A short OBE, and OBE, lucid dreams, and Zen thoughts

June 18, 2011

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:

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.

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