Flight School

After reading so many books on out-of-body experiences, I had great enthusiasm about astral travel. After all, why hop a plane to the coast, when you can hop the astral plane to the ghost? But I tried everything I knew to travel with a thought, but nothing seemed to work. Perhaps my expectations had been too great. Perhaps science had been too deeply ingrained in me, and a part of me still believed traveling had to be more complex than thinking.

Whatever the reason, I decided to take a different approach to out-of-body transportation. Instead of trying to use my mind to teleport myself, I decided to fly the friendly skies! My first attempt at flight wasn't too disastrous, but not too coordinated either:

01/27/81 Tue - OBE #32

...Some unknown time in the night I woke up out of my body. I could not see in the physical sense of the word, yet I knew where I was; I was in our back alley, and I knew I was projecting.

I thought, "Where should I go?" and immediately decided "To EJ" without hesitation--I had decided this before I went to bed....So I took a running leap and started off in the air.

I rose above the houses quickly and was shaky for a while; I remembered many flying dreams in which I have crashed. But I decided that if I controlled my mind, I would be all right. I flew higher and higher, and was touched by a little fear; I was afraid to fly too high. So I made effort to keep myself low enough for my own comfort. I could see the roofs of houses, the trees, and everything.

When I first went up I realized I wasn't seeing physically, so I thought, "I should see." Then I saw everything okay. I saw my arms raised in front of me Superman-style. I started to climb too high for comfort and I became afraid of getting too far away from Earth.

With that thought, I started getting lower and lower. I descended very quickly until I was forced to land. I landed okay in some street, on the slope of a hill. I thought, "...Now I'll never get there!". The next thing I knew I was dreaming again.

Nobody ever taught me how to fly, so I was proud of my first attempt. My next attempts were just as awkward, if not more so.

05/08/82 Sat - OBE #72

...I walked through the door and outside....It was bright and sunny outside. The change was striking to me, since the room in which my body was sleeping was dark. The sunlight didn't hurt my eyes; it just seemed very clear and bright out. I thought, "Now where should I go to take off on a flight?" I looked up and I saw the branches of our hackberry tree. I walked along our sidewalk toward the west.

I went to our front yard, and I stopped and faced the east (where our back yard is). I looked all around. I was very embarrassed to be out in the public where everyone could see me while about to take a flying leap in the air in an attempt to fly. I knew that I couldn't be seen by anyone, but still I hesitated, dreading the possibility that I might be seen. Such a flying attempt would look pretty silly for a physical person. I took a few quick steps toward the east and I leaped forward into a good flying position. For a second or two I was completely weightless and I glided in midair for a few feet. But then I stumbled and fell! I caught myself before I fell on my face.

I decided to try again. This time I walked further west until I was on the front sidewalk outside our house. I ran about five feet toward the south this time (away from my house) and I took a flying leap into the air, after looking around for neighbors who could see. I fell flat on my face again! It didn't hurt because I was not physical, and so I picked myself back up. I decided to walk to our back yard (east) and try [to fly] there once. I walked about ten feet or so and I blacked out without any warning.

07/02/82 Fri - OBE #77

Early this morning I was dreaming. I dreamed that I was talking to someone about astral projection. After the conversation ended, and I was back inside my bedroom, I said to myself (still in a dream state), "That's an excellent idea; I think I'll project."

So in the dream, I stood up and went outside. I walked to the place just behind (east of) my house and I woke up there out of my body! I realized my condition, and I was surprised, but I stayed in perfect control of my emotions: The dream had prepared me to be calm for the upcoming OBE.

I was standing outside, facing east. I thought about recent failures with astral levitation, but I said calmly to myself, "It's worth a try." With an act of will, I started rising through the air, straight up, in an upright position (standing). It startled me but I told myself, "Stay calm; it's no biggie. I'm going to go for a nice, simple flying lesson. I'm not going to try for a big adventure."

I waited until I was about 15 feet in the air, then I said, "Okay; that's high enough for now." The thought that I might not stop rising did cross my mind, and it caused me to rise a bit further, but I said to myself, "It's okay. Nothing bad can happen. I can't be harmed. I'm in control." So I stopped in midair. I totally relaxed my astral body so I couldn't even feel it and I propelled myself forward through the air toward the east with a mere thought properly placed.

