I’ve always wanted to try out a sensory deprivation tank. I’m not sure where I first heard about it, and have been wanting to do it for years, but could never find the time or the place – so what better place to do it than in Barcelona while travelling. After some quick searching, I found a place called the Flotarium – a venue with three float tanks – perfect! Now who could I convince?
When I explained the idea to my friends, most were hesitant at best; some were vehemently against the idea, but my friend Nancy was surprisingly all for it. We made a reservation and started counting the days until our little adventure.
After a delicious breakfast at a place called “Ta Patxi“ off Las Ramblas, we caught the metro to the Diagonal station. Alighting and walking a few blocks, we saw it up the road; “The Flotarium” on the sign. Once inside, we were greeted by a receptionist, who gave us some material (in multiple languages) to have a read over. It informed us on how to enter the tank, that we should shower before and after, and we should wear the provided ear plugs so the salty water wouldn’t irritate our eyes.
For those who don’t know, a sensory deprivation tank is a lightless, soundless tank where you float naked on the surface of salty, body-temperature water. It essentially removes your senses, leaving you feeling weightless and relaxed. The tanks we were using had automatic doors, and buttons on the inside to control the lighting, the door, and an emergency call button.
I anxiously hopped in the shower, placed in my earl pugs, and lowered myself into the tank. While the water was only a few inches deep, I floated very much on the surface of it. My face and stomach were out of the water, and the feeling was similar to what I’d experienced at the dead sea. I heard the music begin, so I pressed the door close button, and switched off the light. As the door was lowering, I felt a wave of anxiety rush over me – this was really happening! The door closing isolated me from the rest of the world, but the music quickly started to relax me as I floated effortlessly in the dark, warm tank.
For the first ten minutes, yoga music was played to help with the relaxation. The initial floating sensation placed pressure on my back, neck, and a bit on my arms, but with some readjusting I found a comfortable position. Before long, the music had faded, and my mind had started to wander. At times I felt like I was floating in a giant pond, less and less like I was in a tank in the middle of Barcelona. At times I would touch the side, and ever so gently push off it to get away. No matter how little of force I applied to the side of the tank though, it felt like I was spinning away, rapidly moving down a river, and floating for miles.
With my eyes closed, I started experiencing patterns of light, like I was moving through a tunnel; the same patterns and colours that you see when you regularly close your eyes – so far so normal. The light patterns started to swirl and move, and turn themselves into shapes. As my body relaxed my mind became more active. I started to analyze the shapes from all points of interrogation, what did they look like from above, below, inside. Slowly but surely, the shapes started turning themselves into faces – first simple, but eventually people I knew. Through my mind’s voice, and my mind’s eye, I heard stories, friends, family, and all different people speaking to me.
My arm touched the wall, and I immediately snapped back to where I was – lying in a tank of water in the middle of Barcelona. “What on Earth is going on? How long have I been in here? It can’t be more than a few minutes, but it felt like hours… Oh well, take a deep breath, relax… damn this cold, I have to cough again… Wow, a cough really spasms your whole body, I can feel the water move like waves, am I a part of the wave? I feel like a part of it, but it’s also a part of me… I still have the witchdoctor song stuck in my head… damn Simpsons, ruining everything…”
I slipped back into a dream-like state. In my mind’s eye, I could now see in full colour. I was becoming different objects. I saw myself as a different people, and different shapes. I was an astronaut, a fish, a block of lego being carried across the room. “But wait… who was carrying me? Was that me? Do I look like that from below? I look stressed, why am I stressed?”
Slowly I faded away from the dream state and instead entered a state of deep thought. I analyzed my life at its current junction. Where was I going, what was I doing. I thought about life, death, the meaning and the meaning to me. I don’t really remember too much at this point.
A little while later, music flooded into the tank. While the volume must have been incredibly low, it was all too loud for me. The session was over, and I needed to leave the tank… but I didn’t want to. I felt another wave of anxiety rush over me. I wasn’t ready to go back to the world. I had been alone with myself, and my thoughts, and the rest of the world seemed so large, so complex, how could I face it? I pressed the button and the door started to open. Cold air from the room rushed into the tank, and after a minute of willing myself to sit up, I did.
Showering off all the salts, I started analyzing the experience. My skin felt like velvet, and my hair very soft. The whole experience had been deeply spiritual. My creativity felt enhanced, as well as my outlook on life. I quickly met up with my friend who had a similar experience, and we talked about similarities laughing and sharing ridiculous thoughts and feelings.
We both paid our 35 euro for the session (a very fair price, if you ask me), and left feeling relaxed, positive, and seeing the world as a brighter place. This is definitely something I’m going to be doing again.
If you’re thinking of trying out a sensory deprivation tank, I’d highly recommend it. They’re all over the world, in major cities, and I’m sure you can find one near you. I was a bit nervous at first due to all of the reviews online, but life is about taking risks and trying new experiences, and I’m really glad that I took this one.