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