I was slowly moving (flying) toward the east in a comfortable position. I thought, "I'm totally relaxed. This is a great bodily position to be in for flying." Then I looked down at my astral body, and I saw I was almost upright. My arms were hanging down, my head was forward, and I was leaning forward about 30 degrees. My legs were relaxed and naturally bent about 45 degrees. The position I was in was almost exactly that of a 10-speed bicycle rider except I was more upright and my arms were relaxed by my side.

I wasn't too steady in my flying. I bobbed up and down, left and right, trying to correct my direction of flight. I was moving slightly faster now, and the ash tree in my yard was straight ahead of me. I tried to steer around it, but I could not; I wasn't practiced enough at flying. I was just about to hit the tree, when I wiggled my torso to the left (north) and my head managed to miss hitting the tree. The rest of my body hit the tree, and much to my surprise it bent around the tree, and slithered around it elastically like a snake overcomes an obstacle. "Whew!"

After that, there was nothing in my way. I started flying a little faster, and I purposely climbed higher and higher. I climbed to about four-hundred feet, then I descended back to about two-hundred feet, so that I could see the scenery more closely. I looked down without any panic at all. I noticed that I could see everything well--equally well as in the body, and very clearly. But I saw there was no sun, and I felt it was dark out. I could see fine, however, and everything appeared in a pale, almost gray light. It was like seeing a picture from an infrared camera.

I glided softly, somewhat slowly over the houses, eyeing the details of the neighborhood houses. I kept a close eye on all the details of everything as I moved, and I verified that I once again was in a real, waking situation. The details didn't change, nor did my speed. And the tremendous detail I saw around me, assured me I was seeing reality and not a dream. I reasoned that:

  1. In dreams I notice very few details, only those that are necessary to the immediate story unfolding around me. This wasn't a dream. Besides, I was fully awake and conscious.
  2. Even in ordinary reality we screen out and ignore most of the details of our surroundings. So I knew I was experiencing reality with more clarity than normal in-the-body life.
  3. Since what I saw didn't change, (I was looking for changes) I knew my eyesight was at least normal, and that I wasn't dreaming. Dreams have a bad habit of changing the scenery to produce certain situations and emotions.
  4. I verified and studied the details I saw below. The details were all the same as waking life.

I flew to the east about three city blocks. I looked to the north, and I saw a man come out of a house that was on the north side of Lowry Avenue. He stood and looked at me, up in the air. So I brought myself softly down across the street, on the south side of Lowry, also to the west (I was now kitty-corner to where he was standing). He walked across the street toward me, and he came up to me. Just as he began to speak, I lost consciousness and entered the dreamlike semiconscious state. In this state the man and I exchanged a few words, and I lost consciousness. The man was about 30 years old, with short brown, wavy hair, very friendly, with kind eyes. He wore casual clothes. He was a little taller than me, perhaps six feet tall. I can't remember anything we said while I was in the dreamlike semiconscious state.

This OBE brings up a very important question: What's the difference between a lucid dream and an OBE? I do believe that occasionally people confuse one experience for the other. It's very difficult to tell the difference in some cases. Some people believe OBEs are poorly developed lucid dreams. Others believe lucid dreams are poorly developed OBEs.

A comparison of the two experiences is given in chapter 6 of With the Eyes of the Mind (An Empirical Analysis of Out-of-Body States) by Gabbard and Twemlow (1984). The authors found the following differences between OBEs and lucid dreams:

Also, an out-of-body experience is a typical feature of a Near Death Experience (NDE). One can hardly think that Lucid Dreams occur during an NDE, especially because the physical body doesn't spontaneously go into REM sleep during an NDE.

Perhaps the most convincing argument is this: I've had lucid dreams in which I had complete control, then dispelled the dream only to wake up in an out-of-body state. When this happens I've noticed that the scenery in a lucid dream seems artificial, unlike OBE scenery. It's even possible to change the scenery with your mind. Here is an example:

05/17/86 Sat - OBE #126

This morning I was in the beginning of a dream in which I found myself walking through the hallways of a hospital, and there were other people in the hallways. I realized I was dreaming, and became lucid.

