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A Beginner's Approach
By Preston Dennett
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Preston Dennett
All rights reserved.
Early Out-of-Body Experiences
My first big surprise was how easy astral travel was. Once I started doing the exercises outlined in the literature, I immediately experienced lucid episodes: I was able to become conscious while asleep.
From the beginning, it became clear to me that out-of-body experiences and lucid dreams were inextricably intertwined.
The out-of-body experience (OBE) can be simply defined as a condition in which individuals perceive themselves as existing outside of the physical body. They report leaving their physical bodies during which time they are able to fly, walk through walls, visit distant locations.... The lucid dream can be defined as a dream in which the dreamer is able to maintain full waking consciousness and sometimes control the dream environment.
Most out-of-body explorers agree that lucid dreams are, in reality, out-of-body experiences. Some feel that they are an inferior form of OBE, others feel that they are superior. Some feel that they are the same phenomenon exactly, the only difference being the percipient's interpretation.
The main difference between the two, I think, is that with out-of-body experiences, you perceive the environment outside of you as being externally created and independent of mental influences. In lucid dreams, your environment is internally created, and is composed of mental projections.
However, this theory runs into a major problem, because as all out-of-body travelers know, the astral dimensions are extremely responsive to thoughts, and while out of body, it is very easy to slip into a finer dimension and create exquisitely detailed and lifelike mental projections.
In fact, as you advance with astral travel, it becomes clear that physical reality itself involves the same phenomenon of mental projections. Despite its seemingly fixed reality, the physical world is in fact composed of mental projections. Thus the concepts of internal and external become blurred.
Still, there are differences. I have had both lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences. I have astrally projected from a lucid dream, and I have had out-of-body experiences that evolved into lucid dreams. I have had out-of-body experiences that contain some mental projections, and I have had lucid dreams that seemed to be totally real. I have also had experiences in which I honestly cannot tell the difference.
As I became more proficient at out-of-body travel, I finally discovered why there is so much confusion. But in the beginning, I tried not to overanalyze my experiences and just went with the flow.
According to Robert Bruce, advanced astral traveler and author of Astral Dynamics, "A lucid dream is a genuine type of OBE, although the dimensional gate traveled through to achieve it is best thought of as being internal" (Bruce, p. 322).
Robert Peterson writes, "The scenery is 'artificial' in a lucid dream, but is 'real' in an OBE.... Regardless of what OBEs and lucid dreams are, I believe they are two separate phenomena.... I do believe that occasionally people confuse one experience for the other, and granted, it's very difficult to tell the difference in some cases" (Peterson 2001, pp. 201–205).
William Buhlman writes, "One of the best ways to initiate an out-of-body experience is to become aware or lucid within a dream" (Buhlman 1996, pp. 27, 182). In fact, during an out-of-body experience, he was told that lucid dreams can be considered a higher form of OBE, as they take place in a higher vibrational dimension, meaning the astral dimensions.
Writes Vee Van Dam, "[A] lucid dream is the equivalent of a projection" (Van Dam, p. 68).
In any case, the two are so similar that it can be very confusing for the novice explorer. This was true in my case. Although I was able to initiate OBE's after only a few tries, attaining lucidity was a long and arduous process. Only by combining intense effort, will, and desire was I able to become lucid in the dream state. My early experiences were invariably brief, and I had little or no control over my actions. I had already had several lucid dreams before I had the following experience in which I moved beyond the lucid dream state and closer to the out-of-body experience.
Could I Be Dreaming?
I wake up, and it's completely dark. Not even darkness—I can't see anything at all. Nor can I hear or feel. I have no sensory input whatsoever. I am fascinated, and think, "Could this be a lucid dream?" As soon as I think this, I remember the rule, "If it could be a dream, then it is."
At this realization, knowing that I am asleep in bed and yet totally conscious, I become overjoyed. This is intensely different from anything I have ever experienced. Suddenly, I feel a wave of tiredness and start to lose consciousness. I recall that LaBerge [author of Lucid Dreaming] recommended spinning to maintain lucidity. So I try to spin. I feel a very peculiar sensation of a sideways spiraling motion, as if I were a washcloth being squeezed. I feel myself folding into myself, rolling and rolling, and then I lose consciousness. (July 31, 1987)
Finally, I was getting closer. I still was unable to maintain my awareness for any length of time. My experiences therefore remained brief.
Trapped in a Dark Box
I wake up from a dream. I realize that even though I am fully conscious and wide awake, for some reason I cannot see, nor cry out. I know I am lying asleep in bed, and yet I am totally awake. I realize I am lucid, and am fascinated by the feeling of having no sensations whatsoever. It feels like I am in a dark box (my body), but I can't feel it at all. After about twenty seconds, I wake up, amazed and excited. (November 21, 1987)
These two experiences are neither lucid dreams nor out-of-body experiences. I was neither dreaming nor was I out of body. These are the types of experiences the beginner can expect. If you keep up your efforts, however, you will be rewarded with something less ambiguous.
