Read an Excerpt
Have an Out-of-Body Experience in 30 Days
The Free Flight Program
By Keith Harary, Pamela Weintraub
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 1989 Keith Harary
All rights reserved.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
The following exercise will help you celebrate your relationship with your body, gaining greater insight into the connection between your psychological and physical selves. Begin by standing completely naked in front of a full-length mirror with a light turned on behind you. Examine your body from head to toe and back again. As you study yourself, consider how completely familiar your body is to you, and how different you feel toward your own body than toward the bodies of those around you. Notice any scars or other unique or unusual identifying characteristics that you associate with your body. How do you recognize your body when you see yourself photographed among a large group of people? Is there a familiar smell that you associate with your body? How does the inside of your mouth taste right now? What has changed about your body, and what has remained consistent as you've grown older? What do you like about your body? What would you like to change?
As you continue standing in front of the mirror, close your eyes and slowly take a deep breath. Remember the way you appeared as you looked at yourself in the mirror. Take another deep breath and, as you exhale, open your eyes and look at your reflection. Inhale deeply once more, then close your eyes and again remember the way you looked when you saw yourself reflected in the mirror. Exhale slowly, open your eyes, and look back in the mirror. Notice the way your sense of yourself and of reality seems to subtly shift when you direct your attention outwardly toward your reflection, then inwardly toward your mental image of your body. This initial exercise should take you no longer than twenty or thirty minutes.
Flight Directive — Take a thirty-minute break before proceeding to the next exercise. Get dressed and go for a walk around the block or run some short errands that will help ground you in mundane reality. Pay particular attention to the way your body moves and feels as you go about your errands. Notice how easily, virtually unconsciously, you move a part of your body after deciding to do so. Feel your body responding to stream-of-consciousness thoughts as you perform such activities as walking, lifting, or driving a car.
When you return from your break, sit in a comfortable chair, preferably one that allows you to stretch out, and relax with your eyes opened. Take a deep breath and quietly notice the way your body feels relaxing in the chair. Pay attention to the feelings in your muscles, and the difference between how your body felt when you were active a short while earlier and how it feels now that you're beginning to relax. See if you can feel your heart beating in the center of your chest. Notice the way your heartbeat slows down as you become more and more relaxed. Pay attention to your breathing. Notice the way your breathing also slows down. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Contrast the sensations deep within your skeletal muscles to those on the surface of your skin.
Sit very still with your eyes open for ten or fifteen minutes and imagine that instead of experiencing reality as you normally do, via sensory organs on the surface of your body, you are perceiving the world from somewhere within your body. For instance, imagine that your eyes are transparent portholes through which your consciousness looks out at the world. Then feel yourself shrinking inside your body. Imagine yourself getting smaller and smaller, until your body feels like a rubber suit fitting loosely around your consciousness. Finally, when you feel comfortable doing so, breathe slowly and deeply and envision yourself gradually returning to normal size.
Flight Directive —Although you may feel eager to proceed directly into the next exercise, we recommend taking an overnight break. This is the best way to allow your subconscious mind to fully absorb the images already formed. Keep in mind, however, that as you progress through the Free Flight Program you may benefit by repeating this exercise, as well as others you've learned on previous days.
The exercise above, for instance, can be practiced at various times of the day just by relaxing and bringing to mind the images you had when you first learned it. You might try it the next time you find yourself waiting for a flight at the airport, sitting in a waiting room, or taking a ride on the subway. Repeating all the Free Flight exercises regularly is a good way of reinforcing their effects, so long as you otherwise go about your usual daily activities and proceed with the rest of the Free Flight Program in the prescribed way.
You are now ready to learn the technique of alert relaxation, a skill that stress researchers and sports psychologists have long found useful in relieving tension and increasing concentration. This technique is also crucial to success in the Free Flight Program. As mentioned, alert relaxation enables your body to deeply relax while your mind stays acutely alert. When you become extremely relaxed, your body seems to recede into the background while the outside world draws most of your attention. By learning to remain highly alert in an intensely relaxed physical state, therefore, you can develop the ability to focus your awareness on distant locations without feeling overly restricted by your body or physical condition.
