An out of body experience (OBE) is defined as the perception that you have left your body and are now observing the world from a viewpoint nearby. OBE’s can be triggered involuntarily by illness (especially with fever) and injury, or you can learn how to have an out of body experience. Many people have taught themselves to induce OBE’s through self-hypnosis. Certain perceptual illusions can also fool your brain into thinking your viewpoint is outside your body. Scientific experiments have shown that our brains rely on several different senses working together to give us a sense of being in our bodies. When one or more of these senses is disrupted an out of body experience can result.
To deliberately trigger an OBE, you must learn how to induce sleep paralysis and/or hypnagogia (near-sleep) from a rested state. Hypnagogia refers to hallucinatory sensations preceding sleep, while sleep paralysis (REM atonia) relaxes our large muscle groups so we don’t act out our dreams. Both kick in as our brains gradually cut off sensory input from our bodies. If you go to sleep after a normal day of activity, you will be too fatigued to really notice these sensations because your brainwaves shift to a sleeping state at the same time. However, if you put yourself into a hypnagogic state after seven to eight hours of sleep, your rested brain will remain awake even as it shuts down sensory input and muscle control. With your brain awake and your body asleep, you are in the perfect position to achieve an OBE.
Here’s one method to induce sleep paralysis: wake up an hour or two earlier than you normally would. Go to work or school, or just be active if you have the day off. After you’ve been awake for seven to eight hours, take a nap. Set an alarm to wake you after one to two hours of sleep. When it goes off, get up and stay up for another one to two hours. After your one to two hours of wakefulness, lie back down and focus on relaxing your body. To keep your mind softly alert, choose a mantra to repeat in your mind. This should be a word you’re familiar with hearing, such as your own name. Some OBE practitioners recommend listening for the word as though you expect to hear it: as you fall deeper into a pre-sleep state, this method can encourage the auditory hypnagogia which often precedes an OBE. If you’ve succeeded in lulling yourself into a pre-sleep state, at this point you may begin to hear more pronounced auditory hallucinations: people have reported hearing crashes, bangs, buzzing, roaring, and whispering. You may also feel a sense of pressure like a lead blanket being draped over your body, and a feeling of intense vibration throughout your whole body. Throughout all these sensations it is important to keep breathing regularly (it may be easier to do so through your nose) to maintain your presence of mind and make it easier to separate from your body.
A gentler way to an out of body experience might be Robert Monroe’s method, which teaches you to induce hypnagogic sensations to generate a state of deep relaxation. As with inducing sleep paralysis, it may be easiest to induce hypnagogia during an afternoon nap. Practice in a room with a little ambient light coming in. Lie down with eyes closed and focus on your breathing. You can try keeping one arm raised at your side; every time you start to fall asleep it will fall back down, rousing your brain to alertness. Another technique is to hold an image in your mind: when other images intrude on it, you’ll know you’ve reached a state of hypnagogia. Monroe calls this Condition A.
From Condition A, you’ll want to move into deeper states of relaxation to bring on an OBE. Clear your field of vision of any images you see, focusing on just the blackness behind your eyelids. You may see faint patterns of light, what Monroe claims are neural discharges: once these dissipate, you’ll have reached Condition B. From here, your goal is to reach Condition C, a deeper state of relaxation in which you lose awareness of your body. You might feel like you’re floating in a void where the only stimulus is your own thoughts. When you can enter this state after a full night’s rest, Monroe labels it Condition D.
In Condition D, you are primed for an out of body experience. Most people experience vibrations throughout their bodies just before they achieve separation, so your next step is to induce these vibrations. With eyes closed, concentrate on a spot about a foot from your forehead; move it to three, then six feet away and rotate it ninety degrees so it sits above the crown of your head. Monroe then recommends you visualize reaching for the vibrations at this spot and pulling them down into your head. You may also feel your body become paralyzed as these vibrations sweep over it. To practice controlling the vibrations, visualize sending them from your head to toes and back. You can also try reaching out to a wall or object that’s physically too far away to reach. Once you can feel it, let your hand pass through and return. Stop the vibrations and check the object or wall’s actual location. This is practice for a full separation.
The “lift-out” is the most popular method for separating from the body: when you’re ready to separate, imagine yourself floating upward from your body, concentrating on how nice it would be to become lighter and leave your body. Alternatively, you can try the “roll-out” method: imagine rolling over in bed, starting with your head and shoulders, while remaining physically still. As you turn over you will seem to roll out of your body and float upwards.
I hope this brief article has given you a good idea of how to have an OBE if you’ve never deliberately tried to induce one before. Like any practice that involves focusing the mind, with practice and dedication you should be able to teach yourself how to have an OBE reliably.