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OBE Techniques


From Jouni A. Smed's Out-of-Body Experience FAQ:
 

"What are the prerequisites for inducing an OBE?"


Many of the inducing methods use as a starting point techniques designed to improve the novice's powers of relaxation, imagery, and concentration. The ideal state appears to be one of physical relaxation, or even catalepsy, combined with mental alertness.

One of the easiest ways to relax is to use progressive muscular relaxation. In outline this technique consists of starting with the muscles of the feet and ankles and alternately tensing and relaxing them, then going on up the muscles of the calves and thighs, the torso, arms, neck and face, until all the muscles have been contracted and relaxed. Done carefully this procedure leads to fairly deep relaxation within a few minutes, and with practice it becomes easier.

Relaxation usually leads to state of paralysis or catalepsy. When you go to sleep, your brain deactivates the mechanism by which you are able to use your limbs, so that you become incapable of physical activity corresponding to your dream images when you dream. Quite a few people have found themselves in this paralysis state as soon as they have gotten up after sleeping.

The first type of paralysis, known as 'type A,' is a condition encountered when approaching a deeper layer of consciousness from a light trance state. The second, type B paralysis, is the reverse of type A, in that it happens during the return home to physical reality. The first type A 'paralysis' goes something like this:

"Mmmmmm.... I know I am awake; I can think ..... Mmmmmmm but my body is asleep ..." (Robert Monroe labelled it Focus 10 consciousness)

"Wait a minute here, there is something going on here, I just can't seem to...."

"Yes, I can't seem to move my limbs; they seemed to be laden with lead, why can't I move at all? Hey, what's happening here! (Panic!)"

A typical type B 'paralysis' goes something like this:

"Mmmmm... I am feeling groggy, absolutely. What was that just now, oh, it must be some dream..."

"Mmmm...... hang on a minute, was that a noise I heard? It must have come from the door... I need to check it out, could be a burglar..... but I am so tired... and sleepy..."

"I need to wake up, it could be important.... Hey, I can't seem to wake up, why are my legs not waking up, why can't my hands respond?"

"PANIC!!! I need to wake up!!! I don't want to die... I need to exert more will on this... Hey, body, wake up, eyes open, ... WAKE UP!"

"Gosh, NOW, I can move my limbs, I am awake now, body covered with perspiration, sitting at the edge of the bed, wondering why just now I simply couldn't wake up..."

"Phew -- Thank goodness, it is finally over. Am I glad to be back to the familiar physical environment."

However, type A paralysis is the type that should not be resisted; if the person can allow himself to 'go with the flow,' then some kind of altered state of consciousness is bound to happen, which is what the person is hoping to achieve anyway.

Many astral travelers have stressed the importance of clear imagery or visualization for inducing OBEs and of course imagery training forms an important part of magical development. Progressive methods of imagery training are often described in magical and occult books, and helpful guidance can be found in Conway's occult primer [Con72], and in Brennan's 'Astral doorways' [Bre71]. Most involve starting with regular practice at visualizing simple geometrical shapes and then progressing to harder tasks such as imagining complex three-dimensional forms, whole rooms and open scenery.


Practice 1:

Read the description slowly and then try to imagine each stage as you go along: Imagine an orange. It is resting on a blue plate and you want to eat it. You dig your nail into the peel and tear some of it away. You keep pulling on the peel until all of it, and most of the pith, is lying in a heap on the plate. Now separate the orange into segments, lay them on the plate as well, and then eat one.

If this task doesn't make your mouth water, and if you cannot feel the juice which squirts from the orange, and smell its tang then you do not have vivid or trained imagery. Try it again, the colors should be bright and vivid and the shapes and forms clear and stable. With practice at this and similar tasks your imagery will improve until you may wonder how it could ever have been so poor.


Practice 2:

This is a rather harder one: Visualize a disc, half white and half black. Next imagine it spinning about its center, speeding up and then slowing down, and stopping. Next imagine the same disc in red, but as it spins it changes through orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Finally you may care to try two discs side by side spinning in opposite directions and changing color in opposition too.

Other useful skills are concentration and control. Not only do you need to be able to produce vivid imagery, but also to abolish all imagery from your mind, to hold images as long as you want and to change them as you want, both quickly and slowly.


