Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 1

Becoming the Ideal Candidate for OBEs - Part 1

by Bob Peterson
For this blog article, I'm presenting another excerpt from my new book, Hacking the Out of Body Experience, which is still unpublished. Due to its size, I've broken this chapter into two articles. This is the first half.
Can we use science to transform ourselves into ideal (or at least better) candidates for OBEs? I believe the answer is yes. We start by examining what scientists know about the people who are predisposed to OBEs. Then we change our habits to “reprogram” our brains for OBE using a concept neuroscientists called neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to rewire itself.

There are two kinds of OBE habits we can develop: habits that make OBEs more likely to occur (which I’ll talk about throughout the entire book), and habits to make you a better candidate for OBEs, which I’ll cover now. There are also bad habits you should break (like watching too much television) but we’ll get into those later.

Daily Meditation
The first way to become a better candidate for OBEs is to meditate daily. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques, and all of them can make you a better candidate for OBEs.

In a way, direct OBE induction itself is a very specific kind of meditation where you focus your mind in a certain way (more about that in chapter 17). Some OBE authors achieve their OBEs entirely through meditation. For example, pretty much all of Jurgen Ziewe’s OBEs were the result of his meditation, even though his goal in meditating wasn’t specifically for that (he was after more lofty goals like Nirvana, Satori, oneness with God, or whatever you want to call it.)

While it’s important to practice OBE techniques, that’s not what I mean here. Here I want to talk about “normal” meditation; the kind where you just sit quietly, clear your mind and still your thoughts. For example, one of the most simple and powerful meditation techniques is “mindfulness meditationin which you simply sit and cultivate a focused awareness on the present moment, and extend a loving awareness toward others.

I usually meditate twice a day: A fifteen-to-twenty minute silent “mindfulness” meditation early in the morning after I wake up, and a “binaural beat” meditation under headphones in the evening. I’ll go into more details about binaural beats and other sound technologies in chapter 65.

There’s ample scientific evidence that meditation rewires your brain. For example, a 2014 article in the Huffington Post1 talks about the work of psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel, executive director of the Mindsight Institute. According to the article:
As Siegel explained, the concept of "neural integration" refers to the interaction between various disparate parts of the brain. And through mindfulness practices like meditation, we can actually grow integrative fibers in the brain -- studies have shown that mindful awareness increases the connectivity of separate areas of the brain.”
Can that make you a better candidate for OBEs? Everything I know about OBEs says yes. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have OBEs. Renown skeptic Dr. Susan Blackmore has meditated every day for more than 30 years, and she claims it hasn’t helped her induce any OBEs. So think of meditation as just one piece of the puzzle.

Strengthening your active imagination
Another thing science tells us is that OBEs happen more often to creative people, people who use their imaginations. In other words, people who focus on “inner events” more than “outer events.” In terms of brain science, they spend a lot of time on “task negative” brain events (mind-wandering, daydreaming) and less time on “task positive” brain events (focused tasks). In terms of neuroscience, this means they exercise, or even over-use, the “default mode network” (DMN) which I’ll cover in more detail in chapter 71.

A lot of people tell me, “I used to have OBEs when I was a child, but then they stopped.” So what changed? Why do children have more OBEs? I believe it’s because they use their active imagination more than adults. Kids use their active imagination constantly. I once read an article about a 9-year-old girl who could self-induce OBEs. Someone asked her how she did it. She said something like, “It’s easy. Just pretend you’re on a roller-coaster, then try to move but don’t really move. Eventually, you’ll start to get faster and faster, and you’ll actually feel like you’re shaking. At some point, you’ll just pop out of your body.” She figured out that using her active imagination while she’s relaxed is a key factor. Her instruction to “move but don’t really move” sounds very much like an OBE technique I developed called the “Almost Move Technique” which I explain in chapter 30.

As we get older, our brains and belief systems tend to, for lack of a better word, “solidify” and become more rigid. Our brains develop habitual patterns (think of them as ruts) and we use our active imagination less. So the first step is to break out of these ruts.

