked ever since. Pintor said deprivation tanks helped him change himself, so he wanted to help others by offering them access to a tank.

“I feel that if everybody was floating, the world would be a much happier place, and we’re changing lives with every single person who steps into this tank,” Pintor said. “I truly believe that. The progress I would see in clients, how they evolved and changed as people overall, was amazing.”

Deprivation tanks were created in 1954 by neuroscientist and philosopher John Lilly, who experimented with psychedelics and sensory deprivation. Safier said psychedelics and sensory deprivation can work together even though the separate experiences are very different.

“With psychedelics, then, you actually have a lot of activity. In a way, psychedelics is the opposite of sensory deprivation — you’re experiencing things on an internal level and you’re almost overwhelmed by the novelty of it,” Safier said. “In a way, they’re related but they’re totally different, and there’s ways that you can use them both together. The tank is about going inside, and psychedelics are like that but in a different way.”

Enlighten Others intern Alan Moreno has been experimenting with various sound frequencies inside the deprivation tank. He hooked up underwater speakers inside the tank.

“This is the creativity setting; this is the one I float with. It stimulates the mind,” Moreno said, as he played a single, vibrating tone in the tank. “There’s a lot of experimentation going down with sound, but we always test it on ourselves before letting anyone else do it.”

Whether a client is seeking pain relief, relaxation or spiritual awakening, Pintor said the tank can do it all — just make sure beforehand you don’t have any bank payments to make.