"Sensory deprivation" sounds a bit too much like a Guantanamo-steeped euphemism, so the industry has taken to the decidedly more idyllic-sounding parlance of "floating." John Balquist, whose interest in floating was piqued by the psychedelic neurologist John C. Lilly, founded Oakland Floats in Oakland four years ago. One of the four floating rooms, Lilly, is named for the pioneer. Business is good: Some patrons liken floating to meditation, others argue that it fosters creative thinking, and still more tout its capacity for psychonautics, or exploring the mind. For each of the roughly 250 customers that frequent Balquist's establishment each month, Oakland Floats provides a spa-like experience and, well, a black chamber to clamber into and escape the tyranny of our sensory pathways.