The more you use your active imagination, the easier it will be to achieve OBEs. In my first book, I have an exercise calledPretend Day.”2 The whole point was to get you to use your active imagination as much as you can by pretending weird things happen. For example, imagine you pull out a gun and shoot a stoplight that’s holding you back. Or pretend there are purple dragons circling in the sky above you, or balls of light encircling your head. It doesn’t matter what you fantasize about; just that you do fantasize.

So to become a better candidate for OBEs, make every day “pretend day.” Learn to actively engage in playful fantasy. Don’t consider this a waste of time; consider it a necessary part of rewiring your brain for OBEs.

Developing absorption
Science tells us one of the most important attributes of OBE-susceptible people is absorption.3 I wrote about this in my second book.4 Absorption is commonly measured by the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS) by psychologists to test how absorbed people get in their own mental imagery, or how focused they are on inner events. According to scientists, people who rate high on the TAS also tend to be more easily hypnotized. They’re also typically better at an important OBE skill: visualization. Absorption is also strongly correlated with openness to experience. (This may suggest drugs used to treat ADD might help you focus more on OBEs.) So another way to rewire your brain for OBEs is to develop absorption.

Many scientists seem to treat absorption and suggestibility as a static and unchanging trait, but I know of at least two ways to develop absorption. The first is to read (or write) fiction stories and books. I especially favor science fiction and fantasy novels that conjure up images of strange new worlds and the creatures that inhabit them, like elves, trolls and gnomes. You can lose yourself and become absorbed in a television show or a movie, but they don’t have the same effect because they feed your brain with both visual and auditory data: there’s not much creativity left for the viewer. They lead you by the nose and tell you exactly what to think and feel. When you read fiction, you do something different: you create a mental image of the events occurring in the story.

As you read, try to imagine the faces of the people in the story. Try to visualize the circumstances they’re in. Try to become absorbed into the story’s plot to the exclusion of everything else in the outside world. Again, this is not a waste of time; it’s a technique to rewire your brain.

The second way to develop absorption is to listen to music. I’m not talking about background music; that’s actually counterproductive. Listen intently, under headphones. Don’t combine it with anything else. Put your phone down and give it your full attention. Try to get totally lost in the music. Focus on its ups and downs, and how the music makes you feel. It’s better to listen to instrumental songs rather than songs with lyrics. Some genres of music are more conducive to this process than others. For example, as appealing as they might be to you, Country and Folk music might be poor choices for this because they tend to emphasize stories conveyed in words, using the music only to emphasize the story. Classical / Baroque music emphasizes the music only, which is better for this purpose. It’s is highly creative and can drag you up and down in wonderful ways. Unfortunately, I find most Classical music boring, so I tend to favor music with some lyrics, but where the music overpowers the lyrics, and not the other way around. I like long progressive rock songs by Yes that are heavy on music, with lyrics that are nothing more than poetry (like “Close To The Edge”), or the earlier, more progressive songs by Pink Floyd (like “Echoes.”) I also listen to progressive metal that’s music-heavy (like Dream Theater), and symphonic metal (like Epica). Bands that are “trippy” like “Dead Can Dance” are also good for getting entranced. I’ll talk more about OBE music in chapter 53.

(To be continued)

Bob Peterson
22 January 2019
1 What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Compassion, Carolyn Gregoire, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-neuroscience-can-tea_n_5268853
2 Out of Body Experiences, Robert Peterson, Hampton Roads Publishing, 1997, pg. 40.
3 Seeing Myself, Susan Blackmore, Robinson, 2017, pg. 117.
4 Lessons Out of the Body, Robert Peterson, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2001, pg. 221.
5 How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, Penguin Random House, 2016, pg. 124.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Book Review: The Initiation by Tom Llewellyn

Book Review: The Initiation

by Tom Llewellyn

It's been a long time since I've done a book review for my blog. That's probably because I was so busy last summer that I hardly took any time to read. I always read more in the winter months.

Today I'm reviewing The Initiation: A Progressive Spiritual Manual by Tom Llewellyn. The author was kind enough to send me a review copy. While it's not specifically about lucid dreaming, OBEs, or astral projection, the book progresses toward that end. The last couple chapters are about those things.

