Wednesday, July 23, 2014

William Buhlman OBE Intensive at TMI

William Buhlman OBE Intensive at TMI

by Bob Peterson

Kathy and I just returned from a week-long class at The Monroe Institute (TMI) called "Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) Intensive" taught by William (Bill) Buhlman, author of Adventures Beyond the Body and others. I wanted to share my experiences so people would know what to expect from the class.

My spiritual quest began in 1979 when I read Robert Monroe's book, Journeys Out of the Body. I was thrilled when he started The Monroe Institute to study consciousness beyond the physical and thought about taking TMI classes, but never did. First, they were expensive; for that much money I could (and did!) go to much more exotic places. Second, traditional TMI classes were always about "Focus Levels" and they stated up-front: Don't expect to achieve an OBE, because that's not what they're trying to achieve. Third, I eventually developed my own OBE techniques without TMI, so I didn't need them.

Fast-forward to 2012. I found out that Buhlman had started teaching an OBE Intensive class at TMI. It sounded fun, but it still seemed like an unnecessary expense. Plus, my wife Kathy had no interest in OBE at the time and I didn't want to sit around alone in a classroom full of strangers without her. Besides, as a fellow OBE author, I didn't want to step on Bill's toes or butt in on his business.

Then Kathy and I spent the winter of 2014 in Austin, Texas, where we made a great bunch of OBE-oriented friends. One of those friends, Mike, told us he was going to the OBE Intensive class in July. Kathy suggested we both join him. She didn't have to say it twice: we called the Monroe Institute right away. Sadly, the July class was already full. I was bummed.

When I told Mike the bad news, he countered with good news: a friend of his had reserved a place at the class, but now had to back out. If I played my cards right, I could take his place in the class. When I called TMI to make the switch, they told me they were able to fit both Kathy and I into the class. I don't believe in luck, fate or coincidences; I believe in synchronicity, so this all seemed well-planned by a higher power. Somehow it all just magically fell into place.

On Friday, July 11, a TMI representative picked us up at the airport in Charlottesville Virginia and drove us to the TMI campus on Roberts Mountain. As soon as I walked in the door, a man with a sparkle in his eye approached me and said, "Tell me something. Do you believe in coincidences?" I said, "Well, actually, no I don't. I believe our higher selves plan our lives very carefully." The man said, "I signed up for this class three months ago." He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and showed me the proof. Then he turned the paper over and showed me his signature. My jaw dropped. It was Ian, a long-time friend and supporter of my books for many years. To protect his privacy, he never posted photos of himself, so I never knew what he looked like. Now suddenly, we met face-to-face at TMI. All I could say was "Wow!" That higher power really pulled some strings!

We were given a short tour of the facility and shown to our room, which included our two CHEC units: individual enclosed beds where we did all our OBE exercises.

We only had to follow a few rules, such as: No alcohol, be respectful, and reduce our technology as much as possible. I checked my email occasionally, my facebook rarely, and I didn't even carry my cell phone. I only used my laptop to keep a journal of what we did. I'm a music lover, so giving up my music was definitely a hardship, but I think it helped.

There were 24 people in the class, from all backgrounds and walks of life, from the shy to the boisterous, from the mystic to the geek. There was a real sense of camaraderie and adventure. By the end of the class, many of us became good friends, because we had the common bond of OBEs, which is--let's face it--weird by most people's standards.

Our schedule was...well...OBE intensive: wake up at 7:00am, optional yoga at 7:20am, breakfast at 8:00am. Starting at 9:00am, we alternated between dialogue and OBE exercises. Sometimes Bill's assistant, Patty, would also lead us through energy exercises, chakra tuning, stretching and so forth. Lunch was at 1:00pm, followed by a two-hour lunch break. Then we resumed our dialogue and exercises at 4:00pm. Dinner was at 6:30pm, and after that, we were back at it. We usually didn't quit until 10:30pm. We often did OBE meditation seven or eight times a day. After that, many people chatted and shared experiences, but I just went back to my room to write in my journal.

The dialogue consisted of three parts: First, Bill would ask the participants to share what they had experienced during the previous exercise. Second, he and Patty would answer questions and talk about different aspects of OBE. Lastly, Bill would explain the next exercise and we'd be given 5 to 10 minutes to get back to our CHEC units to make the next attempt. Every CHEC unit has a "ready" switch to signal when the participants were ready for the exercise, which were often done under headphones.

The talks were great, and included a wide variety of OBE-related topics: psychic protection, planes of existence, astral and etheric bodies, death, lucid dreaming, Shamans, drugs (like DMT and galantamine), religion and the afterlife and, of course, OBE tips and techniques. I was in 100% agreement with Bill, and his experience meshed perfectly with mine.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Bill's talks:
"There's not a man-made belief that isn't flawed."
"Try to stay calm when all hell breaks loose." (i.e. when the vibrations come, etc.)
"Personal responsibility is about energy responsibility." (Both in OBE and in waking life).
"What is your state of consciousness? That's the only thing that matters. We must take total control. Drop looking to the external for negativity. Each of us is creating our own lessons."
"You've got to get out of your head." (In other words, you can't over-analyze it. You've got to leave that head-space. It's better to feel than to think. I call it being passive.)
Of course, Bill emphasized his signature techniques for gaining clarity and lucidity: "Clarity Now!" or "Awareness Now!" He talked about the importance of being forceful and using "Now" in your request. He also suggested some great experiments like "Higher Self Now!" He also had countless amusing stories and creative ideas, like "Balance my karma now!"

