A Beginner’s Guide to the Out-of-Body Experience, Including First-Hand Accounts and Comprehensive Theory and Methods
by Darryl E Berry Jr
9 – PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
TIMINGS OF PRACTICETimings of practice can be very important. Any time of day or night is fine. This timing has to do with the state of your physiology and psychology. It’s good to practice when drowsy; drowsiness helps you to go into sleep and thus enter altered states. If you apply techniques for a while and don’t experience progress through the states, try taking a break and practicing again when you feel drowsier. If you’re too wide awake it may be harder to get into altered states. If you’re too sleepy you may just fall asleep. If you regularly feel too sleepy when you practice, try practicing earlier or getting more sleep overall. Remember the idea of balance. Ideally, riding the wave of our natural physiological calls to sleep and to awaken is good for state acquisition and metaphysical pursuits in general. We can use our wakefulness for physical pursuits and use our sleepiness for nonphysical pursuits.
Breaking wakefulness and sleep so that practice is dispersed throughout the day/night yields a fertile ground for state acquisition. This can be accomplished by practicing meditation, OBE, and altered state exercises throughout the day, and by waking to practice once or twice during the night. The practice of breaking the sleep period into two or more blocks has been called the interrupted sleep technique. One example is to set an alarm to wake you after 6 hours of sleep. And then, after staying up for 30 minutes to an hour, to practice OBE. The intervening time between sleep and practice is a good time to journal experiences, including dreams.
Another good time is to practice as you awaken for the day; especially if you awaken naturally. If you awake naturally endeavor to not arouse yourself but to go straight into an OBE technique. If you awaken by alarm hit the snooze button or reset the alarm if you must get up at a certain time, and then go into practice.
You can practice in any environment. The only limits will be determined by how well you can stay calm and focused in the environment. It’s a good idea to change your location from your normal sleep location – if you normally sleep in bed practice OBE on a sofa, or on the living room floor on a blanket, for example. This will also help you to not just fall asleep. You can wake for interrupted sleep practice and then move to the sofa to practice OBE. Even simply changing orientation in bed – switching which side your head is on – can help.
Generally, you want to be warm, as your body will cool as you relax and as your heartbeat and respiration slows. You may want to start practice slightly warmer than comfortable. You may find a layer or two of clothing and a light sheet more comfortable than a heavy blanket. Another variable is tolerable noise level. The environment can be as noisy as you can handle, but of course a quiet environment may be good to start with. Tolerance for uncomfortable variables increases as your skill increases.
Asana is a word for the body positions of various yoga practices. Definite body positioning during OBE practice can be very supportive. While it is not necessary to be in any specific position to practice OBE or altered states, practice-specific positioning can help prep the mind for practice versus normal unconscious sleep. If you use practice positions that are sufficiently different from your normal sleep positioning, you can catch yourself during spontaneous OBEs by noticing you’re suddenly out of that unusual position. I’ve for instance practiced with legs folded and suddenly realized my legs were straight. I had disconnected from the physical body and my nonphysical legs were straight.
It’s not necessary to remain perfectly still during OBE or altered state practice. This is a common fallacy. You can move to scratch your nose, to get more comfortable, to shake off an uncomfortable altered state phenomenon, etc. After you do so simply go back to the practice. And of course, you can also just remain still through any discomfort if you like. Ironically my moving to alleviate discomfort eventually evolved into purposely moving as an OBE technique, my trademark relax-move technique, which I’ll describe in detail next chapter.
Another fallacy is that you can’t cross your arms or legs during OBE practice. Doing so is not metaphysically dangerous in any way, as I’ve had experiences with arms crossed several times. Also, you can wear jewelry and any type of clothing, but you may be more comfortable without jewelry and with loose fitting clothing, or without any clothing at all.
The general rule with positioning is a basic degree of warmth and comfort; or controlled discomfort. Sometimes an unusual position can help you remain aware. If you utilize any of these poses you may find variations of them that work better for you. First are the images of the asana, and then the description.