Practice 3:

Brennan suggests trying to count, and only to count. The instant another thought comes to mind you must stop and go back to the beginning. If you get to about four or five you are doing well, but you are almost certain to be stopped by such thoughts as 'this is easy, I've got to three already,' or 'I wonder how long I have to go on.'

All these skills, relaxation, imagery and concentration, are suggested again and again as necessary for inducing an OBE at will. Other aids include posture. If you lie down you might fall asleep, although Muldoon [MC29] advocates this position. On the other hand discomfort will undoubtedly interfere with the attempt. Therefore an alert, but comfortable posture is best. Some have suggested that it is best not to eat for some hours before and to avoid any stress, irritation or negative emotions.

 

"How to induce an OBE?"


Imagery Techniques

It is possible to use imagery alone but it requires considerable skill.

a) Lie on your back in a comfortable position and relax. Imagine that you are floating up off the bed. Hold that position, slightly lifted, for some time until you lose all sensation of touching the bed or floor. Once this state is achieved move slowly into an upright position and begin to travel away from your body and around the room. Pay attention to the objects and details of the room. Only when you have gained some proficiency should you try to turn round and look at your own body. Note that each stage may take months of practice and it can be too difficult for any but a practiced OBEer.

b) In any comfortable position close your eyes and imagine that there is a duplicate of yourself standing in front of you. You will find that it is very hard to imagine your own face, so it is easier to imagine this double with its back to you. You should try to observe all the details of its posture, dress (if any) and so on. As this imaginary double becomes more and more solid and realistic you may experience some uncertainty about your physical position. You can encourage this feeling by comtemplating the question 'Where am I?', or even other similar questions 'Who am I?' and so on. Once the double is clear and stable and you are relaxed, transfer your consciousness into it. You should then be able to 'project' in this phantom created by your own imagination. Again, each stage may take long practice.


Inducing a Special Motivation to Leave the Body

You can trick yourself into leaving your body according to Muldoon and Carrington [MC29]. They suggested that if the subconscious desires something strongly enough it will try to provoke the body into moving to get it, but if the physical body is immobilized, for example in sleep, then the astral body may move instead. Many motivations might be used but Muldoon advised against using the desire for sexual activity which is distracting, or the harmful wish for revenge or hurt to anyone. Instead he advocated using the simple and natural desire for water -- thirst. This has the advantages this it is quick to induce, and it must be appeased.

In order to employ this technique, you must refrain from drinking for some hours before going to bed. During the day increase your thirst by every means you can. Have a glass of water by you and stare into it, imagining drinking, but not allowing yourself to do so. Then before you retire to bed eat 'about an eighth of a teaspoonful' of salt. Place the glass of water at some convenient place away from your bed and rehearse in your all the actions necessary to getting it, getting up, crossing the room, reaching out for it, and so on. You must then go to bed, still thinking about your thirst and the means of satisfying it. The body must become incapacitated and so you should relax, with slow breathing and heart rate and then try to sleep. With any luck the suggestions you have made to yourself will bring about the desired OBE. This is not one of the most pleasant or effective methods.


Ophiel's 'Little System'

Ophiel [Oph61] suggests that you pick a familiar route, perhaps between two rooms in your house, and memorize every detail of it. Choose at least six points along it and spend several minutes each day looking at each one and memorizing it. Symbols, scents and sounds associated with the points can reinforce the image. Once you have committed the route and all the points to memory you should lie down and relax while you attempt to 'project' to the first point. If the preliminary work has been done well you should be able to move from point to point and back again. Later you can start the imaginary journey from the chair or bed where your body is, and you can then either observe yourself doing the movements, or transfer your consciousness to the one that is doing the moving. Ophiel describes further possibilities, but essentially if you have mastered the route fully in your imagination you will be able to project along it and with practice to extend the projection.

Ophiel states that starting to move into OBE will produce strange sounds. He says that this is because the sense of hearing is not carried over onto the higher planes, and that means that your mind tries to recreate some input, and just gets subconscious static. He asserts that the noises can take any form, including voices, malevolent, eerie, and get worse and worse, more and more disturbing, until eventually they peak and then just fade to a constant background hiss while one has OBE. Apparently, his 'final noise' sounded like his water heater blowing up. He says, anyway, to ignore the noises, voice or otherwise, as they are only static or subconscious rambling, and do not represent any being in any way, not even the self really.


