Some researchers have theorized that the problems encountered in visual experiments are not problems with vision, but rather problems with the mind and its interpretation of those images. Obviously, we can learn a lot about our reality and ourselves if we examine our own mind and consciousness during OBEs.
How is out-of-body consciousness different from normal consciousness? My experiments have led me to believe that out-of-body consciousness is very focused and directed. This single-mindedness makes it easier to induce the experience, and usually stays with me during the experience. This focus also makes it easier to remember details of an experience. It can also be a hinderance, because it's tempting to divert your full attention to some small distraction during the experience, rather than doing something that you had planned. For instance, several times I induced an OBE with the hope to astrally visit a friend, but often I would become distracted and forget my goal.
I have experienced many frames of mind and states of consciousness during OBEs. Usually, my consciousness is completely normal in all respects. At times my consciousness is very strong, and I feel more awake and aware than in normal life. But sometimes my consciousness feels very weak. I've often used the analogy between consciousness and a light bulb that is on a dimmer switch. Chapter 10, OBE #52 gave a fairly good idea of how consciousness operates during an OBE. Here are some more examples:
05/23/82 Sun - OBE #74
...Then something happened that might be difficult to describe. It seems like my consciousness dimmed to the point where I couldn't organize memories. The memory I have is of time standing still. I remember tiny flashbacks of things happening, but they all seemed to have happened at once. I remember seeing DB, and I remember him walking back and forth. He came toward me, then walked through me. Later, he opened the cabin door, and the door went part-way through my astral body. I also feel I had some interaction with JP and CA. But my consciousness was so dim that I didn't have conscious control, and my memory is so jumbled about that part that I can't say any more [for certain].
05-02-83 Mon - OBE #94
...I went to bed around 10:00pm. I tried to project for a little while, but I was just too mentally tired. I gave up and rolled over onto my right side to go to sleep, but I kept thinking about projection. I fell asleep almost immediately.
The next thing I knew I was semiconscious and out of my body, in my bedroom. I was standing up when I noticed my condition. I examined my consciousness to see how wide awake I really was; I wanted to make sure I wasn't dreaming or deceiving myself in any other way. I came to the conclusion that I was fully conscious in all respects. With that thought, my consciousness brightened suddenly until I was more conscious and aware than I am in waking life. I felt wonderful, alive, and vibrant, radiating with life and consciousness. I thought, "Wow! Now this is consciousness, better and more real than I've felt before!" And I felt completely free from my body. I could tell it was very dark there in my bedroom, but my eyesight was more astral than physical. I didn't hesitate to jump forward--through physical objects--to attempt flight. I closed my eyes, and I flew forward through my house, passing through walls and other physical objects as I gained speed. I felt each physical object as I passed through it, yet it didn't disturb me. I traveled so fast that I was out of the house in a few quick seconds. Once outside, I flew up and up, but I blacked out before I had a chance to do anything, or see where I was.
One of the things I try to examine during my OBEs is how "normal" my thoughts are. In most of my OBEs I seem to have normal, logical thoughts. Here are some examples:
08/02/81 Sun - OBE #45
...I woke up once at about 3:30am or 4:00am and went back to sleep. I dreamed that I was in a store at the University when I was called to a special counter. I received a phone call to come home immediately because of a death in the family. I asked the woman, "Who has died?" She said she couldn't tell me. All she could tell me was the person's social-security number. I talked to the woman a long time and had finally reasoned that it was my father (he's still alive). I was shocked and terribly sad. I decided to quit the dream.
So I tried to wake up and I opened my eyes and saw unfamiliar surroundings. I was stiff and felt paralyzed. My vision was weird too. I decided that I wasn't seeing truthfully. I didn't realize that I was astral; a bit of grogginess still hindered my thoughts. So I tried to remember where I should be and what I should be seeing. I decided I should be in bed looking up and seeing my walls with posters and the ceiling. My vision blurred away. When it returned, I saw my posters and all, but there was strange piece of woodwork that doesn't exist in my room. "This isn't quite right either!" I reasoned that I could probably project easily (I still didn't know I was nonphysical).
