Sneaking Past the Gatekeeper
by Bob Peterson
Many times as people fall asleep, something goes wrong and they are startled awake. As they start exploring the edges of consciousness, they learn to pay more attention to the process of falling asleep and it happens more often. Then they wonder, "Is this related to out-of-body experiences? And if so, can I use it to achieve OBEs?" The answer to both questions is yes, but it's hard to explain.
To explain what's happening, you must first have a basic understanding of what happens when you fall asleep. Almost all OBE authors agree that we leave our bodies every night, but we are almost always unconscious and completely unaware of what's happening. As you gain skill in out-of-body exploration, you learn to retain consciousness for longer and longer periods of time, and thus, you learn to witness the process of falling asleep. So this is not conjecture; this is all based on my firsthand observations.
First, you sink into a more relaxed state of mind, and your mind begins to wander. For most people, your consciousness slips away pretty quickly and that's the end of the information. If you retain consciousness beyond that, you start to see hypnagogic images: random images pop into your mind. For example, you might see a river, then a toaster. The hypnagogic hallucinations are not just visual: You will often hear random voices saying random things; not coherent sentences, but bits and pieces. For example, you might hear a man's voice say "...was at the corner when I saw for the first time..." and that's it. Then you might hear a woman's voice say "...was twelve years old when Missy first walked to the..." and so forth. Just random sentence fragments, along with random visual images. This is called the hypnagogic state of sleep.
Normally, as you drift into unconsciousness, your "subconscious" (for lack of better words) assumes more and more control. This is the "Gatekeeper" I'm talking about. Perhaps it's more correct to call it your "Higher Self", but I tend to think of my Higher Self as something that extends well beyond the subconscious. I call it the Gatekeeper because your subconscious is responsible for taking you out-of-body every night during sleep, and it has several defense mechanisms to prevent your consciousness from spilling over. One of its primary responsibilities is to make sure none of your conscious awareness gets through to "the other side." I'm not talking about a subtle, mindless robotic self as most people like to think about the subconscious. In my experience, this other self is highly intelligent, highly aware and highly complex. It is another part of you, but it has its own goals, motivations and will.
As you approach the hypnagogic state, you have three choices to induce an out-of-body experience (1) Hold onto a visualization while drifting down into the hypnagogic state, (2) Allow yourself to drift down into sleep naturally, then control and manipulate a naturally occurring hypnagogic image. (3) Sneak past the gatekeeper. The three methods range in level of difficulty and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of #1 is that it's easier to retain awareness and not succumb to sleep, but the disadvantage is that it's hard to visualize with enough detail. The advantage of #2 is that it's easy: you don't have to do any complex visualization. It takes advantage of your own natural hypnagogic images, but the disadvantage is that it takes discipline to remain alert all the way down to the hypnagogic state. The advantage of #3 is that it doesn't involve any kind of complex manipulation of images like #1 and #2, but the disadvantage is that it's more difficult than the other two.
Here are more details:
Choice 1: The object here is to never give your subconscious the chance to take control. Before you're in the hypnagogic state, you visualize a small object. The example I gave in my first book is to visualize a cube, but it can be any small object. Then you can start spinning the object to stabilize it (a visualization tends to disappear unless you keep it moving). Next, start swinging the object back and forth, and imagine a kind of gravity between you and the object. Finally, you mentally grab onto the object and let the momentum of its swinging motion pull you out of body. You do all this as you inch ever closer to sleep, while at the same time, you narrow your consciousness down into a tiny pinpoint of awareness.
This method is medium difficulty for several reasons. First, because some people aren't good at visualization. Second, it's difficult to actively use your imagination this way while remaining passive. Third, your visualization may directly compete with your own natural hypnagogic images. The details of this method are in chapter 24 of my first book, Out of Body Experiences: How to have them and what to expect, so it's beyond the scope of this article. (No, I'm not trying to sell you a book: it's available for free on my website, http://www.robertpeterson.org). This method works best for people who can't seem to go deep enough to actually see hypnagogic images.
Choice 2: you can wait for a suitable hypnagogic image to appear, then take take control of it. This is easier than choice 1, but you must have patience. It's difficult to take control of some images: a landscape, a mountain, a face, or even a train, for example. But it's easy to take control of an ordinary object like a bicycle, a coffee cup or a pencil. Like choice 1 above, once a suitable object appears in front of you, focus on it and start making it spin. Then start swinging it back and forth. Same thing as before. The difference here is that you're letting your subconscious have a bit more control during the process, but you have to train yourself to remain alert.
Choice 3: This is where things get interesting. This is what I call "sneaking past the gatekeeper" and it's not easy at all. Basically what you do is simply keep your mind completely still. Just watch what happens. Make your awareness so quiet and so small that it seems almost nonexistent. You can watch the hypnagogic images, but don't get wrapped up in them. If you do, you'll be pulled unconscious and start dreaming.
In a normal night, what happens next is this that your subconscious (Higher Self, Gatekeeper) waits patiently for you to lose all conscious awareness. Within a few (five?) seconds of losing consciousness, it propels you out of your body. Many times, this feels as if the floor dropped out from under you, and you feel like you're falling as much as six feet (two meters) down. Despite the sensation of falling, you're really being pushed upward out of your body. Then your subconscious starts "recharging" your energy while you float quietly above your body, unconscious.
(As a side note: People with little energy usually float above their body and recharge for long periods of time. People with a lot of energy don't need to recharge as much; their subconscious often takes them far away from their physical body and they do astral work, like healing or spirit rescues, all while the person is unconscious and unaware.)
So the trick to this OBE method is to make your awareness so tiny and insignificant that you fool your subconscious into thinking you are "out cold". When your subconscious detects no activity from your conscious mind, it does its normal routine: it pulls you out-of-body. Once that process is complete, you can literally wrestle conscious control away from it and voila: you're having an out-of-body experience. You return your consciousness back to its normal condition, and go about having a fully conscious OBE.
But beware: If you try to wrestle control too soon, your subconscious will abort the OBE. Bewildered, it will think, "WTF? How did he (your conscious awareness) get through?" and WHAM! you get slammed back in your body.
The trick is to not get drawn into the fantasy of the hypnagogic images that appear, and to keep your conscious mind so quiet that it fools your subconscious into thinking you're unaware.
What happens if you wait too long before wrestling control? You can consciously watch the creation of a dream. I've personally watched this happen, so again, I'm speaking from experience. As you watch, you can see the background being created, the characters being placed into the scene. Then they're made three-dimensional, given artificial personalities, and everything. Then your own body-image enters the dream-hallucination, which then seems to come to life. And voila: You're dreaming.
Now, this whole falling-asleep process can "go wrong" at several stages, and with different results. People often get slammed back into their bodies during the falling sensation, and that's all they remember.
Sometimes, you'll see an ugly or startling face appear and scare the hell out of you, and again, you'll get slammed back into your body. I've never been able to figure out if these are mischievous "spirits" or just an artifact of my own subconscious, but they're scary nonetheless. Don't let this discourage you. Regardless, your subconscious aborts the OBE and brings you back to full consciousness with no harm done.
If you have trouble visualizing, you may want to try this method. As in all OBE practice, you must have a lot of patience. It took me a very long time to be able to extend my conscious awareness that far into the dream cycle. Just try to go a little farther each night until you get the knack of it.
2013 Mar 03