A short OBE, and OBE, lucid dreams, and Zen thoughts
On Friday I drove to a lodge about ninety miles north of my current apartment. I got there too early to check in, so I did what I planned to do: Changed my clothes, pulled my bicycle out of the back of the car, and road a 25-mile bike path.
When I got back from the ride I checked into the lodge, took a shower, and walked around for a while. Tired from a lack of sleep the last two nights, I had dinner, came back to the lodge, read a book for a while, then began to fall asleep.
I fell asleep for a few hours, then woke up. Still tired, I changed my clothes and went back to bed, but this time, rather than just fall asleep, I thought I'd try to relax as much as I possibly could without falling asleep. I went through the "progressive relaxation" technique, and, cutting to the chase, I was able to separate my consciousness from my physical body as I've done many times before. (Some people call this astral projection, some refer to it as an out of body experience (OBE, or OOBE).)
My "consciousness" skimmed along the surface of the bed, fell to the floor, worked its way over to a wall, then another wall, then the ceiling. This was one of those OBEs where the process of moving wasn't under my control, so I just tried to go along for the ride. Unfortunately a loud noise woke "me" up, and I was back in bed.
Differences between an OBE and a lucid dream
A primary reason I'm writing this post is that I want to make some notes about the differences between an OBE like this and a lucid dream.
For anyone that has had a lucid dream, you know you are awake, and you know you are awake within the context of a dream. You have free will, you can control your own movements, you can test yourself ("Who is the president? What is 1+1?"), you can control your environment, and you also know you're in a lucid dream. If, for some reason, you end up in a fight in a lucid dream, you can conjure up a weapon or even a massive bomb and destroy whoever you are fighting with.
Even in a short OBE like this, the feeling is very, very different:
- You have a sense of your consciousness leaving your body, and you can feel the sensation of traveling. You are always awake and conscious.
- Beyond feeling motion, you can also hear things in your environment (a bug flying nearby), "see" things, and you have a sense of your proximity to things. For instance, I knew where I was within the room.
- Sometimes you feel like you have hands and you can touch things, and other times, like last night, you feel like a small orb, a small piece of energy. I don't know how large/small I felt last night, but I may have been a quarter inch in diameter, I may have been two or three inches. I don't know, but I wanted to share that feeling.
- You may or may not have control over your movements. Sometimes, such as in my "Guard Dog OBE", I heard a sound in my cabin during an OBE, and rather than get back in my body and wake up, I decided to move around the cabin in the OBE state to see what was happening. In other instances, how you move and where you move are out of your control. In a few cases I've felt the presence of other beings, but like last night, you also can just have the feeling of being some sort of energy being flitting around for no apparent reason.
- You have a complete memory of everything that happens. It's not at all like a dream where you remember some things and don't remember other things.
- The return to the physical body is often spontaneous. At one moment last night I was wondering about the mirror on the wall, and then with a loud noise I was wide awake in bed, able to hear the end of the loud noise outside.
OBEs and physical reality
While all those statements are true, I also need to state that what you "see" some times in an OBE are not real, at least not real as we know them today. While I have succeeded at the "card test" six or seven times now without failing -- indicating that we can see physical reality in an OBE -- there are times like last night where what you see and feel isn't quite right.
For instance, when I went over the side of the bed and landed on the floor, I probably should have fallen on a hardwood floor, but I felt the sense of carpeting. There was a large throw rug in the room, but I don't think it was at the point where I should have fallen off the bed, unless I didn't fall directly off the bed, but instead went forward a foot or two.
There was also a detail wrong with one of the walls. I thought I was coming to a small mirror, but on that wall there were three pictures, though they were large pictures covered in glass, and they did reflect a lot of light.
OBEs and Zen
Finally, though I can't claim to say anything smart about Zen, I do want to say that I think part of what we see during an OBE is tainted by our frame of mind, our prejudices, and our fears, which reminds me of Zen.
For instance, there is a part of the "Zen circle" that Zen Master Seung Sahn describes that he refers to as a land of magic (paraphrasing). In this land miracles can happen, marble statues talk, pigs fly, and basically anything your mind can conceive can happen.
In my excursion last night, there is a chance I expected or wanted to see a mirror on that wall, so if I perceived an initial reflection, I suspect that my own thinking made that reflection a mirror. That's just a feeling I had afterwards, I don't know that to be true.
Conversely, when I fell off the bed, I don't believe I had any expectation of what would be on the floor. It was only later that I wondered why I fell to carpeting instead of the hardwood floor.
While those statements are true, I need to make a distinction between them and what you can do in a lucid dream. In a lucid dream, I can conjure up a beautiful woman and have sex if I want to. I can't do the same thing in an OBE. While I have had feelings of great love in the OBE state before, it has only been an emotion, albeit a powerful emotion.
I think what I'm saying here is that a lucid dream is like the holodeck on Star Trek TNG. If you can conjure something up, you can have it. In an OBE, your thoughts affect your enviroment, but you don't have any control here. Also, even if I did think of a beautiful woman and want to have sex with her, I don't think that would happen in an OBE.
Finally, I think that if you can control your mind (desires and fears), and just "observe and report" without emotions, you can see physical reality as it is.