Then I thought of the dream. If my father had just died, I wouldn't want to project. I'd be afraid. At the thought of projecting, I started to sway away from my body. But I pulled myself back because I wanted to think this situation through fully before I dared to leave my body's vicinity.
I reasoned further: "This prospect of Dad being dead was only in a dream. Yet, if he is dead it is very possible that I would be informed of it in a dream. And if so, he may take the form of a ghost or leave a nasty astral shell about." I started to pull away from my body again on my own. I pulled myself back. I decided not to try to project further, just in case. I lost consciousness and woke up in my body after a few seconds of what seemed like nonexistence. I opened my eyes and saw how my room really looks and I felt my body again. Then I changed my mind, but it was already too late. I noticed my entranced state of mind though, and tried to project again with one near-success.
I gained at least one good thing from this experience, and that is the knowledge of the proper state of mind conducive to astral projection. I wonder what causes this state of mind and body, and plan to read some books on sleep and the causes and effects of certain types of sleep. I slept very deeply. My body was stiff and I couldn't feel it until I moved it and stretched. My mind was almost entranced. I was in a staring mood and found concentrating very easy. It was very easy to focus my mind on one thought. It was semi-easy to visualize. I probably ruined my chance to project again when I moved my body and broke its stiffness.
11/08/81 Sun - OBE #55
...[During the experience] my consciousness was again very clear and concise, but I was still very sleepy. I thought about doing some experimenting. Then I decided to follow my original plan of action: walk out of my house normally but as fast as I could, and then try to fly to LD's house. I thought of some parts of a song, and then I realized it [was typical in-the-body thinking] and made a mental note to myself to remember that my thought patterns are the same there as they are on Earth....
Here is another example of logical thinking during an OBE. Notice the use of logical deduction during this OBE:
06/09/82 Wed - OBE #75
...This morning at 6:00am I was dreaming happily. In one dream, I was outside my bedroom, and I looked in through the window. I saw something that frightened me, and put me in a state of awe. I don't remember what I saw, but I also thought I saw a blinding white light shining through my window. It seemed to be alive. The brightness didn't hurt my eyes. The white rays of light coming into my bedroom were like little beautiful fingers reaching out. At the sight of this (in a dream still) I let myself fall backward until I was on my back. The falling was very gentle, and I landed softly, weightlessly. I floated there for a few seconds, and the dream changed. I had a deep level of awareness that told me that the dreams were all very important lessons, and I must watch them all. I don't remember any of the dreams now. This dream of projecting happened in the middle of the series of dreams I had to witness.
When the dreams were through, a certain part of me expressed an interest in the projection part. I wanted to do that dream over. So I saw myself outside my room again. I turned and looked again. Then I saw the sight in the window again. I fell over backward again. But this time, when I landed on my back, I woke up. I was still in a weird state of consciousness, but I wasn't exactly dreaming. I had conscious control so I levitated myself until I was lying at a slant outside my bedroom. My body was rigid. I was looking west and my torso was parallel to my bedroom. I thought about how easy it was to levitate. I also noticed that the state I was in seemed somehow different from normal projection. I thought, "Wow! This is neat! I wonder if it is really a projection; it feels so different." To test my theory, I bent my right arm and put my right hand in front of my face. My logic was this: If I could see through my hand it was probably a normal projection, but if I couldn't see through it, it was probably different. I fully expected to be able to see through my hand. But when I reached my hand out in front of me, I could not see through it. It seemed (looked) solid. I thought, "Boy, that's strange! What else could it be then? I suppose that really isn't a good test. I could still be projecting." Then I started thinking about something else. Then I was frightened half to death when I heard my alarm clock go off. I was violently pulled back inside my body, and I came to with a jolt. My heart was pounding wildly from the fright.