Bill had us do a wide variety of OBE exercises; it was a very good sampling. As much as I'd love one recipe that can induce an OBE in everybody, it doesn't work that way. Different people respond to different things. An exercise that works for one person is often incompatible with someone else. For example, I'm highly resistant to hypnosis, so those methods don't help me. Because every exercise was different, there wasn't enough time or consistency to produce many OBEs at the facility. The idea was for everyone to try a sampling so everyone learns what works for them. Then, upon returning home, they practice it for 30 days to develop their OBE skill.

Some of the exercises were more visual (e.g. visualization techniques), some auditory (e.g. binaural beats), and some more tactile (e.g. to induce rocking or floating sensations). Some exercises included TMI's hemi-sync technology and some didn't. Some had binaural beats and some didn't. Some had hypnotic induction and some didn't. We also tried a relatively new technology developed at TMI called SAM (Spacial Angle Modulation). Some of the early exercises included setting intentions. We would visualize carving our intent into a block of granite, such as "Now I have a conscious OBE."

We also did a lot of what I think of as bonus exercises. For example, everyone received a cheap reminder-bracelet that says, "Am I Dreaming?" to reinforce lucidity through our habits. Also, in the middle of the night, hemi-sync played lightly on speakers in our CHEC units and every twenty minutes, it would make a "ping" sound, which might trigger lucidity in some people.

But that's not all. Every day, in the early morning hours, Bill would come on the speakers and wake us up in an attempt to perform "Wake Back To Bed" (WBTB) exercises. It was never a rude awakening. It was just a simple, "Please begin your OBE exercise now" but you'd never know when he'd wake you. Sometimes he did it twice in the same night, which made a lot of people tired the next morning. I remember one particular morning after Bill had woken us up twice. I slung my feet off the bed of my CHEC unit and held my head in my hands, trying to gather my wits. When Kathy poked her head out, she saw me and said, "Oh my God. Are you okay? What's wrong?" I told her, "I'm just tired. I keep saying, 'Coffee Now!' but it's not working!"

Don't get me wrong: It wasn't all hard work. It was also lots of fun. We spent lots of time listening to Bill's OBE stories and world view. He and I are so much alike, it's scary. Many times we all (including Bill) laughed so hard our sides began to ache. He often playfully bantered with some of the staff and also the Canadians in the class.

The facility is all-inclusive, which means they provide all the food and drinks. The food was good (not fabulous), offering choices for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. It wasn't new-age hummus and tofu. That's not Bill's style. It was tacos, pizza and baked fish, vegetables and salads. Breakfasts were often big, complete with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and veggie-sausage, juices, and all.

There were enough bathrooms and showers for everyone. One of the bathrooms was out of order and they put up a sign on the door that read "OBE: Out of Bathroom Experience (Thank you for your patience)."

At the end of the class, we were all given handouts, a certificate of course completion, and three CDs with different exercises and/or sounds to help us maintain the momentum we had gained.

Here's a picture of Kathy, Mike, Me, Bill and Patty, near the crystal:

Now you're probably wondering: Did I have an OBE using the exercises? It depends on your criteria. Many times I got very close to an OBE state; I got onto that "balance-beam of consciousness", only to fall off. Several other times I felt my consciousness shift a good two inches one direction or another. Another time, I felt my awareness expand until it was about six feet (two meters) wide. One time it seemed like my astral arms became detached from my physical arms, but not the rest of me. There was also an exercise in which my awareness was literally sucked forward about six feet out, then I was zapped back into my body. I managed to do this at least four times during the exercise. So yes, I consider these all a success, even though none of them came close to rivaling the more involved OBEs from my first two books.

But what about a beginner? Did an newbie like Kathy have an OBE? During one of the rolling techniques, she actually rolled astrally away from her body and felt a falling sensation. It may not be much, but it's a start, especially for someone who's just starting on her OBE journey.

I highly recommend this class for anyone interested in developing OBE skills, but you better not wait too long: these classes fill up nearly a year in advance. The problem is, Bill has a contract with TMI to teach a certain number of these classes, and that contract is running out. I suppose he might renew his contract when it expires, but let's face it: Bill is at retirement age now, and due to his throat cancer, his voice doesn't have the lasting- power it once had. You can't just assume the class will be taught next year, because you never know.

July 23, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Spirit Guided Lucid Dreaming by Nick Barrett

Spirit Guided Lucid Dreaming

by Nick Barrett
 Book Review by Bob Peterson

Author Nick Barrett was kind enough to send me a copy of his book, Spirit Guided Lucid Dreaming and I recently finished it. I had heard of Nick before, from facebook. Whenever I saw his name, it would unconsciously bring to mind a silly song by Alestorm titled "Barrett's Privateers". (Alestorm is a Scottish heavy metal band that sings about pirates and their misdeeds. It's not even one of Alestorm's better songs; "Keelhauled" is much better.) So without knowing anything about him, I had already envisioned Nick Barrett dressed like a pirate. When I looked in the back of the book for the section titled "About the Author", I found a photo of him, and guess what? He does kind of look like a pirate! Yar har!
Okay, enough silliness.

This book, which I'll abbreviate SGLD, was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for me. It's not just the OBE- versus-Lucid-Dream thing; it's the subject of spirits in general. Sure, if you can harness the power of spirits (or your spirit guide), it can be a big step in your spiritual evolution (spoiler: that seems to be the whole point of the book). Yet anyone who's read my book, Answers Within, knows that I've always been cautious, paranoid, and even downright mistrusting of "spirits." At the same time, I still developed a very close rapport with my "inner voice." For years I struggled with whether my inner voice was external--a "spirit"--or whether it was part of my own psyche; a communications channel to my higher self. After many years of hard work, my inner voice has earned my trust, but spirits in general are another matter. So let's talk about spirits.