The following experience occurred immediately after I lay down on my bed during the day, just for a short rest. I consider it my first real OBE. I was 22 years old.
"I'm Doing It!"
Suddenly, I feel my body become extremely heavy. This is followed immediately by what feels like an electric shock pulsating through my body. I am totally unable to move or cry out, and my body feels like it's hollow and there is a waterfall flowing through it. It feels like I am touching a live wire. I recall Monroe's warning that you might feel a vibration. I'm thinking, "Vibration? That's the understatement of the year!" I'm sure I'm being electrocuted.
Suddenly, I feel a strange "whoosh!" I am up in the air flying. I zoom out of my bedroom, across the hall, and into the bathroom. I grab the counter and realize I am out of my body. I am ecstatic and say to myself over and over, "I'm doing it! I'm doing it!"
I feel a huge wave of tiredness sweep over me, and I fall back into a series of dreams. Upon awakening, I know that I have finally had a genuine out-of-body experience. (February 7, 1988)
Around this time, more and more of my dreams began to reflect physical feelings of heaviness or vibration. This feeling usually marked the early stages of an OBE. I wrote down every experience in a journal that I also used to record my dreams, which, according to many books on the subject, are often half-remembered OBEs.
I am lying in bed, convinced I am awake. My sister walks in and says she's going to put me under hypnosis. I think she is being ridiculous. However, she starts saying, "You are getting sleepy ..." when suddenly, my whole body, but especially my head, begins vibrating like I'm being shocked with electricity. I am unable to move and don't understand what is happening to me. I am convinced that I am already awake, and it never occurs to me that I am dreaming. (February 12, 1988)
Around this time, many of my dreams and lucid dreams began to exhibit strong feelings of sex. Later I learned that lucid dreams and OBEs are integrally related to sexual energies. At this time, however, I had no idea that sex would become such a big part of many of my experiences, so I was, needless to say, a little overwhelmed.
Someone Lies on Top of Me
I'm lying in bed with my blanket over my head when someone walks in the room and to my surprise, lies on top of my body. I am sure that I am awake, but for some reason I can't move. I am wondering who would crawl into bed with me and why. I feel a sudden wave of sexual energy, which becomes so strong I wake up. (February 19, 1988)
Although feelings of bodily heaviness are an indicator of an imminent out-of-body experience, it doesn't mean that you will have one. Often, I found myself rationalizing the feeling as something mundane.
A Heavy Weight
A sudden heaviness in my body wakes me up. I am convinced that I am awake in bed with my eyes closed. I can't understand why I feel so heavy, and I'm thinking that someone must be lying on top of me. I'm trying to think who would do such a thing. I try to move, but I am completely paralyzed. I struggle to break free of the paralysis until I fall asleep. (March 3, 1988)
Again, I failed to recognize the heavy feeling, and simply assumed that I was awake. Although I failed to realize that I was sleeping, I was in fact totally lucid.
I began to dream about eyes, usually with bizarre details or injuries. More and more mirrors appeared in my dreams, with my reflection being somehow different. This seemed to follow the same general pattern as OBE writer Patricia Garfield's. If you see your reflection in a dream, it is a sign that you have activated your astral double. Another dream cue that hounds me mercilessly is the appearance of celebrities.
Every week, another celebrity would visit me in a dream. I would always be shocked. And although I've had more than a hundred dreams involving celebrities, never once have I recognized this as a lucidity cue.
Nearly every dream contains bizarre elements which I believe are sent from one's Higher Self to ignite lucidity, to make the dreamer realize that he/she is dreaming. Recognizing these clues is a key to becoming lucid and then going out-of-body.
However, most of the time when I became lucid, it was spontaneously. I was now at the stage where I could transfer waking consciousness into the dream state. However, I was not able to gather my mental faculties to a degree where I could think critically. I continued to rationalize bizarre details—and to wallow in confusion when I couldn't.
My Alarm Clock Is Ringing
My alarm clock is ringing and wakes me up. I get up to turn it off, but for some reason, I can't seem to do it. I'm having trouble moving and seeing. Suddenly, I realize that I'm standing up in bed, and I can't seem to open my eyes. I can't believe what I'm doing, and I'm wondering what is going on. Why can't I open my eyes? Why am I standing in my bed? Why can't I move? I wake up to my alarm clock ringing. (July 20, 1988)
I continued to work on achieving the out-of-body state. This led to more and more bizarre false awakenings and confusing rationalizations.