Plank Pose. Flat on the back, legs and arms outstretched. Arms and hands can also lay folded across the abdomen or chest. Legs can instead be folded at 90-degree angles so that the feet are flat, with the knees in the air, the legs two upward pointing triangles. Or the feet can be placed soles together, making a diamond shape of the legs.
Z-Pose. For the right side: Start in basic Plank Pose, and then the right leg is folded underneath the left knee, with the right calf or right ankle under the left knee. Also, the right sole can be placed against the inner side of the left knee. Place the left arm folded across the chest.
Egyptian Pose. Sitting on a chair or structure, feet flat on the floor, palms on the knees or thighs, or hands in a mudra.
Side Folded Pose. Fold your arms across your chest and fold your legs at the ankles or calves. I’ve found this position best when on my side. This pose can arouse lucidity in dreams by the experience of restriction of movement in your dream limbs.
Indian Pose. This is the classic folded-leg pose. Sitting cross-legged, palms on the knees, or hands in a mudra resting on the knees or thighs.
Mudras are asanas for the hands. Certain hand positions are more amenable to certain flows of energy. And certain types of intent, or certain types of focus, consistently correlate with different hand and finger configurations. This is empirically discernable. The idea is that there are 12 major meridians or energy lines of the nonphysical body, and 10 of them start/end in the minor chakras at the tips of fingers and toes. When the hands and fingers are interlocked in certain ways, certain energy lines are directly connected; while other lines are not directly connected. And certain connections of the energy body coincide with certain energy states, physical states, and psychological states. Here are some hand positions I’ve discovered, developed, or researched, that can help you in your practices. First are the images of the mudra, and then the description.
Fire Mudra. Start with the Finger-Clasp Mudra, and then point the pointer fingers, placing them against each other. My experience is that this mudra is good for concentration practice and attentive or active mental states.
Angle Clasp Mudra. The hands are clasped perpendicular to each other, with either hand on top as is comfortable. I suggest starting with your dominant hand on top. This is a great mudra for rest and relaxation.
Buddha’s Mudra. These are hand positions like those I’ve seen in many Buddha statues. The thumbs touch, and the fingers are either curved with backs touching or laying on top of each other. This mudra is great for sitting positions and energy working sessions.
Finger-Clasp Mudra. This is a great general mudra. The hands are placed palm together with fingers interlocked, and then the hands simply clasp together. A very restful hand position.
Keep track of what occurs as you practice. Journaling is important early on. With practice you’ll be able to anticipate your commonly experienced state acquisition phenomenon, or your signature phenomena. In time you’ll see what state markers occur for you regularly. Journaling will also help cultivate a mental environment conducive to altered state practice, as well as helping recall of occurrences. Journaling your practice sessions can be a fun, motivational, focusing, and extremely rewarding practice. Even just a two liner about what happened is a good start. The more detailed the better.
General components include date and time of practice, what technique(s) you used – or will use if starting the entry prior to practice, the start and end time of practice, and a detailed account of what occurred during the session. You may also add afterthoughts, which may include any hypotheses or conclusions about your experiences, and any ideas or correlations you make.
GOALS AND MOTIVATIONS
Having a goal in mind for your OBE can mobilize your energy, motivation, and focus. Before practicing you can recall and affirm the goal, and practice with intent to achieve it. Goals don’t have to be very tight and focused. It could be just to fly around and then reenter the physical state. I suggest starting with reaching certain altered state plateaus. Reach alpha daily for a week or two, and then theta the next week or two, etc. After you start reaching at least deep theta regularly then start attempting to cause OBEs. This idea is very practical and can eliminate much frustration at perceived failure by giving you time to develop enough flexibility of consciousness to be able to achieve a consciously initiated OBE. After you start achieving OBEs a simple goal could be increased OBE count. Intend to get at least one more OBE than you did the month before. Don’t be upset or beat yourself up if you fail to reach whatever goal you set. But congratulate yourself for the effort and drive. With continued practice you will succeed.