First, I wanted to play with the lucid dream state for a little while, so I started gliding through the hallway. Then I levitated my feet and began to fly down the hospital corridor at a good speed. The hallway ended, but instead of hitting the wall I decided to change my focus and create a tunnel that I could fly down. With an act of will, a hole appeared in the wall ahead, and a tunnel formed. The hospital scene slowly blended into a tunnel scene, the hallway becoming the tunnel. In real life, a tunnel of this size (without lights) would appear to be darker toward the end of the tunnel. The dream-tunnel I created didn't seem to end, and it appeared lighter in the back and darker in the front. There was a strange kind of grayish light, almost like a fog, that obscured where the end of the tunnel.

I started flying down the tunnel at a great speed, but I knew it was an illusion. I got bored with flying, so I slowed myself down, lowered my feet and focused myself back in the hospital. I was in the same hallway. I turned and started floating myself back down the hallway in the opposite direction, turned left, and down toward the main desk. Then I stopped completely and decided that I didn't want the illusion of the dream anymore.

I closed my eyes, to unfocus from the dream. The dream scenery melted away and my vision went black. I was floating out of my body. Then I decided to have some fun, and I started flying wildly in all directions, doing loop-the-loops and having a ball. I turned about twenty loops of great size, just like a jet airplane, but I was unable to open my eyes for some unknown reason. Still, the sensation of flying was a blast.

I was having great fun flying so freely, and I decided to try an experiment: I decided to try to fly to the sun. I stopped and stood straight up. I reached up over my head with an imaginary line of force, and I kept reaching, trying to touch the sun with my line of force. When I decided that my line of force had reached the surface of the sun, I tried to "feel" what it was like at the end of the line. It really didn't feel any different, just a little "denser" (that's the only way I can describe it.)

Then I started pulling myself straight up, along that line of force, toward the sun. I accelerated tremendously toward the sun, until I was traveling what I felt to be near the speed of light. After about three minutes of this tremendous speed I still didn't feel any change, so I stopped and I tried to see where I was, but I wasn't able to see anything. With that, I blacked out and woke up inside my body.

If I had remembered any astronomy from my childhood, I would have known it takes more than eight minutes traveling at the speed of light to reach the sun. And I might not have been traveling at the speed of light.

The difference between the out-of-body experience and the lucid dream is not always apparent. I guess you'll have to rely on your own sense of "real" and "not-real" to decide this for yourself. One thing is for sure: more scientific study is needed. It is premature to jump to the conclusion that "OBEs are actually variant interpretations of lucid dreams" as proposed by Stephen LaBerge in chapter 9 of his excellent book Lucid Dreaming.


Lucid Dreaming

Many OBE experts say that some part of our psyche is already familiar with the out-of-body experience. Many books claim that every night, some part of our psyche leaves our physical body and goes about work of its own. What happens then is so far removed from the physical world that we usually only remember bits and pieces of these journeys as "dreams."

During OBEs and lucid dreams your body is asleep, but unlike dreams, your consciousness is awake. Well, your body goes to sleep every night. Suppose you had a way to "wake up" your consciousness but leave your body asleep. You could turn an ordinary dream into an OBE. You could wake yourself up and say, "Wait a minute. I know this is a dream. I'm wide awake now." From there you could either keep dreaming and have a "Lucid dream," or wake yourself out of the dream and have an out-of-body experience. Both are fun.

Lucid dreams are great. You can literally do anything you want. You can remain completely conscious and do anything you can imagine. They're almost as fun as OBEs, but they're not as real. The scenery will be fake. OBEs, on the other hand, are sometimes more constraining, but they're real.

The problem is, when you're dreaming, you usually don't think to wake yourself up. In fact, you usually don't realize you're dreaming: You think you're awake.

Here's a simple exercise to help you get around that problem. Ask yourself in all seriousness, "Am I dreaming?" Well, are you? Maybe you're just dreaming about reading this book. So how do you know you're not dreaming all this? I want you to make sure you're not dreaming this.

If you ask yourself this question every fifteen minutes today, you'll probably ask yourself the same question tonight when you're dreaming. Daytime habits often carry over into dream habits.

You don't have to ask it every fifteen minutes, but the more often you ask, the more likely you are to catch yourself dreaming. You can set yourself a reminder, like your watch. How often do you look at a clock? Every time you look at a clock, try to figure out if you're dreaming. It won't take long. And it could be a life-changing experience!

So happy dreaming. And perhaps, happy OBEs!

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