To begin, sit in a comfortable chair, stretch your muscles, and take a deep breath. Then imagine that warm currents of mental energy are very slowly moving up through your body. Proceed very slowly, allowing each muscle group to fully relax before sending the imaginary currents onto the next section of your body. Feel the muscles in your feet gradually warming and relaxing as you imagine the currents passing through them. Imagine that the currents very gradually continue moving up through your calves, into your thighs, through your hips and buttocks and into your lower back and abdomen.
Feel the muscles in your legs becoming heavy, warm, and relaxed as they sink down into the chair beneath you. When you feel your legs becoming deeply relaxed, imagine the currents moving in a clockwise motion around your abdomen, then up along your spine and through the front of your torso into your chest and shoulders. Feel the muscles in your stomach and lower back letting go of any tightness or tension as the current passes through them.
When the lower half of your body feels deeply relaxed, imagine the currents flowing upward through your ribs and shoulders, warming and relaxing the upper part of your body, leaving your back and chest completely warm and free of any stress or tension. Imagine the currents turning around to move downward through your arms, toward your fingertips, swirling around through your fingers and hands, then moving upward once more and back through your arms and neck toward the top of your head.
Now feel the muscles in your neck and face gradually growing warm and relaxed as the imaginary currents pass through them. Then imagine the currents flowing out through the top of your head, leaving your entire body feeling comfortably warm, heavy, and relaxed.
Allow your body to sink down into the chair beneath you. As you do, you may notice some inner part of you becoming lighter as your body feels heavier and heavier. You may even begin to feel a slight sensation of floating above your body. If you find yourself having such feelings, don't analyze or attempt to directly influence them. Just allow them to evolve on their own.
Remember, the key to success here is learning to enter a state of deep physical relaxation while remaining mentally alert. But if you should find yourself accidentally falling asleep while practicing this exercise, don't worry about it. The moment you wake up and realize what has happened, just continue the exercise, without moving, from wherever you left off. At this point you'll probably already be quite relaxed, so the key will be to become even more deeply relaxed without once more falling asleep.
In order to remain alert, you may find it helpful to imagine the warm currents passing through your body in a variety of colors and patterns. You may also find it helpful to practice this exercise only when you are physically and emotionally rested and easily able to remain awake for the entire exercise.
Once you have achieved a deeply relaxed, mentally alert state, you should attempt to sustain it for anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes. For most people, the state of alert relaxation will end spontaneously within that time frame. However, if you remain in this altered state for more than thirty minutes on Day 2, we suggest that you intentionally bring yourself out of it. (Of course, if you should find yourself spontaneously having an out-of-body experience at any point while practicing the alert relaxation exercise, just enjoy the experience without worrying about the time.)
There are two basic ways to interrupt the state of alert relaxation: one is to become less alert; the other is to become less relaxed.
Becoming less alert simply means finally allowing yourself to drift off into sleep. This approach has its advantages: during our more than nineteen years of research in this field, we have found that people often have spontaneous out-of-body experiences from a sleep state after practicing the alert relaxation exercise on a regular basis.
To interrupt the state of alert relaxation without falling asleep, we suggest that you wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly stretch your muscles, then sit up and look around the room. Touch the arms of the chair to make solid contact with waking reality before getting up and walking around. Move your arms and legs and feel the solidity of your body. While you may find this an elaborate method for simply getting up after relaxing in a chair, it is, in fact, a good way to train yourself for later making a comfortable and gradual reentry into ordinary waking reality following an OBE.
We suggest that you practice this exercise at least once a day for the remainder of the thirty days of the Free Flight Program. What's more, to master the technique of alert relaxation as quickly and completely as possible, we recommend that, initially, at least, you ask a friend to help by slowly and quietly reading the above relaxation instructions aloud. You may also wish to tape these instructions so that you can practice on your own after the initial session.
Once you gain experience, you'll probably be able to enter this state more and more quickly without the need for any formal instructions at all. As you continue to perfect your alert relaxation technique, you may find that remaining alert while entering a deeply relaxed physical state can create the sensation that your mind is somehow separated from your body. This sensation can be the most subtle or preliminary form of the out-of-body experience.
Flight Directive — During the next few days, you'll be working on a technique called sensory focusing. This method, developed by pioneers in the human-potential movement back in the Sixties, will help you become aware of all your senses; you will eventually learn to concentrate on any individual sense or combination of senses at any given time. You will also learn to focus your senses on particular aspects of your environment. When practiced in conjunction with alert relaxation, sensory focusing can help you induce out-of-body experiences from a waking state. It can also be used to exert control over your OBEs once they occur.