I Fall Asleep on the Kitchen Floor
I wake up and realize with shock that I have somehow fallen asleep on the kitchen floor. My head is stuck under the bottom of one of the cabinets, and it takes me a while to pull myself off the floor and stand up. I finally do, but I am very disoriented and confused. I just can't understand how I could have fallen asleep on the kitchen floor. I can't seem to remember even going to sleep. I would never go to sleep on the kitchen floor.
Still confused, I walk back into my bedroom. I feel so tired that I can hardly stay awake. With a great effort of will, I am just able to make it into bed before I fall asleep. Instantly, I wake up for real. (February 9, 1989)
No matter how much I desired to go out of my body, I didn't seem to be able to do it at will.
I was still doing the various exercises. These included relaxation drills, visualizations, subconscious suggestions, and memory exercises. What worked best for me seemed to be a combination of intense willpower, desire, focus, and intent. Only by obsessing myself with the subject was I able to generate out-of-body events.
Out of Body!
I feel a huge flood of awareness. I am suddenly totally awake, and yet I know for sure that I am lying asleep in bed. I immediately surge out of my body. I am amazed at how easy it is. I am standing next to my bed, and I know for a fact that my physical body is still asleep. It is nighttime, and everything is very dark. Otherwise my bedroom looks normal. I'm having some trouble seeing, but my awareness has never been sharper. I know that I am out of body, and I am eager to try some experiments. I try to move, but feel like I'm trapped in molasses. I look around me and am shocked to see the figure of a man near the doorway. Although I can barely move, I am just able to reach the man. I grab him by the shoulders and shake him. His presence jolts my awareness and I am wondering if he realizes that I am out of body, or if he knows that he is. I shake him to try to wake him up. I am buzzing with excitement. I can feel chills racing up and down my spine and am at the verge of losing control of my emotions. I am just so happy to finally be out of body. The emotion is so powerful that I can't focus on anything else. I lose awareness. (July 15, 1989)
I had achieved the out-of-body state several times, but still had little or no control. I couldn't move. I couldn't see. I couldn't control my emotions. I felt like a child who had to learn everything from scratch. The process was slow and frustrating, but extremely exciting. To the chagrin of some of my family members, I talked of nothing else. I'm sure that they thought I had gone off the deep end. Perhaps I had, but I sure was having fun.
I wasn't at all surprised that some people had difficulty accepting these types of experiences. I could barely accept them, and they were happening to me!
Most advanced astral travelers believe that everyone goes out-of-body every night. At first this seemed absurd to me, but as I began to remember more and more of what happened to me at night, I realized it was true. We may think we are asleep, we may not remember, but the reality is, all of us are very busy every night. The following disconcerting experience made me realize that we do in fact go out of body every night; we just don't remember.
Out of Body and Scared!
I am suddenly conscious. I struggle to get my bearings. I feel like I've just woken up and I shake my head to clear my thoughts. I look around and realize I am standing next to my bed. My first thought is I must be sleepwalking. But I reject that theory instantly, because I am having a lot of difficulty seeing. Everything is very dark and blurry. I feel a wave of lucidity, and realize with a shock that I am out of my body. I am standing next to my bed, and looking down, I think I can just barely make out my physical body underneath the blankets.
I am suddenly overwhelmed by an awful wave of terror. I am mortally afraid that I have just died and will never be able to get back into my body. This is not so fun anymore. Totally freaked out, I dive back into my body. I feel a strange physical sensation of buzzing and stretching. The feeling gets very strong, almost overpowering, and suddenly, I wake up. (July 23, 1989)
As I lay there in bed, I had the strangest feeling that something very important had just happened. But even as I thought about it, I felt the memory of the event leave my mind. I was confused. What had just happened? Where I had just been? Why was I lying awake in the middle of the night? I knew I had forgotten something, but what?
As if on cue, the memory of the event came rushing back to me. I was sleepwalking—no, I was in bed, but I was awake and standing. I was out of my body!
I was shocked to realize how close I had come to forgetting the whole experience, and it convinced me forever that there are a vast number of events that occur to us at night, and of which we have no conscious recall.
I am convinced that critical thinking is essential to becoming lucid and having out-of-body experiences. By keeping a constant awareness of where you are and what you are doing, you carry this attitude into the dream state, and hopefully not only remember what you are doing, but become aware of it while it is happening. For many people this is easy, and I did eventually learn how to do it pretty well, but at this point, I was still a beginner. Although I had experienced a few out-of-body experiences, most were still pre-lucid dreams, often with those pesky false awakenings, such as the following.
Excerpted from OUT-OF-BODY EXPLORING by Preston Dennett. Copyright © 2004 Preston Dennett. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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