The 2014 U-M grad says his west side spa, Bloom Wellness, was inspired by music prof Steve Rush’s class on creative expression: “It was all about … how dance, music, art, inspires awe,” he says. Awe, as in “a moment of pure humbleness and acceptance–bliss.”

That sounds more like the goal of a lifelong spiritual practice than an hour-and-forty-five-minute spa session, but Berman thinks he’s found a shortcut: floating on very salty water in total darkness.

“You close your eyes, and open your eyes, and it’s the same,” says Bloom’s friend Alex Perlman, a U-M classmate. “That’s the beauty of it … Your mind tries to see light, objects … then you begin to say to yourself, ‘Stop. Don’t worry about what’s out there.'”

To achieve this sort of total sensory deprivation, people used to have to shut themselves in lightproof fiberglass pods. Those still exist, but Berman says they feel like coffins. He says his clients can get the same effect in a space he compares to the bathroom in a five-star hotel.

“You start out by changing into a robe and go into a room where there are two Japanese massage chairs,” says Lisa Bee, who tried floating in March. She loved the chairs–“I wish I could have stayed longer in that”–but proceeded to shower–“it’s a beautiful shower”–then put in earbuds and enter the shallow tub–the water is only about seven or eight inches deep, just enough to float. “Then the room goes completely dark,” says Bee. That part she didn’t like so much. The lights are on sensors, so if you wave your arms they slowly turn back on, but to get the full effect the room is supposed to be pitch black.

Bee spent her hour of floating in silence. “When I could relax, it was very relaxing,” she says. She compares the effect to getting a massage, “but it’s totally the opposite! Because no one is touching you.”

Perlman, a regular, listens to music while he floats–usually meditative acoustic music, but he once asked for Beethoven and says it was “a blast.” He says he initially falls into a deep nothingness. “In forty-five to sixty minutes into the float, I will regain my wits, I’ll start thinking again. I feel energized, ready to get out of there. Or I’m a little fuzzy and need to zone out a little longer.” After the float, you “step out into the shower … you feel warm, clean, and smell good.” Afterward, clients walk into a shared area where Berman offers a hot neck pillow and tea. “You hydrate, cool off, relax,” says Perlman.

Bee didn’t even see that room. “I didn’t know it would take two hours,” she says, and she had things to do, so she left right after the shower.

A single session is $59, less for frequent floaters, and Berman says he’s had about 300 floats since opening last year. Bee didn’t pay for hers–she’s one of about seventy-five “social influencers” Berman invited to try Bloom free in hopes they’ll like it and spread the word.

Bee hasn’t been back, but says she would when time allows. Perlman says a co-worker he “dragged” to the spa later came back with his pregnant wife, who “loved getting off her feet and being weightless.” And Berman says former U-M quarterback Devin Gardner is now an “ambassador” for the spa: “He floated and loved it.”

Berman compares the benefits of floating to meditation–except that “meditation is hard and takes a ton of patience.” And he says it’s not just for young people: “My dad has [a flotation pod] at his home,” he says. “He’s a trial lawyer. He floats every night.”