The Christos Technique

G. M. Glasking, an Australian journalist, popularized this technique in several books, starting with Windows of the Mind [Gla74]. Three people are needed: one as subject, and two to prepare him. The subject lies down comfortably on his back in a warm and darkened room. One helper massages the subject's feet and ankles, quite firmly, even roughly, while the other take his head. Placing the soft part of his clenched fist on the subject's forehead he rubs it vigorously for several minutes. This should make the subject's head buzz and hum, and soon he should begin to feel slightly disorientated. His feet tingle and his body may feel light or floaty, or changing shape.

When this stage is reached, the imagery exercises begin. The subject is asked to imagine his feet stretching out and becoming longer by just an inch or so. When he says he can do this he has to let them go back to normal and do the same with his head, stretching it out beyond its normal position. Then, alternating all the time between head and feet, the distance is gradually increased until he can stretch both out to two feet or more. At this stage it should be possible for him to imagine stretching out both at once, making him very long indeed, and then to swell up, filling the room like a huge balloon. All this will, of course, be easier for some people than others. It should be taken at whatever pace is needed until each stage is successful. Some people complete this part in five minutes, some people take more than fifteen minutes.

Next he is asked to imagine he is outside his own front door. He should describe everything he can see in detail, with the colors, materials of the door and walls, the ground, and the surrounding scenery. He has then to rise above the house until he can see across the surrounding countryside or city. To show him that the scene is all under his control he should be asked to change it from day to night and back again, watching the sun set and rise, and the lights go on or off. Finally he is asked to fly off, and land wherever he wishes. For most subjects their imagery has become so vivid by this stage that they land somewhere totally convincing and are easily able to describe all that they see.

You may wonder how the experience comes to an end, but usually no prompting is required; the subject will suddenly announce 'I'm here,' or 'Oh, I'm back,' and he will usually retain quite a clear recollection of all he said and experienced. But it is a good idea to take a few minutes relaxing and getting back to normal. It is interesting that this technique seems to be very effective in disrupting the subject's normal image of his body. It then guides and strengthens his own imagery while keeping his body calm and relaxed.


Robert Monroe's Method

In his book Journeys out of the Body [Mon71] Monroe describes a complicated-sounding technique for inducing OBEs. In part it is similar to other imagination methods, but it starts with induction of the 'vibrational state.' Many spontaneous OBEs start with a feeling of shaking or vibrating, and Monroe deliberately induces this state first. He suggests you do the following. First lie down in a darkened room in any comfortable position, but with your head pointing to magnetic north. Loosen clothing and remove any jewellery or metal objects, but be sure to stay warm. Ensure that you will not be disturbed and are not under any limitation of time. Begin by relaxing and then repeat to yourself five times, 'I will consciously perceive and remember all that I encounter during this relaxation procedure. I will recall in detail when I am completely awake only those matters which will be beneficial to my physical and mental being.' Then begin breathing through your half-open mouth.

The next step involves entering the state bordering sleep (the hypnagogic state). Monroe does not recommend any particular method of achieving this state. One method you might try is to hold your forearm up, while keeping your upper arm on the bed, or ground. As you start to fall asleep, your arm will fall, and you will awaken again. With practice you can learn to control the hypnagogic state without using your arm. Another method is to concentrate on an object. When other images start to enter your thoughts, you have entered the hypnagogic state. Passively watch these images. This will also help you maintain this state of near-sleep. Monroe calls this Condition A.

After first achieving this state Monroe recommends to deepen it. Begin to clear your mind and observe your field of vision through your closed eyes. Do nothing more for a while. Simply look through your closed eyelids at the blackness in front of you. After a while, you may notice light patterns. These are simply neural discharges and they have no specific effect. Ignore them. When they cease, one has entered what Monroe calls Condition B. From here, one must enter an even deeper state of relaxation which Monroe calls Condition C -- a state of such relaxation that you lose all awareness of the body and sensory stimulation. You are almost in a void in which your only source of stimulation will be your own thoughts. The ideal state for leaving your body is Condition D. This is Condition C when it is voluntarily induced from a rested and refreshed condition and is not the effect of normal fatigue. To achieve Condition D, Monroe suggests that you practice entering it in the morning or after a short nap.