Some overly religious people say that what we do--out-of-body experiences, astral projection, lucid dreaming, and the like--are all tricks of the devil. They say that we're surrounded by demons and devils (spirits?) whispering in our ears, trying to lead us into sin. This is complete nonsense, I know, but it's something I've heard my whole life, so I've always approached spirits with extreme caution.

My distrust of spirits also comes, in part, from my Catholic upbringing. Having read the Bible, I knew full well that it forbids interacting with spirits. For example, Leviticus chapters 19 and 20 forbids communicating with them. Of course, I'm not so sure how seriously we should take Leviticus; it forbids a lot of things people do today, such as body piercing or even shaving the wrong way, while at the same time it seems to condone slavery. Nonetheless, it affected me when I was young and impressionable.

There's another reason why I'm paranoid about spirits: I'm also a paranormal investigator; a ghost hunter. I first started doing ghost investigations around 1980 when I was at the University of Minnesota. Today I'm an active member of a team called Nightweb Paranormal Investigations. Ghost hunters are a lot like cops: cops often become jaded because they only see the negative side of society. That also adds to my distrust of ghosts and spirits.

So yes, I'll admit I am very jaded and overly cautious when it comes to spirits. That's my problem, my limitation, not Nick Barrett's, and I've always been that way. And it did affect how I viewed this book.

In my out-of-body travels, I've basically encountered two types of spirits: ordinary spirits, and helpers (or "guides").

Spirits in the first group are just like you and me: ordinary people who have crossed over--died--and that makes them no better or worse than us. You can see them, talk to them, and they go about their business like ordinary people. They may have different perspectives than us foolish incarnates, but they have their own motivations and values. Like ordinary people, they may have good intentions or bad. They may want to help us or harm us. They need to earn our trust.

The other kind of spirits are the helpers, or guides. They seem to have a strict non-interference policy, and won't do anything unless you ask. If you ask, they're always willing to help. They can take you anywhere, show you anything, and they'll gladly answer your questions. But the strange thing is: they're always invisible, at least to me. Over the years, I've come to trust these invisible guides because they have always shown spiritual motivations, spiritual intentions, and spiritual lessons.

Now getting back to SGLD: When Nick Barrett talks about his spirit guide, he talks about someone he can see (at least in his lucid dreams) and that makes me think of the first kind of spirit, which makes me automatically cast and eye of suspicion and mistrust. Sadly (for me), this is the mindset I had going in to the book.

My first impression of the book was the image on the front cover, which made me feel very defensive. It looks like a teenage girl, kind of goth, and she's embraced by a ghostly white figure. I'm sure this is supposed to look angelic, and I'm sure the spirit is surrounding her with loving protection. It's a powerful image (and good artwork!) But to me--paranoid about spirits--it seemed downright eerie. A normal person might think this girl is all "I'm loved. I'm guided. I'm protected." But I was thinking, "This girl is in the clutches of a ghost! Somebody help her!" Yet diving in, Barrett sets good expectations on the very first page of his foreword:
"...Paradoxically speaking, this voice is already a part of your higher self. The higher self is incredibly wise and has ascended to the celestial domain eons ago. A cosmic guru if you will, that has been evolving for thousands and thousands of years. This voice is, in fact, you and the essence is from an omnipresent source. Although it may appear that its energies could be located outside of your being, this is not the case. The spirit or higher-self part of your spiritual makeup knows you extremely well, overseeing your every thought, action and dream..." (pg. 7)
"When you and your higher self come together consciously, the connection becomes stronger and unbreakable..." (pg. 7)
Then, at the very end of the book, page 126, he reiterates his position:
"The help and guidance you seek is within you right now and has always been there, even as you're finishing this book! Your spirit guide is always present, and is internally within you, not outside of you. The spirit is you, and you will always be spirit. It is one and the same." (pg 126)
From this discussion, it sounds like Barrett is talking about his "inner voice," not about a "spirit" as an external entity. Yes, I realize that picture is colored by my own worldview, but that makes me feel more comfortable with the idea. Elsewhere in the book, he's not so clear; his spirit guide acts like a separate person.

My spirit paranoia reared its ugly head again when Barrett used language like this:
"...Low self-esteem became a barrier and I thought way too much of what others may (or may not) be thinking. This demon within me affected my relationships, my career and my close friendships." (pg. 30)
Now, I absolutely know at an intellectual level that Barrett's talking about the problem of low self-esteem as having been his inner demon. But just the language, "demon within me," made me all paranoid and defensive. It conjures up negative images in my mind. Another example:
"Then I met my spirit guide. All of my inner fears and demons came to the surface and showed themselves to me." (pg. 31)
Again, I know what he's is trying to say. It can be quite enlightening to face yourself and your fears. But the way he said it just made me defensive. Here's another example:
"I can safely say that my life truly began to be awakened when I finally sealed the bond with my spirit guide." (pg. 44)
I firmly believe in cooperation and trust, especially with my inner voice. I enlist the help of the "guides" all the time in my own OBEs. But "sealed the bond" sounds too final, too immutable. It sounds a bit too much like writing contracts with the Devil or something. I know it's meant to be innocent. My intellect interprets the words correctly, but the wording just brings too many negative emotions to my spirit-distrusting mind. I would have chosen different words.

Another problem I had with the book was a slight lack of organization. It wasn't anything major, it was just little things. For example, on page 68, Nick uses the acronym "WBTB" but it isn't spelled out as "Wake Back To Bed" until page 71. If you're already familiar with the genre, no problem. Other readers might feel a bit lost.

But don't let me give you the wrong impression. I enjoyed this book a lot. It intrigued me, partly because of my spirit-paranoia, and partly because of my own relationship with my inner voice.