Are emotions any different while out of the body? Usually, my emotions are normal during OBEs. Even my sense of humor isn't lost during my OBEs. However, I had the following experience during which I was very emotional. I even became hysterical, for no apparent reason:
01/30/82 Sat - OBE #62
Last night I stayed up until 12:30am watching a late movie, and then I did some stretching until 1:00am or 1:30am. I woke up early this morning and went back to sleep. After a while I seemed to feel a tingling sensation, and I came to full consciousness. I knew I was about to project, and I was aware of the vibrations at a certain level of consciousness. So I made a quick movement, and I sat up [astrally] wondering what I should do. Then I suddenly was overcome with thoughts of my father who had died 17 days ago. I cried, "Daddy!" hoping to see him on the astral plane. I was about two feet above my body, and I was mostly not seeing, but mind-sensing. I relaxed to a semi-reclined position in midair. I looked up in the corner of my bedroom where I had thought I'd seen some movements. I was very emotional for some reason, and it was almost a panic state. I became hysterical soon, and I reached my arms out in front of me, hoping that my father or someone would take my hands and help me away from my body. But I couldn't stand it. It hadn't even been one second of time [later], when I became completely hysterical, and I SCREAMED, "DADDY!" as loud as I possibly could, and with as much emotion as I have ever known in my life.
The last thing I remember was that I looked hopelessly into the astral fog. Then I blacked out very completely and very deeply. The next thing I knew I was dreaming, two or more hours later. I have absolutely no memory of what happened between the time I blacked out, and started dreaming.
It completely baffles me why I was so emotional, so hysterical during this experience. And I was impatient. Usually when I project I stay calm. But this time was just the opposite. I just don't understand. All I can do is to explain my actual emotions during the experience. I somehow wanted frantically for him to come to me, take my hands, help me away from my body, and cradle me, and make me his child. I somehow couldn't wait, even a few seconds, for my dad to arrive. My final shriek was a frantic plea to him, to my guides, or to anyone to come and just be with me. In a world where they are tangible and real and can be hugged--a place where there is solidness to them.
I really don't understand it. I feel completely different now, but those were my feelings at the time.
In comparison, the following OBE happened about a month later, in which I met and talked with my deceased father. This time I was completely calm, rational and logical during the experience.
03/02/82 Tue - OBE #65
...I astrally projected last night and I talked to my dad who died less than two months ago. I had been flying, and woke up out of my body as I landed. My Dad was coming into view. I landed next to him. I couldn't see anything but him: There wasn't anything around for miles except blackness. He had a T-shirt on, and he looked very good. Here's what we said:
Dad: Hi Bob. You guys a little preoccupied with my death, aren't you?
Bob: Yeah, I guess so. What should I tell them?
Dad: Tell 'em I love them. Tell Mom she shouldn't be so sad. It had to be this way.
Bob: What about the direction of my life?
Dad: Don't worry. Everything will turn out all right.
We exchanged one more line (which I don't remember). Then I remember (vaguely) flying for many miles downward and over, until I was next to my body. I woke up right away. I thought about it for a while, but I was overcome by sleep. I have dreamed about him before, and this was not a dream. First, there is always scenery in a dream, and there wasn't any there. Second, in a dream I am watching myself do things against my conscious will. But there I was conscious. I didn't see myself because I was myself. And everything I did was my own conscious choice.
The only thing I noticed about this projection was that I was strangely intellectual. I wasn't emotional, but had the feeling of a thinking mind. I didn't think to ask him any of a million questions I'd like to ask him. The lack of scenery makes me believe this incident took place on the astral plane, if there is such a place.
During an out-of-body experience, is there some separation between the right and left hemispheres of the brain? Which part of the brain interprets nonphysical experiences? Scientists have shown that one side of the brain (usually the left side) is more logical, mathematical and tends to put labels on the objects it sees. The other side of the brain is mainly used for aesthetics, emotions and things of an artistic nature. If the OBE was strictly devoted to the right hemisphere, it would explain why Ingo Swann could see and draw the American flag "target," but did not label it as a flag. It would also explain some difficulty people have identifying targets in OBE experiments.