With eyes closed look into the blackness at a spot about a foot from your forehead, concentrating your consciousness on that point. Move it gradually to three feet away, then six, and then turn it 90 degrees upward, reaching above your head. Monroe orders you to reach for the vibrations at that spot and then mentally pull them into your head. He explains how to recognize them when they occur. 'It is as if a surging, hissing, rhythmically pulsating wave of fiery sparks comes roaring into your head. From there it seems to sweep throughout your body, making it rigid and immobile.' This method is easier than it sounds.

Once you have achieved the vibrational state you have to learn to control it, to smooth out the vibrations by 'pulsing' them. At this point, Monroe warns it is impossible to turn back. He suggests reaching out an arm to grasp some object which you know is out of normal reach. Feel the object and then let your hand pass through it, before bringing it back, stopping the vibrations and checking the details and location of the object. This exercise will prepare you for full separation.

To leave the body Monroe advocates the 'lift-out' method. To employ this method think of getting lighter and of how nice it would be to float upwards. An alternative is the 'rotation' technique in which you turn over in bed, twisting first the top of the body, head and shoulders until you turn right over and float upwards. Later you can explore further. With sufficient practice Monroe claims that a wide variety of experiences are yours for the taking.


Ritual Magic Methods

Most magical methods are also based on imagery or visualization and use concentration and relaxation. All these methods require good mental control and a sound knowledge of the system being used, with its tools and symbols. Charles Tart, in introducing the concept of 'state specific sciences' [Tar72b] also considered state specific technologies, that is, means of achieving, controlling and using altered states of consciousness. Many magical rituals are really just such technologies. In a typical exercise the magician will perform an opening ritual, a cleansing or purifying ritual and then one to pass from one state to another. Once in the state required he operates using the rules of that state and then returns, closes the door that was opened and ends the ritual.

This technology varies almost as much as the theory, for there are a multitude of ways of reaching the astral. One can use elemental doorways, treat the cards of the tarot as stepping stones, perform cabbalistic path- workings or use mantras. The techniques are very similar to all others we have been considering, so we can see the complexities of ritual magic as just another related way achieving the same ends.


Meditation and Chakra Meditation

Meditation has two basic functions -- achieving relaxation and improving concentration. Therefore the ideal state for OBE is familiar to meditators and indeed OBEs have occasionally been reported during meditation and yoga. The two main types of meditation are concentration meditation (focusing) and insight meditation (mindfullness). Most kinds of meditation are the concentrative type. One simply focuses his attention upon a single physical object, such as a candle flame; upon a sensation, such as that felt while walking or breathing; upon an emotion, such as reverence or love; upon a mantra spoken aloud or even silently; or upon a visualization as in chakra meditation. Concentration meditation is, simply put, a form of self-hypnosis.

The other main type of meditation, insight meditation, is the analysis of thoughts and feelings in such a way as to cause realization of the subjectivity and illusion of experience. Such meditation is done in an effort to attain transcendental awareness.

Chakra meditation is a special type of concentrative meditation which is basically kundalini yoga -- the practice of causing psychic energy (kundalini) to flow up sushumna, energizing the various chakras along the way. A chakra is 'a sense organ of the ethereal body, visible only to a clairvoyant' [Gay74]. As each chakra is energized by this practice, it is believed to add occult powers (sidhis), until at last the crown chakra is reached, and with it, full enlightenment is attained.

According to East Indian philosophy, man possesses seven major chakras or psychic centers on his body. In theosophical scheme there are ten chakras, which permit those trained in their use to gain knowledge of the astral world (three of the ten are used in black magic only). Each of the chakras forms a bridge, link, or energy transformer; changing pure (higher) energy into various forms, and connecting different bodies together. The chakras are located along the nadies (a network of psychic nerves or channels) and follow the autonomic nervous system along the spinal cord.