There were a lot of good things in there to talk about. For example, Barrett talks about spirituality being more important than religion, and I agree wholeheartedly. Nick's spirituality is not unlike my own; it seems more Taoist than anything, and that really resonates with me. The Tao Te Ching is one of my favorite books of all time. Plus, Taoist philosophy is unusual and refreshing in the genre. I've actually described my own personal philosophy as somewhere between "Seth Speaks" and "Taoism."

Here's something else I liked: On page 17, he writes:
"Selling my television was the best decision I ever made." (pg. 17.)
That right there gave me a lot of respect for Nick Barrett. He goes on:
"I took long walks out into nature not knowing where the trail ended and connected to Mother Earth's beauty. Old friendships an acquaintances that were not in accordance to my higher self gradually diminished. I documented my dream entries daily..." (pg.17)
Man, did that ever sound familiar! In Answers Within, I wrote about how I developed my inner voice, often by taking long walks in nature. It seems that Nick Barrett and I have a lot in common.

Where this book really shines is the techniques. He has a good long section of useful techniques that are different from most books in the genre. Much of this assumes a working knowledge of conventional lucid dreaming techniques, but he goes the extra mile with some really creative ideas. He even talks about lucid nightmares, which was fascinating. (Nightmares often cause me to become lucid, but I always dispel the illusion of the dream environment and find myself out-of-body.)

Another plus: His discussion of polyphasic sleep is fascinating and unique in the genre.

He also talks about synchronicity and seeing numbers: He often sees the number 8 everywhere, and he talks about its spiritual significance to him. My experiences and philosophy are very similar, but I always see the number 414. I was born on April 14, and I see that number constantly. Just last weekend I saw a police car with number 414 painted on it, and received a phone call from a guy whose phone number ended in 0414. But I digress...

From reading this book, I get the impression that most of Nick Barrett's spirituality was self-taught, much like Graham Nicholls and me. Nick has developed an unprecedented level of cooperation with spirit, whether you want to call that your "inner voice" or your "spirit guide." It's interesting then, how similar our home-spun philosophies are.

As to the content: The book is 127 pages, with decent-sized pages and a small enough font, which means it has a good amount of content, unlike some of the ultra-thin books in the genre. The spelling is stellar, but the grammar, not so much (but not bad for a pirate!). It has good information and good techniques. It has some personal experiences, but I would have liked many more. Barrett says he has benefited greatly from his relationship with his spirit guide, but in my opinion, there were too few narrations of his spiritual adventures in the book.

If you're not spirit-paranoid (or if you can use logic to overcome it), you can get a lot out of this book. All in all, this is a good book, and I do recommend it, though I do wish he had worded things a bit differently at times.

Bob Peterson
July 10, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review: Out and About by Admir Serrano

Book Review: Out and About

by Admir Serrano
Review by Bob Peterson

This time I'm reviewing Admir Serrano's new book, Out and About.

The subtitle is How to have conscious out-of-body experiences, so I had high expectations, but like too many books in the genre, the information was good but way too short. It's only 71 pages long, with a large font and small pages. That means you can read the whole thing in about an hour, maybe less. There's a lot that can be said about out-of-body experiences, but in my opinion, you just can't do it well in so few pages.

Due to the subtitle, I was hoping to find some new, innovative approaches to inducing OBEs, but his techniques were all things I've read in other books:
  • Make mental and verbal suggestions, affirmations, and visualizations to train your subconscious mind and impress upon it your desire to have an OBE. This is common to many OBE books, even the earliest.
  • Prior to sleep, as you fall asleep and enter the hypnagogic state, continuously repeat to yourself, "I am out of my body" and similar. I first remember reading this in Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman, which I previously reviewed.
  • Train yourself to become lucid/aware in your dreams. This is suggested by many books. Maybe the first was occultist Oliver Fox (aka Hugh Calloway) in his book Astral Projection from the 1920s.
  • Program your subconscious to move out-of-body to your kitchen due to induced thirst and repeated walk-throughs. I remember reading this in The Projection of the Astral Body by Sylvan Muldoon from the 1920s. By the way, I don't recommend this method. There may be some merit, but dehydration is dangerous and can severely impact your health.
On a positive note, Serrano does have a decent section entitled, "Key Points to a Conscious OBE" in which he talks about some important factors, such as: Desire, Action, Practice, Faith, Patience, Perseverance, Mental Suggestions, [Physical] Exercise and Relaxation. This section has several hints that are helpful (although not new or innovative).

I'd say this is an average OBE book, with good information, but it's much too small to cover the topic well.

Bob Peterson
2014 June 26

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book review: Adventures Beyond the Body

Book review: Adventures Beyond the Body

by William Buhlman

Book review by Bob Peterson

I love OBE books. I've amassed a large collection of them, and it's always growing. Whenever a new OBE book comes out, I'm anxious to read it. Naturally, after I read it, I review it. The problem with that approach is that only the new books ever get reviewed; the classics don't get the attention they deserve. Some of these new books are refreshing, but they need to be really good to surpass the OBE classics. So I've made a point of occasionally re-reading and reviewing some of the classics, so that they don't get left behind. I started with Muldoon and Carrington's first book, The Projection of the Astral Body and later did Monroe's first book, Journeys Out of the Body. This time I'm reviewing another classic, Adventures Beyond the Body, by William Buhlman.

I love this book for so many reasons. One of the big reasons is that Bill Buhlman and I are a lot alike. We both started inducing OBEs in the 1970s. We both wrote our books about the same time. I submitted my book for publication in 1995 and it hit the shelves in 1997. I'm not sure when Bill submitted, but the copyright date is 1996.

Our books are similar too. We say a lot of the same things. I remember telling my wife a long time ago that if this book had been available a few years earlier, I might not have written mine. In other words: Many of the things Buhlman says in this book are so important that I felt compelled to write my own first book--risking public ridicule--just to make the information public (I tend to be a private person, at least as far as my spirituality is concerned).

