The writing of Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience has reconnected me with many of the people who were around me as a young teenager when I first started my journey with the out-of-body experience (OBE) and astral projection. Just a few weeks ago I was contacted by my old friend Kirsty, who, about eighteen years ago, was also one of first people with whom I had shared my ideas. She had found me again online and was very happy to see that I was now working with a wider public in much the same way I had worked with her. She could recall the times that we had talked about the book I was going to write and how I envisioned it stepping into new territory. When she saw that Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience would be published she knew I had achieved something I'd held in my heart for a long time.
After so many years it was interesting to hear how we had gone in different directions in our lives, yet we had arrived at similar understandings. I had explored my creativity through art and writing, and she had been drawn to science. Yet now she wanted to look back into the experiences she'd had all those years before. I, on the other hand, had become increasingly scientific in my journey to understand not just what an OBE is, but how I can most successfully teach others to have them. In the end we both view the world with scientific eyes, but can see that there are things that do not fit within the framework of the materialist ideologies that dominate the science establishment.
Apparitions of the Living and the Dead
For many sceptics, out-of-body experiences have been explained away and can simply be ignored. Yet, does the evidence from recorded accounts, controlled experiments, and research into near death experiences (NDEs) support this conclusion? Over the years I have had many out-of-body experiences that were objective and could not be easily dismissed; there wasn't just the sense that I visited a place and saw what was happening there, but others would also be aware that I was there in some ethereal form. Some of the most powerful of these have been when my partner would sense my presence. These ghosts of the living are fairly common in OBE as well as NDE accounts, especially among lovers or long-term partners, and is an area of OBE evidence that is often overlooked, but one that I find increasingly fascinating.
One story that my friend Kirsty related to me when she contacted me a few weeks ago involved her having an out-of-body experience in which she was drawn to her boyfriend. The startling thing about this was that he saw an apparition of her while at his home alone, and was even able to accurately describe what she was wearing that day. This is just one example of the many similar cases I have heard over the years.
I first heard about this little talked about aspect of the OBE when I was reading about patients near to death. They often report a visitation from a deceased member of their family shortly before they themselves pass away. This is pretty much part of nursing folklore, as is highlighted in an article on the subject by Dr. Penny Sartori, who conducted a prospective study on the dying and NDEs in the UK. Dr. Sartori relates the story of Peter Holland, who reported a visitation from his dead sister while he himself lay dying. The part that confounds sceptical explanations is that he did not know that his sister had died at the time of the visitation. It was only when his relatives visited him later that it was confirmed that she had passed away two weeks before his vision of her.
Near Death Experiences
In 2008 NDE researcher Janice Holden interviewed a woman named Tricia who had been in a very serious car crash in her early twenties that broke her back and left her with multiple injuries below her waist. It was believed at the time that she would never walk again. However, during a resulting medical procedure she went into cardiac arrest (her heart stopped); she witnessed two beings, described by her as more than seven feet tall. These beings told her that she would recover, and she saw light or energy directed by the beings flowing through the hands of the surgeons.
The experience also included a veridical (objectively verifiable) element, in that as Trica moved away from her body and down the hallway of the hospital she saw her stepfather, who she describes as being obsessed with his health, buying a candy bar. She remembered thinking this was strange as he would never normally eat junk food. This detail of the experience was confirmed after the NDE.
OBEs and Healing
But probably most startling is the healing element of Tricia's story; despite the doctors' predictions that she would never walk again, she made a full recovery after months in a full body cast and now bares no signs of the extreme trauma she experienced.
Dr. Sartori's research also found supporting evidence that OBEs can lead to healing. She writes, "[In] the Case of Patient 10, who reported an accurate out of body experience and other components of the NDE, [he also] demonstrated a spontaneous healing of a congenital abnormality that defies medical explanation." The patient suffered from a twisted hand that he had never been able to move, yet after the out-of-body experience he was able to use it for the first time. The improvements even extended to his walking as time passed.
Each time I leave my body I feel something of that sense of healing. In NDEs and OBEs it is common to describe a sense of compassion, peace; and boundless light, and I would add a sense of healing to that list. A sense that the physical being is revitalised by the light and energy that we encounter. Whatever quality exists in the out-of-body state it seems that the more I explore this healing element the more examples of spontaneous healing appear. This is true for not just in those experiencing an NDE or OBE as the result of an accident, but also with people who learn to induce out-of-body experiences. Even within my own life I have seen a level of health and well-being that seems unusual. Despite moving to a country with weather conditions that are extreme, I haven't had a cold, sickness, or another ailment in years. I attribute this partially to my vegan diet, but I also see that the sense of well-being, freedom, and light I experience while out-of-body appears to be a part of the reason, too.
How Can You Have an Out-of-Body Experience?
For as long as I have been having out-of-body experiences (nearly twenty-five years as I write this), I have wanted to find ways to share these transformative journeys with others. This led me to explore not just what works for inducing OBEs, but also what holds people back and limits them. I quickly found that one of the biggest problems with most of the techniques and approaches I had found is that they assume that we all work in the same way—an assumption that is clearly not true. One student that comes to me might be full of excitement and another full of fear. One might find that they fall asleep when trying to have an OBE while another does not. Why? They may simply be doing the techniques at the wrong time of day or night. Some people are more morning people and others are night people, technically called your chronotype. If you are a morning person and you try to do your techniques in the late evening, what will happen? You fall asleep.
Another discovery I made in my research is that the way someone thinks about the world affects the the way they must approach the OBE. If you are very visual (sometimes referred to as "right-brain") or maybe more intellectual ("left-brain") you will need an approach that takes this into account. I also began to draw upon my work with immersion and virtual reality to help induce OBEs. I knew from my experiments with these technologies that they offer a unique way to work with the senses, generating a complete sensory experience, while still highlighting the particular elements of a person's make up. This led me to design and build my first immersive structure deigned to induce trance states and OBEs. It was called Epicene (1998) and used suspension, hypnosis, and my own sound technology (Infra-liminal) to maximise the chances of the participant being able to leave their body.
Finding the right technique for you is important in experiencing an OBE. But I realised that the bigger picture is even more important than techniques; by this I mean a person's lifestyle and choices. Reaching the out-of-body state requires a stretch of our usual understanding about the world. It is very hard to do that without shaking up the general routine you might follow. I have seen this in many of my students.
Remembering my own first induced OBE I can see that it happened because I had reached a make or break point—I was about to give up after six months of effort. Yet just as I came to this point, and let go, I felt a surge of energy lift me from my physical body. I could see my body below, although it hardly felt like me. That first induced experience didn’t last long, but it opened the doorway that led to journeys into space, beyond time, and even into other realities. I know now, all these years later, that those same journeys are open to anyone, of any age or background. In many ways that is the greatest insight of all, that a potential beyond anything we are told to imagine awaits those with the courage to step away from the everyday and reach out for something truly life-affirming.