Keys for Inducing an OBE
What is love? I asked my inner voice.
Love is God's greatest gift to humankind: Himself/Herself.
When people ask me about my primary OBE induction technique, they invariably focus on the actions, visualizations, process, but not the key factors. They ask me why they are still unsuccessful at producing an OBE, despite hours of doing intense visualizations, concentrations and relaxation techniques. In many cases, the reason for failure is that they are focusing on doing the techniques, following the instructions, instead of on using their mind properly, and on taking the proper mental steps for the experience. There are five key factors that are important to inducing an OBE: state of mind, realism, motion, receptivity, and passivity.
I was delighted to find an article by Michael Grosso (Chapter 5 in Charles Tart's, Body, Mind, Spirit, Hampton Roads Publishing, 1997), in which he makes a similar list called "Factors in Psi Studies Conducive to Spirituality." In fact, Grosso's article fits perfectly with everything I know about inducing OBEs, so in this chapter, I'd like to draw out some of the similarities between my findings and Grosso's, as well as with a few other authors. Although Grosso's article dealt with the development of psi abilities in general (plus other topics), I'm going to examine what he wrote in terms of how it relates to out-of-body experiences.
State of Mind. When you are trying to leave your body the most important thing is your state of mind. The ideal state of mind is quiet, passive, single-minded, and neither emotional nor analytical. This corresponds to what Grosso calls "Internal Attention States: The Royal Road to the Superconscious.(1)" He observes that "people are more likely to be receptive to the nonlocal universe if they attend to their internal states. External states distract us from awareness of ESP 'signals.'" He stresses the importance of inwardness in psychic development then he takes it a step further by citing various religious authorities who support this idea, such as Christianity's St. Augustine and yoga meditation's Patanjali.
The point is that when it comes to inducing out-of-body experiences, it's important to withdraw your attention from the outside world and to completely ignore all sensory inputs coming from your physical body. It's equally important to turn your attention inward, accepting inputs only from non-physical sources.
Realism. Grosso states: "Goal-oriented mental processes are not linear but imagistic; you focus on the image, the end-state." I stress that it's important to focus to such a degree that it all becomes real. It might be helpful here to examine what happens when you fall asleep. When you fall asleep, you become absorbed so deeply in your inner fantasies that you temporarily accept the dream world as reality. You feel the same range of emotions--sometimes even more intensely--than you do in waking life. To induce an OBE, you must absorb yourself into "other-world awareness" to that same degree. The gateway to the out-of-body experience is through visualizing the images and learning to focus on them to the point of realism. You have to redirect your mind to that inner space, but instead of directing your attention to the inner fantasy of a dream (a flight of imagination) direct your attention to the out-of-body state.
I'll admit that, at first glance, it might seem like self-deception. After all, you're purposely trying to use your mind to make imaginary things seem real, and that's supposed to magically transport you to another world. But all the visualizations and mind games are just mental devices to free you from your body. They are a means of tricking your mind into letting go of your body. I assure you, once you've induced your first OBE, you will see for yourself how real it is.
Motion. In my first book, I talked about the importance of motion ("swaying") when inducing an out-of-body experience. I use the momentum of the swaying sensation to propel myself out of my body.
Grosso made some astute observations when he spoke about "goal-directed psi (2)" as they directly relate to my comments about motion. Grosso wrote, "As a goal-oriented process, psi neither calculates nor relies on information processing but comes about by concentrating on goals." How do my observations fit with Grosso's? When I speak of setting up a swaying motion in my imagination, that swaying has the wonderful attribute of perpetual motion. In other words, I can start the swaying motion (and throw in the visualizations to support that motion) and the motion is self-maintaining. Once started and sufficiently enforced, I can let go of the motion and it continues running.
People have a difficult time reconciling how I can talk about inducing OBEs by performing exercises like visualizations while simultaneously quieting my mind to the point of complete inactivity. To them, it sounds as if there is a fundamental contradiction between the action (visualizing) and the non-action (keeping the mind still). Grosso's concept of "goal-directed psi" is the key. Since my swaying motion and the visualizations are set up in my mind to be in perpetual motion, I don't have to use my mind to maintain them. After I start the swaying motion and visualizations and direct them mentally to keep running (i.e. after I set the goal), then my mind is free to stop all activity and become an observer. I stop all thought processes and watch the swaying increase until the momentum throws me out of my body.