This book, like mine, starts with OBE journal entries describing the excitement of discovery and what he learned along the way. Then it progresses to more solid information: the mechanics of the OBE.

Some of the OBEs from his journal are very intense. Only Jurgen Ziewe's books surpass some of these narratives.
"The energy is so intense it feels like the outer parts of me are being burned away. My entire outer self--my thoughts, fears and concepts--is being incinerated by the light. At first, I try to shield myself. I surround myself with thoughts only to realize that they too are being burned away by the intensity of the light..." p. 55.

"For the first time, I recognize that we have separated ourselves from our own source. How foolish we are. We focus on decaying molecular forms when true reality is always here, patiently waiting for us to open our eyes and see..." p. 56.

Buhlman's experiences are similar to mine, and his world view is similar as well. Chapter 7, "Mastering the Experience", has a table of OBE problems, their causes, and how to solve them. This is great information and exactly matches my experience. For example, on pages 223-224, Bill discusses non-physical guides:
"When we request guidance, we are often directed to the experience that is the more favorable to our spiritual development. Nonphysical guides are seldom visible. Instead, we may experience a strong impression or feeling of their presence...
...Unlimited assistance is always available, but it is up to us to make the request. Guides normally will not interfere without a specific request."
Another good example: I've always maintained that OBEs are different from lucid dreams: Take sex, for example. Sex in a lucid dream is very much like physical sex. In an OBE, it's different: difficult to describe, but unlike Earthly sex. Here's an excerpt from Buhlman's journals:
"We kiss and a surge of energy floods into my mind. Our bodies and our minds come together in an intense explosion of pure energy and joy. Our thoughts merge and touch one another in a thousand subtle ways. I feel immersed in her mind as she and I become as one." p. 42.
When I first met Bill many years ago, I was surprised to find out that we had similar views about everything: life, spirituality, even politics. These are sometimes reflected in some great quotes in this book. Some of my favorites:
"A sense of purpose and order becomes clear: I'm witnessing the evolution of consciousness, the evolution of myself through eons of time." p. 51.
"I have come to realize that the answers to the mysteries of our existence are not hidden; they are patiently waiting for us to extend our vision beyond the dense limits of matter." p. 212.
Here's another one of my favorite quotes:
"It's important for us to recognize that we orchestrate our lives, both physical and nonphysical, by the power of our thoughts. When our lives feel out of control, it's because we have surrendered our internal control to others or have refused to accept our personal responsibility...Some of the toughest lessons we are here to learn are directly related to thought control and personal responsibility. Our ability to focus and direct our thoughts is a central element of our personal evolution. The benefits we receive are beyond our expectations--our life is our reward." p. 225.
More importantly, Buhlman echoes my belief that OBEs are more than just a distraction from our mission here on Earth: it's an important--even integral-- step in our spiritual evolution. We feel the same about organized religion, too:
"Tragically, many modern religions and churches have become a poor reflection of the original spiritual experiences and teachings upon which they were built. The concept of personal spiritual experience has become an unexplored and mysterious phenomenon unknown to many religious leaders and their churches. As a result, millions of people settle for man-made beliefs and interpretations of their scriptures." p. 253.

Later, he even delves into the world of quantum physics. He cites the work of several famous scientists and physicists, and explains where he believes OBE fits in to the equation. Very well done.

One of the most important things I got out of this book when I read it the first time is how to increase your level of awareness: by demanding, "Clarity Now!" I think that simple concept changed a lot of people's lives.

Buhlman doesn't say much about psychic protection, but he does talk about resolving your fears and how detrimental they are. His take-charge attitude shines through on every page: you don't just ask for clarity; you demand it. If you adopt his kick-ass-and-take-names attitude, I firmly believe that negative entities will not dare to mess with you.

The OBE techniques in this book are also excellent. Not only does he teach the basics, he also has several rock solid exercises that aren't covered in other OBE books. For example, one of his methods is to repeat something like, "Now I'm out of body" as you fall asleep. Often this is repeated 40 to 60 times.

This is one book where I can honestly say I agreed with everything he said. He was spot on, as my friends in the U.K. say.

If I was pressed to find a down-side or a criticism, I'd have to say this: I wish there were more OBE journal entries. The book left me hungry for more. I would have doubled or tripled the journal entries in the book.

The writing is clear, concise and professional. This is a "must read" for anyone who wants to study or practice out-of-body experiences. Thumbs way up.

Bob Peterson
12 June 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander

Review: Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander

Book review by Bob Peterson

When I started doing book reviews, I fully intended to do only OBE books. I didn't expect to cover peripheral topics like lucid dreaming or near-death experiences. But since I had already broken that guideline with Robert Waggoner's book, I decided I would occasionally allow myself to wander outside those boundaries. This is one such case. I promise I'll get back to reviewing pure OBE books.

One day my wife, Kathy, came home with a book she had borrowed from a friend. It was Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.. I wasn't all that interested; I had seen it on the shelves in book stores in the past. I thought it was probably just another average lightweight Near-Death-Experience (NDE) book, targeting the masses, but since this is written by a doctor, I also figured it might offer an interesting perspective. So I meant to buy it eventually, but it wasn't my highest priority. But since I didn't own it, I had to bump its priority: I had to read it so she could return it to the owner in a timely fashion.

This book was much better than I expected. Yes, the book was written for a wide audience, and it had that warm fuzzy feeling throughout. But there's also a depth that stuck me, and that is the author's unique medical qualifications to describe what was happening from a physical perspective.