CHECKLISTS, GRAPHS, AND CHARTS
Checklists, graphs, and charts can help with goals and motivation. You can make a checklist for the basic practice techniques as well as to check off how many OBE practices you do, OBE successes, deepest state reached for the day, etcetera. This can be very motivational – see if you can get in more practices this week than you did the previous, or this day than you did the previous. You can look and see the foundation of effort you’re building as you move forward and see a sheet filled more and more with tick marks. And with each practice, each check, you get better and closer to OBE success and/or greater OBE proficiency. Just be sure not to be down on yourself if you don’t fill every box with a tick mark. If a checklist proves too hard to complete perhaps you can discontinue trying to use one or make a checklist with fewer items.
Here’s a sample checklist listing the month and year and day, several basics practices, number of OBE practices, deepest altered state reached, and number of OBE successes. The data from such a sheet can be turned into a chart or graph for visual representation:
Month/Year Med Relax Conc E-Work OBE Pract Deepest State Reached # of OBEs 1 2 3 4.. 5.. Etc.
PSYCHOLOGICAL PREP FOR OBE
It’s so easy to get so caught up in the happenings of the beta physical dimension that the leftover time, energy, thought, and effort we put into OBE practices are insufficient to generate success. My many periods of downtime from OBE practice usually involved hyper involvement in physical world life. When engrossed in physical world life even a minute of concentration practice can seem like too great a loss; like too much time to detract from our physical world ‘hustle and bustle.’ OBE progress may involve slowing down mentally, and withdrawing psychologically from the fast paced, mind-numbing magnetism of the daily grind. It may require eliminating unnecessary, stressful, or time-consuming preoccupations.
Committing to a gradually more robust checklist can have enough attention freed from fourth dimensional addiction. Perhaps commit to at least one basics practice a day, and one OBE practice day, the same day of the week. It’s common to start practice with a flurry of activity, only for activity to taper off drastically after a few weeks. Try a gradually building mental space for it instead. Ride the wave of wakefulness and sleepiness to help maintain a natural balance between waking and altered states practice. Both your physical life and your nonphysical life will be the better for it! Being rested physically we operate better in the physical world. And having attended to our physical concerns effectively we’re less mentally preoccupied when practice time comes. Also remember the preparatory breathing exercise offered in the Basics Prep section (Chapter 8).
PHYSIOLOGICAL PREP FOR OBE
Being either half full to on an empty stomach I find is best. You can get into different positions more easily, and it just feels more comfortable to be lighter. Stretching helps as well, especially a nice and slow stretching routine like Yoga. It can be a good warm-up before practice. A warm bath or shower helps as well. It cleanses the body and the pores and warms up the muscles and helps with blood flow. The better your blood flow the less discomfort you’ll feel as your heartbeat and respiration slows down during trance. Thus, regular stretching and exercise while not mandatory to success are a plus. Some instances of discomfort during altered state practice are rather than altered state phenomenon just signs of neglect of physical maintenance.
It’s also beneficial to place your limbs in a stretched position if the limb is straight. For instance, if in Plank Pose with arms at the side, lift and stretch your arms and legs towards the foot of the bed (or whatever surface you’re practicing on), and then set them down so they are slightly held stretched by the friction of the bed. Don’t overdo it, but a slight stretch may help ease blood flow and decrease any sense of constriction.
Chances are you won’t succeed the first time you attempt to OBE – you may not even experience any substantial alpha state phenomenon the first time you practice state acquisition. Keep going and don’t get discouraged. As you practice and start to experience altered state phenomenon, intend to get at least to where you have gotten in your previous practice. I suggest the measured approach of reaching alpha each day for a week, and then theta each day for a week, etcetera. Only progress to the next state after 7 days of consistent success.
A month of patient, consistent, progressive practice one hour per day will trump a 24-hour day of practice once per month. And of course, if in addition to consistent practice you periodically spend an entire day or night practicing it can only help. Some of my greatest successes and most fun have been in binge nights of practicing OBE. But consistent practice is key and the foundation of success.
Patience helps even during each individual practice session. If you simply go along patiently, not trying to achieve the result of an OBE immediately, you can remain more relaxed. And you may find much to your surprise that before you even realize it you have undocked from physical awareness and are in an OBE! By being patient and consistent, states it may have taken an hour to reach initially start to take minutes to achieve.