At least ten percent of people have an out-of-body experience (OBE) at some point in their lives. This is the experience of leaving your body behind but still being able to perceive the physical world from some remote location. Those of a spiritual bent refer to this as astral projection or remote viewing. It is one of the most profound experiences we can possibly have as human beings, and research shows this experience is much more common among those who have mastered the art of lucid dreaming.
Lucid Dreaming as the Gateway to Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs)
Lucid dreaming involves a combination of wakefulness and sleep, a difficult balancing act that a skilled (or gifted) few are able to use to remain consciously aware while dreaming. This opens the door to the ultimate creative realm, and connects us to subconscious levels of the self not normally accessible to the waking mind.
Leading dream researchers have found that those who are most adept at lucid dreaming are the most likely to have out-of-body experiences. They distinguish between two types of lucid dream: dream-induced lucid dreams (DILDs), in which the dreamer has learned to use some cue detected in the dream state to become aware that he is dreaming; and waking-induced lucid dreams (WILDs), in which the dreamer wakes up and then returns to the dream state, successfully executing an intention to become lucid when dreaming resumes. It turns out that WILDs are much more likely to result in OBEs.
REM Sleep, Sleep Paralysis, and Out-of-Body Experiences
Sleep paralysis refers to the action of the Reticular Activating System of the brainstem, which cuts off the muscles from the brain when the brain goes into REM sleep; i.e., starts to dream. This protects the body by preventing it from attempting to act out the dream. It also liberates the mind from the burden of controlling the body in physical reality, contributing to the creativity of the dream state.
Sleep paralysis is often felt by lucid dreamers as they experience first-hand the isolation of the body from the brain. This is particularly the case in waking-induced lucid dreams, where the dreamer passes through a period of wakefulness and then returns to REM sleep. It is theorized that this cessation of sensory input contributes to the feeling of leaving the body, as the portion of the mind that remains aware is used to having a body and the creative, dreaming mind is happy to conjure one up – just not the physical one we’re used to. And the loss of the sensation of gravity pulling one down to earth may translate into the feeling of floating that is so often reported in OBEs.
So Are Out-of-Body Experiences Just Lucid Dreams?
Lucid dreamers are in a better position to answer this question than anyone else. They have the option of subjecting their OBE to “reality tests” to determine whether it is real or just a dream. For example, they can read something twice and see if it stays the same. The few people who have had OBEs without being adept at lucid dreaming are much more likely to conclude that the experience – powerfully convincing as it is – couldn’t possibly be “a mere dream.” But they have no way to test that assumption.
If OBEs are a form of lucid dream, does that make them any less fascinating or potentially enjoyable? The answer to that question turns on our own hierarchy of validity. Are personal dreams less legitimate experiences than the “public dream” commonly referred to as the physical world? Or do we believe, like the Australian Aborigines, that dreams connect us to the immortal “dreamtime” from which all life came and to which all life ultimately returns?
Of course, the best way to evaluate this mystery is to have these experiences yourself. Yet if both lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences are rare and difficult, how are we going to do that? A relatively new audio technology known as brainwave entrainment offers a fast and easy route to exploring these personal frontiers. To see just how much is possible, visit this website.