Receptivity. Learn to make yourself receptive to whatever comes during practice." Along similar lines, Grosso mentions "spiritual trust." He reminds us that R.H. Thouless "talks of the 'gamelike' attitude of the successful psi experiment; the Eastern mystic talks about lila, the playful point of view." He mentions that "William Braud speaks of the need for cognitively 'labile' styles." Labile is a carefully chosen word, meaning "open to change, adaptable."
In other words, it's helpful to take a "wait and see what's going to happen" attitude when practicing OBE. Ideally, then, you should remain both passive and receptive. You should open yourself up completely to whatever new sensations find their way into your awareness. This complete openness can leave you feeling very vulnerable, and vulnerability can cause fear and worry, both of which will thwart your efforts to induce an OBE. That's why it's important to conquer your fear. After you start the swaying motion, you should wait with quiet anticipation for whatever comes.
Passivity. The more passive you are, the easier it is to enter the OBE state." Grosso supports this by writing, "As a goal-oriented process, psi neither calculates nor relies on information processing but comes about by concentrating on goals." In the case of OBE, it is accomplished by implanting the goals on the subconscious mind rather than by concentrating on them. In other words, success comes through being passive, not active. Grosso says: "...You don't struggle with the 'how' or dwell on the obstacles that must be surmounted...You don't worry about the informational steps that separate you from your goal." He also says: "Intention without desire--such seems to be the formula for success in the psychic world." And: "Oddly enough, in the face of miracles, a certain nonchalance seems the best attitude."
This view is summed up by Ken Eagle Feather in his Traveling With Power: "Also known as 'not-doing,' this technique requires that you accept events just as they happen. No inference is made regarding origin or outcome of the event." He further states: "You disengage perception in order to engage it more clearly. By waiting to organize data, you enter wider horizons of reality." In other words, you stop making conscious effort (you stop trying) in order to step aside and let your subconscious accomplish the goal.
Action ("doing") implies using your physical body, whether it's your brain (the act of thinking or feeling), or other more physical actions. For example, during OBE practice, you might be tempted to analyze what's happening to you, or wonder if you're doing something wrong, but by "waiting to organize data" ("not-doing") until after the experience (or even until you're separated from your body), you are much more likely to successfully induce an OBE. Of course, once you're out of your body, you can "do" whatever you want.
The Importance of Letting Go. Grosso invokes the well-known phrase, "Let Go and Let God". I agree that letting go is important; in fact, the most common mistake made during OBE practice is keeping too tight of a grip on consciousness, also known as "not letting go enough." You have to let go of the physical world, while still retaining a slight and unwavering grasp on consciousness.
Non-Patterning. When letting go, it's important that you don't follow the usual "letting go" pattern that carries you into sleep at night. Most people have a deeply ingrained habit (pattern) of falling asleep the same way every night. Every night they let go of their consciousness, following the same sequence of events in the same way, resulting in sleep. While sleep is important to maintain mental health, it's also an undesirable result when you're trying to leave your body. Eagle Feather explains a technique called non-patterning, which involves deliberately breaking out of patterns of habit. Here are some examples of non-patterning related to out-of-body induction:
To summarize, when attempting to induce out-of-body experiences, it's more important to attain the proper state of mind than it is to focus on performing the OBE induction techniques. Inducing an OBE is analogous to fishing with your mind.
When fishing, you've got to let out enough line to move your bait away from you. When inducing an OBE, you have to draw your consciousness down into a tiny thread and let yourself slip very close to the sleep state to move your awareness away from your body. When fishing, if you extend your line only enough so that it barely touches the water, then tug the line out of the water, you'll never catch a fish. Likewise with an OBE, if you extend your consciousness only enough so that it barely touches the near-sleep state, then tug yourself back to consciousness, you'll never induce an OBE.
If you just relax and let go, focusing more on your state of mind than on the technique itself, you will get much better results. Aiming for that quiet, passive, single-minded, receptive state of mind is much more important than any preparation or actions you take during OBE practice.
1. Charles T. Tart, Body Mind Spirit: Exploring the Parapsychology of Spirituality (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 1997), page 108.
2. Psi is a term used by many parapsychologists to denote paranormal abilities. Tart lists four kinds of psi abilities: telepathy (sending information from one mind to another), clairvoyance (perceiving what is out of the reach of the senses), precognition (seeing into the future) and psychokinesis (affecting the physical world with the mind). (_____, pages 23-24) Others use the term more loosely to refer to any paranormal phenomena, including OBEs.