Basically, this is the story of what happened to the author, a top neurosurgeon, when his body was ravaged by a disease. While this was happening, he had a very intense and complex NDE. His case was unique in the medical field: the recovery rate from this disease was virtually zero. Everyone fully expected him to die. His body had deteriorated to the point where there was absolutely no hope of recovery: It's really a medical mystery (or miracle?) that it didn't kill him. The disease should have destroyed his brain, yet somehow, miraculously, he made a full recovery.

It's important to understand something about NDEs: They're tricky. They usually happen to people during cardiac arrest: A person's heart stops, and they have all these weird experiences--a primary feature of which is often an out-of-body experience. But what most people don't realize is that with cardiac arrest, the heart may be stopped, but the brain can still function for a while. That gives skeptics ammunition to dismiss the experience: If your brain is still active but unable to animate your body, maybe your brain is making things up as it goes, right? In other words, fantastic claims such as "I was dead for 5 minutes" sound impressive, but they're not that impressive after all. Cardiac arrest is not the same as brain-dead.

What makes this book unique is that it absolutely doesn't have that problem. The author's body was attacked savagely by E. Coli bacterial meningitis. The disease attacks the brain and feeds off the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid). It completely shut down the neocortex of the author's brain. That's the area recognized by scientists as being responsible for all "experience". That's the electrical signals ("brain waves") that are measured with EEG machines. What that means is that he should have experienced absolutely nothing if there was a purely biological explanation for his NDE. Coming from an average person, that would be impressive enough, but the author is one of the best brain surgeons and brain experts in the country. He knows full well what he's talking about. His credentials are impeccable. And he was a huge skeptic of NDE claims, until it happened to him.

His NDE is mind-blowing, and definitely not incompatible with other NDEs out there. He says the same things: The God is literally within every cell of every living organism. His description is not only fascinating, it's instructive. Toward the end of the book, he even starts talking a bit about dark matter and quantum physics, which is rare in OBE books (William Buhlman's Adventures Beyond the Body comes to mind here.)

Another good thing: the author wrote down his experience in great detail before doing any research or reading any books on NDEs, so his descriptions were not tainted by other people's NDEs.

I was surprised when, near the end of the book, he noted that you don't need to be near death to explore beyond your physical body. I was cheering him on! He gives a fair amount of credit to OBE pioneer Robert Monroe and the Monroe Institute, for helping him come to terms with his experience and to help him with his ongoing research into NDEs and OBEs.

The book is very well written, organized, and concise. It was a bit "lightweight" for guys like me who have been studying this their whole lives, but overall an excellent book.

Robert Peterson,
28 May 2014

Click here for an index to all my OBE book reviews

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book review: Out of Body Experiences by Akhena

Review: Out of Body Experiences by Akhena

by Bob Peterson

One of my facebook friends, Franck Labat, was kind enough to send me the book, Out of Body Experiences: 40 Years of practical today shared for the first time by a woman named Akhena. He described the author, Akhena, as the "William Buhlman" of France, and he was excited that her book had just recently been translated into English.

The first thing I noticed is that this is a big book, unlike most of the OBE books in my collection. This one weighs in at a hefty 410 pages. That's still nowhere near the 1248 pages of Waldo Vieira's book Projectiology, but it's still big. The font is average size, but there's enough white space so that you still feel like you're making good progress as you read. (Most American publishers would have removed all the white space to save on paper costs). Because the book is so big, there's a lot to talk about, so I apologize if this review gets too long.

First, you've got to overlook the occasional grammar and spelling issues, due to its translation from French to English. Yes, I'm a grammar Nazi and this goes against my principles, but the way I see it, I'd rather have a book in English than one in French as with C. Lancelin's M├ęthode D├ędoublement Personnel which still hasn't been translated to English. The content is still solid, albeit a bit long-winded at times. It's a little rough at the start of the book, but it gets better: the majority of the book is just fine. Despite some simple mistakes, the translator has a good command of the English language.

Let's start by talking about the astral body. Some books claim that we have many non-physical bodies, each corresponding to different levels or planes of existence: The physical body, the astral body, the causal body, the Buddhic body, etc. Many books just state this as a fact, to be accepted with no evidence or experiences to support the claim. I think the worst offenders are the famous Theosophists Charles.W. Leadbeater and A.E. Powell. Akhena also believes there are seven bodies. She similarly teaches that the etheric body (or energy body) cannot be used as a vehicle of consciousness, whereas the astral body and others can. But at least Ahkena narrates several OBEs to back up her statements: OBEs in which she leaves her physical body, then leaves her astral body, eventually stripping off layers until she arrives at a higher-vibrational plane of existence where her spirit guides dwell. Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer descriptions like Jurgen Ziewe's, where levels of reality are peeled back, rather than layers of bodies. Perhaps Ahkena's (and Theosophists') layers of bodies are just a metaphor for the same experience. Then there are more innovative approaches, like that of author Frederick Aardema, who writes about the effects of "body image" on our experience. It's a complex subject.

Akhena comes across as a wise and experienced OBE teacher, but I don't agree with everything she teaches. Let's start with the negative, and I'll talk about the positive later, because I want to leave you with a positive impression.

On page 79, while writing about the buzzing and the vibrations, she writes:
Don't panic. On the contrary, intensify your desire, concentrate on your objective, and the departure will take place.
I disagree: In my experience, the key here is to remain as passive as possible, or the vibrations will just fade away. Engaging your mind in any way tends to make the vibrations fade.

Similarly, I found this confusing at best: on page 61, while discussing the vibratory state, she states that:
An OBE will not occur unnoticed: the astral body's leaving is accompanied by sensations which are so strong that in general they awaken the sleeper.
This seemed contradictory to her other statements that we go out-of-body every night. She's probably just not being clear: In my experience, we're normally unconscious when this happens, so sensations like the vibrations won't ordinarily wake you up. I wish they did!

Another confusing thing: She states that the astral body is responsible for the function of the physical body. That seems wrong to me.