A SOUND APPROACH
Day 3 focuses on your sense of hearing. We're intentionally beginning with a nonvisual sense because most of us direct so much of our perceptual attention toward visual information that we often allow it to overwhelm the input of our other senses. By first practicing with a nonvisual sense such as hearing, you won't be as likely to let visual information overwhelm you and reduce the input of other perceptions while you are in the midst of an OBE.
Begin this exercise sitting quietly in an active and stimulating location, such as a bench in a downtown plaza, the lobby of a museum, or the waiting area of a train station. Take a deep breath and try to discern the inner sound of your heartbeat. Then listen to the sound of your breathing. Finally, as you continue to sense your heartbeat and breathing, expand your focus of attention to include the other sounds in your immediate environment. Keep your eyes open throughout this exercise, but don't look at the sources of the sounds you're hearing unless this is absolutely unavoidable.
When you feel comfortable, start to move around your environment on foot. As you move about, continue to pay close attention to your heartbeat and breathing as well as the sounds encountered in your environment. Concentrating on these sounds, try to ignore any nonauditory sensations, except, of course, those essential for safe navigation. Again, avoid looking in the direction of any sounds you hear unless it is absolutely necessary.
Pay attention to the layers of sound that surround you. Notice how certain sounds draw your immediate attention while others fade into the background. Concentrate on those sounds that are closest to you, then on those farther away. Then concentrate on the loudest or most dramatic sounds, followed by the smaller and more subtle sounds you don't usually notice. Repeat these steps until you're able to focus on any particular sound while deliberately excluding other sounds from your immediate awareness. Finally, listen to various combinations of sounds, and to all the sounds around you at once, without losing track of any individual sound.
Flight Directive — Spend a minimum of one or two hours practicing this auditory focusing exercise. When you're through, take a break for a few hours. Then review and practice the alert relaxation technique you learned on Day 2.
Day 4 will help you fine-tune your senses of smell and taste. Since you'll begin by focusing on your sense of smell, we ask that you not eat lunch or dinner before practicing this part of the exercise. (Food you've eaten can sometimes influence your perception of smells in the environment; what's more, perceptions during the taste part of the exercise will be more intense if you've abstained from eating for a while.)
As you did for the hearing exercise on Day 3, start by sitting quietly in an active and interesting location. The place you choose should not be the same spot you selected for the hearing exercise, but should be a new environment, one rich with many interesting smells. Good choices would be an open-air market, an amusement park by the beach, a department store, or the elephant house at your local zoo. Find a spot where you can sit quietly, take a deep breath, and relax. Concentrate on the information that's coming to you through your sense of smell alone.
Concentrate first on the familiar smell of your own body. Do you regularly wear perfume or cologne, or anything else that gives you a recognizable scent? You may find that your sense of smell has become dulled to this familiar aroma. Shortly after you splash on cologne, for example, you may no longer notice it, even though the others around you detect the scent quite easily. Rub your palms on the part of you where the scent should be the strongest, then hold your hands up to your nose and breathe deeply. Notice how the scent becomes stronger for a moment, then once again seems to fade.
Are there other familiar smells that you associate with your body? Smell your clothes, for example, and notice the scent of your detergent. If you're wearing a jacket or coat, does it smell different from the shirt or sweater you're wearing under it? Unbutton your top button or pull out your collar, and put your nose inside of it so that you can smell your skin. Does the inside of your shirt smell different from the outside?
Now focus on your immediate environment. Allow the familiar smells of your body to fade into the background as other nearby smells come into prominence. Without closing your eyes, turning your head, or moving from your initial spot, what are the strongest smells you notice in your nearby surroundings?
When you feel ready, begin moving around the special location you've chosen for this exercise. As you move about, focus on the variety of smells around you. Use your other senses to direct you toward as many interesting smells as possible, but don't just concentrate on the smells that are closest to you. Instead, try to focus on a variety of smells at varying distances from your body. Use your own familiar smell as a reference point to focus your attention in more closely, then use distant smells to focus your attention farther and farther away. Notice how some smells seem to draw your immediate interest, while others are more subtle and seem to be easily overpowered or to fade into the background of your environment.
Excerpted from Have an Out-of-Body Experience in 30 Days by Keith Harary, Pamela Weintraub. Copyright © 1989 Keith Harary. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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