The Out of Body Experience
Numerous surveys and anecdotal studies report that people all over the world are having lucid experiences outside their physical bodies.
The out-of-body experience, also known as astral travel or astral projection, is a natural phenomenon that everyone experiences nightly during sleep, although very few ever become aware of it. Despite being so little understood, it offers unrivalled potential as a vehicle for us to obtain answers to fundamental existential questions such as: what happens when we die, what is our purpose in life, and what is the meaning of existence?
Have you ever felt as though you were falling in your dream, and awoken with a jerk or jolt? Have you felt as though you were paralyzed and unable to move while trying to wake up? Have you ever "woken up" and found yourself floating above your body or had a dream that seemed uncannily real?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, rest assured, you are quite normal! Sensations such as falling, jerking, or sleep paralysis, among many others, are often experienced during the initial phase of an out-of-body experience (OBE), and are caused by the interplay between our non-physical (astral) body, our physical body, and our awareness. We feel as though we are falling because we are in our non-physical body and are trying to account for the sensation of being suspended in mid-air. Jerking occurs when our separated non-physical body reconnects suddenly with our physical one. And sleep paralysis occurs because our non-physical body is disconnected and thus temporarily unable to "operate" our physical body. The sensation of falling was noted by 63% of 1,185 respondents to an Internet survey conducted by the International Academy of Consciousness; 53% reported jerking; and 52% reported sleep paralysis (projective catalepsy). All these sensations are healthy, natural, and totally harmless.
There are two components to being able to take advantage of our experiences out of the body. The first is lucidity, which is our ability to be aware of what is unfolding around us, just as we are right now. It includes the ability to interpret, analyze, make decisions, access our memory, and have control over what we do. The second factor is our ability to recall the experience upon returning to the physical body.
Despite the fact that the OBE frequently occurs during the period in which we are asleep, it differs from both dreams and lucid dreams in that it is not a product of our imagination. Its contents are real events that we actually experience in another dimension or plane of existence. In dreams we tend not to question how events unfold, no matter how illogical or absurd they may be. And although in lucid dreams we are beginning to develop awareness while the body remains asleep, and can even exert some control over the dream, the experience is still imagined.
In a conscious OBE, by contrast, we can share an experience with a friend who is also out of the body, and afterwards each can remember all details of the encounter. It is also possible to visit and talk to people who have passed on, something that can be immensely instructive. In fact, while we will always want to observe ethical boundaries, we have the capacity to visit places and people at will, sometimes even being able to confirm our observations. For instance, a person could leave their body and witness an event that they later see featured on a TV news story. All the details match; even the time of the event coincides perfectly with the time of the experience.
When we start to study the OBE we find that it is nothing new. There are clear references to the phenomenon in the records of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, among others. References to the OBE were also made by Buddha, Herodotus, Plutarch, and Plato.
What is new is that today the OBE has been recognized by leading consciousness researchers, among them Waldo Vieira, as a bridge to greater understanding about ourselves and our reality. Many times in the past people have relied on spiritual teachings or channeled information for an idea of what happens when we die, or what the purpose of life is. But once we can leave our body at will we no longer need belief and instead, through our experiences and observations, can have direct, unmediated knowledge. This can give us far-reaching benefits since we can situate or contextualize ourselves in the moment much more accurately and deeply, knowing with certainty what life is for, taking advantage of the opportunities that it affords.
Those benefits are not just anecdotal. Surveys by the late eminent researcher Karlis Osis of the American Society for Psychical Research indicate that after their OBEs:
- 73% of individuals had a new attitude about life after death
- 88% reported positive changes
- 60% reported improvements in their daily efficiency that they connected with the OBE
- 50% reported improvements in their mental health
- 45% reported an improvement in their social relationships.
These findings are also consistent with the results of research into the Near-Death Experience (NDE), a widely known phenomenon that is essentially an OBE forced through some type of trauma, illness, or accident. The advantage of the voluntarily-induced OBE over the NDE, however, is that the OBE offers us the panoramic view and context for our existence provided by the NDE, but without the risks to our health and life. Additionally, the OBE does not have to be a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime event; with practice we can have them nightly.
Due to the emergence of the out-of-body experience as a tool for acquiring knowledge, in the coming decades we can expect many advances in our understanding about ourselves, our purpose, and our reality. Yet unlike the expensive laboratory equipment of other fields, the OBE is free and obtainable by any sufficiently motivated individual. It is indeed the bridge that allows us to reconnect, at will, with the non-physical dimensions that surround us and with which we interact.
David Lindsay, LLB, BA, is a researcher and instructor with the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC), and is currently the Executive Director of IAC New York. He has had many conscious out-of-body experiences, and is currently writing a book on a new paradigm for studying consciousness that takes into account non-physical reality. To contact the International Academy of Consciousness call 800-778-3778 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at http://www.iacworld.org.