On page 125 she talks about astral hunger: I've never been hungry in a single OBE in 33 years of experience.

On the bottom of page 125 she states that the astral body tires, but on 126 she says that the astral body never tires. Maybe I just read it wrong?

On page 127, she says that a hollow brick wall is easier to pass through than a solid wall. I disagree. For the most part, I think it's a matter of expectations, both conscious and subconscious.

On page 133, she says:
In the astral world, you might as well give up working out a sum as simple as 2 + 2 = 4!
This directly contradicts my experience: In my first book, I wrote about how I solved math equations in my head during an OBE in order to engage the left side of my brain, which helped me see more clearly. I've had experiences in which I was predominately left-brained as well as right-brained.

She also says that the astral body is, in her words, "immoral." On page 135, she talks about out-of-body sexuality:
It is like earthly sexuality but the most sensual imaginable, and without morals. The most faithful husbands (and wives) are surprised! Those who are chaste are as risk of blushing!!!
Robert Monroe wrote about promiscuous out-of-body sex, but these both contradict my experience and most of the literature. When I'm in an OBE, I don't have sexual feelings or urges. From what I know, this kind of uninhibited sexual activity comes primarily in lucid dreams, as opposed to "astral sex" which is more subtle and "spacey". It's hard to describe, but I would not describe it, as she says, "like earthly sexuality." It's more like a loving electrical discharge of a capacitor, or an merging and exchanging of energy, a or burst of mutual internal light.

Now let's talk about the good things. I don't want to give the impression that this book is bad. It has a lot of good information. Akhena obviously has lots of OBE experience and has a lot to teach us. Here are some of the topics where Akhena and I agree:
  • Like many OBE authors (but not Erin Pavlina, the subject of my previous review) she teaches that we leave our body every night.
  • She teaches that our dreams (including lucid dreams) are a self-created fantasy. This is something few authors address, but I'm in total agreement here.
  • She teaches that vegetarianism is not needed; she eats meat, and says it has no bearing on OBEs.
More things to consider:
  • She teaches that OBE is not the same as astral projection. She believes that "astral projection" when our astral bodies project to the astral plane. She prefers the term out-of-body experience, or OBE, because it encompasses experiences of all non-physical environments, not just those confined to the astral plane.
Another thing I liked: She spends a lot of time giving examples of physical evidence to suggest that OBEs are "real". She gives several good solid examples where her OBE observations matched reality. This is something that's hard to find in OBE literature (Robert Monroe gives some, Graham Nicholls gives some, but as a rule, good evidence is scarce.) Akhena has plenty of good examples; many more than the typical OBE book. For example, she describes an OBE in which she unexpectedly finds a friend alone and terrified in a dark school room. She even sees writing on a chalkboard. The next month, she learned that her friend was, in fact, trapped for several days in a dark school room, buried under rubble after the 2004 tsunami. She didn't hear about it until the next month.

Another good thing: Akhena doesn't skirt issues. She is honest. She doesn't speak as the voice of authority, she speaks as the voice of experience. She sometimes asks tough questions, and then answers them honestly, whereas I don't always get that feeling from some authors. For example, she talks about something she calls "projections," which is not related in any way to the term "astral projection". What she means is this: When we're in an OBE (or a lucid dream), we can "project" our own beliefs and/or expectations onto that experience. Perhaps the more traditional term "thought forms" would have been less confusing. Here's an example: If, during an OBE, you call for your "spirit guide" and a Egyptian Pharaoh suddenly appears in your living room, is that really (a) Your spirit guide? (b) A projection / thought form you created out of your beliefs and expectations (whether conscious or not)? (c) an "ordinary spirit" trying to deceive you, or--to add another level of complication--(d) Your spirit guide superimposed with a "Pharaoh guise" that you've projected? She doesn't hesitate to ask these tough questions, and answer them honestly. She's not always sure, and honestly says so, rather than stating her assumptions as facts. I respect that. That's the hallmark of authenticity.

Unlike many OBE books, Akhena spends a lot of time talking about her spirit guides and her many interactions with them. There are numerous narrations here; more so than any other OBE book I've read.

She also narrates many OBEs in which she met and interacted with dead people. In many cases, these are people she knew in life. This is also uncommon in other OBE books, except for a cursory mention that it's possible. I have an account in my first book, and there's a bit of it in Michael Ross's book, but other than that, none immediately come to mind.

This book has some interesting twists that aren't found in the average OBE book. For example, she wrote about trying to cut her own silver cord, in an attempt to see if it's possible, and to learn about death (No, she was not suicidal; just curious). She was unsuccessful, but the only other narrative I can recall from the literature like this is from my own first book where I described an amusing episode of extreme silver-cord tug-of-war.

Okay, let's talk OBE technique: What does Akhena bring to the table that others don't? One of the most important things she talks about is programming your subconscious with a "trigger mechanism." For example, you'll say to yourself, "As soon as I go to sleep, I'll turn on a light. If it doesn't turn on, I'll know I'm out-of-body." This is a lucid-dream shortcut: it bypasses the vibration stage. You just need to develop the habit.

Also, like author Robert Bruce and the IIPC/IAC, Akhena uses energy work to activate the kundalini energy to flow through the chakras. She gives energy techniques, not unlike the IAC's "Velo" technique, coupled with special breathing. Her teachings are based on sending the energy of the root chakra (which she calls "The Fire") up through the spine, to the third-eye (which she calls "The Diamond").

I'll give the book a Thumbs up. There's plenty of good information and good narratives. She has the knowledge, the experience and the integrity. At times, the narrative is a bit tedious, but I was never bored.

Bob Peterson, April 2014

Click here for an index to all my OBE book reviews.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Are OBEs Against Christianity?