The first chakra, located at the base of the spine at the perineum is the root chakra, muladhara. The second chakra, known as the sacral center, svadhisthana, is located above and behind the genitals. Third of the chakras is the solar plexus, manipura, located at the navel and it is said to correspond with the emotions and also with psychic sight (clairvoyance). The heart chakra, anahata, is the fourth chakra, located over the heart and corresponding with the psychic touch. The fifth chakra is the throat chakra, vishuddha, located at the base of the throat (thyroid) and corresponding with psychic hearing (clairaudience).

The remaining two chakras are believed to relate mostly to elevated states of consciousness. The frontal chakra, (or 'third eye') ajna, the sixth chakra, is located between, and slightly above, the eyebrows. Ajna is the center of psychic powers and it is believed to be able to produce many psychic effects. Finally, the crown chakra, sahasrara, located atop the head, (pineal gland) is the seventh chakra. It is referred to as the thousand-petaled lotus and corresponds with astral projection and enlightenment.

To practice this chakra meditation, you simply concentrate on the chakras, beginning with the root chakra, and moving progressively up, as you visualize psychic energy from the root chakra traveling up shushumna and vivifying each higher chakra. As mentioned above the chakras have certain properties associated with them, so that this type of visualization may 'raise consciousness,' promote astral projection, and other things -- once you have reached ajna and eventually the crown chakra.


Hypnosis

In the early days of psychical research hypnosis was used a great deal more than now to bring about 'traveling clairvoyance,' but it can still be used. All that is required is skilled hypnotist with some understanding of the state into which he wants to put the subject, and a willing subject. The subject must be put into a fairly deep hypnotic state and then the hypnotist can suggest to him that he leaves his body. The subject can be asked to lift up out of his body, to create a double and step into it, to roll off his bed or chair, or leave through the top of his head. He can then be asked to travel to any place desired, but hypnotist must be sure to specify very clearly where he is to go, and to bring him safely back to his body when expedition is over. If this is not done the subject may have difficulty reorientating himself afterwards.


Drugs

There are some drugs which can undoubtedly help initiate an OBE. Hallucinogens have long been used in various cultures to induce states like OBEs, and in our own culture OBEs are sometimes an accidental product of a drug experience. In absence of any further information we might already be able to guess which are the sorts of drugs likely to have this effect. They might be those which physically relax the subject while leaving his consciousness clear and alert. Drugs which distort sensory input and disrupt the subject's sense of where and what shape his body is ought to help, and so may anything which induces a sense of shaking or vibration. Imagery must be intensified without control being lost and finally there must be some reason, or wish, for leaving the body.

Considering these points hallucinogens might be expected to be more effective than stimulants, tranquillizers or sedatives. The latter may aid relaxation but help with none of the other features just mentioned. Few other types of drug have any relevant effect. This fact fits with what is known about the effectiveness of drugs for inducing OBEs. Monroe states that barbiturates and alcohol are harmful to the ability, and this makes sense since they would tend to reduce control over imagery even though they are relaxing. Eastman [Eas62] states that barbiturates do not lead OBEs whereas morphine, ether, chloroform, major hallucinogens and hashish can.

Relatively little research has carried out in this area, partly because most of the relevant drugs are illegal in the countries where that research might be carried out. It seems that certain drugs can facilitate an OBE but what is not clear is why drug experience should take that form rather than any other. Part of the answer is that usually it does not. There is no specific OBE-creating drug, and OBEs are relatively rarely a part of a psychedelic drug experience. Drugs may help in inducing the OBE but they are not recommended as a route to the instant projection, they are no alternative to learning the skills of relaxation, concentration, and imagery control.


Dream Development

Many OBEs start from dreams and since, by definition, one has to be conscious to have an OBE, they tend to start from lucid dreams. The dreamer may become aware that he is dreaming and then find himself in some place other than his bed and able to move about at will. He may have another body and may even attempt to see his physical body lying asleep. This topic is covered separately in the later section on lucid dreams.


Palmer's Experimental Method

In the search for a simple and effective method of inducing an OBE Palmer and his colleagues [PL75a, 75b, 76, PV74a, 74b] use relaxation and audio- visual stimulation. Subjects went through a progressive muscular relaxation session and the heard oscillating tones and watched a rotating spiral. One of the interesting findings was that many of the subjects claimed that they had been 'literally out of' their bodies, and there were indications that their experiences were very different in some ways from other those encountered in OBEs.


 

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