The following OBE seems to suggest that OBEs are to some degree interpreted by the right hemisphere of the brain, but we have the power to control our brain during the experience:
04/13/85 Sat - OBE #112
I went to bed at 2:00am and was woken by the telephone at 8:00am. When I went back to bed, I decided to try to have an OBE. I practiced until I felt tired, then I rolled over and decided to try going to sleep with OBE on my mind. I fell asleep. I woke up a few times, rolled over, and went toward sleep thinking about OBE again.
Then at about 10:50am I became conscious, but I felt strange, and I thought I might be out of my body. I became fully conscious and decided I was out of my body.
I lifted myself slowly into the air about two feet with my mind. I didn't notice anything in my bedroom because my eyesight was strange, but when I was about three feet away from my body, I noticed an object. The object was off in the distance and hanging in midair.
I didn't recognize the object right away, but it was shaped almost like a human head: it was white, and it had dark prongs on top, as though the head was wearing a crown. I thought, "I can go anywhere I want now...but if I don't find out what that object is, it will bother me the rest of my life." I stopped my forward motion and floated weightlessly in the air. I turned toward the white object and looked at it. It appeared filmy and transparent.
At first I thought it was a materialized head with a crown, all made of ectoplasm, similar to the objects and faces seen in "spirit photography." I focused on it more and started to notice certain details: the "chin" area was square. I became very determined to solve the mystery of what it was, regardless of whether of not it was dangerous. I mentally pulled myself toward the object and tried to focus on it more.
I figured I was seeing it with my emotions, as if I were using the right side of my brain. So I tried to engage my intellect, or the left side of my brain [by solving mathematical problems in my mind]. As I did this the object became clear--it was my nearest Aloe Vera plant, sticking out of its white pot. As it came into focus, the rest of the room also came into focus and I could see everything in my bedroom clearly.
I decided to get up and walk out of my bedroom. I started to upright myself, and headed toward the door. Then my consciousness became dim, and I was pulled into my body, and I came to.
The aloe plant, sitting in its white vase, was an everyday object in my bedroom. In waking life, I could have recognized it in an instant. However, at the beginning of the OBE, I could tell its size, shape and color, and yet I was unable to "recognize" it or see its texture. It seemed almost two-dimensional and without depth. I should also mention that there were two other aloe plants, in dark brown vases, sitting next to the plant in the white vase. The three plants were sitting in a row on top of my dresser. Until my vision became clear, I only saw the one plant, and it looked as if it was hanging in midair.
When I tried to purposely engage the left side of my brain by solving mathematical problems, the other objects in the room came into focus, and I recognized the plant for what it was.
At face value, it seems that out-of-body experiences are profoundly affected by our usage of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Our OBEs may be valuable on a soul or spirit-level, but if our physical brain is unable to interpret the experiences in its own terms, we might not return to our bodies with much of value. And we might not be able to describe the experiences to others. This right brain/left brain idea is very intriguing, and I feel it needs more investigation. This may lead us to discover why our brains are divided into parts.
Here is an exercise to help you focus your consciousness. I have noticed that my mind is less "muddy" after I have been exercising for about a half-hour to an hour. Try exercising hard for about an hour in the middle of the day, and then make your OBE attempt.
There is a fine line between too much exercise and not enough. Too much exercise will make you too tired, and you'll drop off to sleep. Too little exercise, and you are likely to be too focused inside your body. Try different combinations to find out what works best for your metabolism.
Lie down after your workout, and visualize a book in front of you. Mentally open the book and try to visualize words on the pages. You can imagine the book anyway you want with pictures and writing in various colors. Strive to make the printing look clear in your mind's eye, so you can read the pages. Of course, the visualized book has nothing to do with OBEs; This exercise is merely to help you learn to focus your mind down to a single thread.
After holding this visualization for a while, you may be suddenly "zapped" into a state of intense awareness. Then the vibrations may sweep over you, separating you from your body.
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