Are OBEs Against Christianity?

by Bob Peterson

I try to respect everyone's feelings and beliefs regarding religion. It is a volatile subject and most people feel threatened when you try to pull them out of their comfort zone. People get upset, discussions get heated, and feelings get hurt. I will never tell another person that their religion is wrong or misguided: we all follow different paths to God, and I respect that.

Still, every once in a while, some religious fanatic (always a Christian) posts on one of the facebook groups having to do with out-of-body experiences, trying to convince everyone that OBEs are evil, demonic, or a trick of Satan. Then they urge you to repent and accept Jesus as your savior, as if OBEs are something wrong. As an OBE author and teacher, I feel obliged to address this concern and share my feelings about the matter.

There is nothing satanic, evil, sinful or shameful about out-of-body experiences, in Christianity or any other religion, for that matter. To assert that it's somehow wicked is a sign of a closed and ignorant mind: you do not even know your own holy book.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote:
"I know a Christian man who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of it, I do not know--God knows) was caught up as far as the third heaven. And I know that this same man (whether in the body or out of it, I do not know--God knows) was caught up into paradise, and heard words so secret that human lips may not repeat them." (2 Corinthians 12:2).
This--in St. Paul's own words--affirms that it's okay for Christians to use out-of-body experiences to gain direct knowledge of the kingdom of God.
Many people believe that Paul was writing about his own personal experiences, but attributed them to someone else due to his modesty. Some say that fourteen years prior would have been close to the time when Paul himself was stricken with his epiphany on the road to Damascus.

There are other passages in the Bible to suggest OBEs were perfectly acceptable as well. For example, the Bible's Old Testament talks about the Jewish prophet Elisha. In the second book of Kings, it describes a time when the Israelites were at war with Aram. The prophet Elisha kept the Jews out of danger by using what many believe were out-of-body experiences to see the battle plans of their enemy:
“Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedchamber.” (2 Kings 6:8-14)
Here's another example: In Jude 1:14, it references another book of the Bible, The Book of Enoch, a text that was removed from the Bible by early Church authorities because it was considered too controversial for common people. Some people refuse to accept that the Bible has been edited by men of authority, but in fact it's true. What happened was this:

In the years after Jesus's death, various Christian groups started popping up, spreading their own stories of Jesus and his teachings, even though Christianity was illegal at the time. Eventually Roman Emperor Constantine was converted and legalized Christianity. In the year 325 AD, Constantine decided to put an end to all the unofficial rumors and stories about Jesus. He held the first Council of Nicaea to decide, once and for all, the official doctrine of the Christian Church. And that's when they decided to cut books out of the Bible. The Book of Enoch was one of them.

Before that took place, several copies of the Bible were made (by hand) and brought to then-distant places like Ethiopia, in order to spread the message of Christianity to the pagans who lived there. A few of these early Bibles still remain, and they still contain the original texts like The Book of Enoch. (There were also fragments of The Book of Enoch found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.) The Book of Enoch is mostly about Enoch, the great-great-great grandfather of Noah, and what he saw when he “walked with God” (as described in Genesis 5:21). The entire text can be found online, or in books such as The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha edited by James Charlesworth (Doubleday, 1983). The text describes classical OBE symptoms:
“...and in the vision, the winds were causing me to fly and rushing me high up into heaven. And I kept coming into heaven until I approached a wall which was built of white marble and surrounded by tongues of fire; and it frightened me...fear covered me and trembling seized me...” (1 Enoch 14:8-14)
So there you go: three cases of the Bible condoning OBEs: (1) Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12:2, (2) Elisha's OBE spying on Aram in 2 Kings 6:8-14, and (3) Enoch, the man who walked with God (Genesis 5:21, even if you throw out the whole Book of Enoch.

So now the question becomes: What evidence is there to suggest that OBEs are against Christian doctrine? None. Zilch. Zero. Nada. That's right. I challenge any Christian or scholar to find a passage in the Bible that says OBEs are in any way against Christian doctrine. I've studied the Bible (as well as many other religious texts) extensively, and I've never found anything that says OBEs are evil, sinful or against the teachings of Jesus, his disciples, or St. Paul.

So where do these crazy ideas come from? They made it up. Why did they make it up? To control you. After all, if common people were able to induce their own religious and out-of-body experiences, they just might start getting their own answers and stop going to church. They might usurp the authority of the Church. The church might lose their monopoly on God. They might lose their place as the intermediary between you and God. In short, they'd be out of business. So the Church needed a way to control the people, to keep them from having their own religious experiences, and the instrument of that control is fear. Fear of damnation. Fear of evil. Fear of excommunication. However, I believe God is love-based, not fear based.

The bottom line is: If you're a Christian, with OBEs, you don't need to merely pray to, or worship Jesus Christ, you can actually meet the man face to face. Is there precedence for that? Absolutely. Some people, myself included, have gone out-of-body and stood in the presence of Jesus Christ.

So now you're probably asking yourself: What am I trying to sell? Nothing. What religion am I? None. I do not subscribe to any religion, I do not go to any church, temple or synagogue, and I do not belong to any religious organization. Do I still love and worship God? Absolutely.

Like Christ Himself taught, I believe God is all around us, and I believe "religion" should be someone's personal relationship with God. When you start bringing in organizations like the various Church organizations, you bring in all the baggage and political nonsense: stuff that only gets between you and God.

So please: Follow your religion as you see fit. Believe what you want to believe. Walk your own path to God and to Eternity. But do your homework. Stop believing the lies others tell you, and pursue your own relationship with God, rather than spreading the nonsense. And don't tell me OBE is evil or against the Bible unless you have specific biblical passages to back it up.

If you do, send them to me, because I'd love to know:

Bob Peterson
13 April 2014