I really liked this book. It's spiritual, but well grounded. It's practical, meaning it has lots of easy to understand instructions. It's progressive, meaning each chapter builds on the next and the whole book is a step-by-step journey of becoming.

The book presents something the author calls "The Initiation," which is broken into four doors that have keys, although I don't remember him saying exactly what that is. But each chapter contains part of a key, and builds on the last. Every chapter ends with a sentence to describe which part of which key it represents. For example, chapter 3 ends with this one:
"If you feel you have a clarity about the nature of the false self and an inner commitment to awaken your humanity and see through the illusions of the false mind-matrix then you have in your hands the third part of the key of the first door of The Initiation." (pg. 36)

Llewellyn has good "deep" philosophy based on a number of different spiritual traditions. For example, I really liked this quote:
"In this mysterious paradoxical world, losing yourself and finding yourself go hand in hand. You become lost to the false self and you find the true self. The kind of seeming contradiction that states that, as human beings, we are both nothing and all, can be resolved within the simplicity of our soul's inner smile and child-like understanding." (pg. 5)
"The purpose of the darkness is to make the light stand out." (pg. 7)
It's not about what to do, but also what not to do. No one's more guilty of this than me:
"Spending too much time on the computer or smart phone would also be strong modern examples of habits that lead to unconsciousness." (pg. 16)
It's not just about the practices, but how to integrate it:
"If we are finding it hard to process the weight of our experiences and sense input we will find practices like meditation, time spent in nature, creative art work, therapy and relaxation helpful, as they will help us to sift through our unconscious mind and regain contact with the present moment." (pg. 20)
Here's another quote I liked:
"Searching for a playfulness of heart can help, so that you can learn to rekindle that child-like understanding, which knows and appreciates the sacredness and interconnectedness of life." (pg. 23)
The book isn't so much about exploring out-of-body states, but a complete transformation of the self. For example, I really liked chapter 4, Transcendence, because it talks about shaking ourselves out of our normal patterns:
"In this chapter I will show that there is a lot of suffering in this world and that a normal material life can leave you empty of energetic resources and so you need to have transcendence through turning to the world of spirit." (pg. 37)
I also liked this quote:
"It seems like a paradox, that when we take ourselves out of the net and seemingly put distance between ourselves and others, we actually bring ourselves much closer to them. It's as if only when we free ourselves from the mud, can we see the mud and see how others are caught in it." (pg. 39)
A lot of people resist a spiritual path because they feel like they have to give up their comfortable lives and start living a life of sacrifice and discipline. Llewellyn shows us some middle-ground:
"Although it is clear that sense desire can cause people a lot of suffering we must beware of concepts such as becoming 'desire-less'. Perhaps we should talk more about 'refining' desire. Not only for the above reasons, but also because there is a great need for social and environmental action in this world, and so what we don't necessarily need is a lot of people feeling 'desire-less', 'goal-less', and lacking motivation to positively act in this world. The core principle should always be, in our practice helping us to feel more conscious, awake, connected and loving." (pg. 42)
"The reality is that the more you help others on this planet the more the world of spirit will help you. If you isolate yourself from others, it would be naive to assume that your emotional wellbeing will be supplied by your connection with spirit alone." (pg. 47)
Most of the chapters also contain aphorisms, or things to meditate and reflect on, or affirmations to consider. For example, I liked this one:
"Let the word 'transcendence' pass your lips a thousand million times, yet know that you do not need to transcend the 'True Self', for the nature of the 'True Self' is transcendence itself." (pg. 54)
Chapter 6 is titled "Prayer" and it contains gems like this:
"Prayer in a sense is only a clarifying of the intention that we can then express in action. Prayer will always have power but it gains a far deeper divinity if we are actually expressing our sentiments in our actions." (pg. 69)
I also liked this aphorism:
"For every prayer you say for yourself, say ten for others." (pg. 71)
I've always believed that if we change our beliefs and attitudes, we change our circumstances (as in the Jane Roberts / Seth adage "You create your own reality.") Here's one of the author's "Eckhart Tolle" moments:
"In other words we always want things to be other than what they are. If only that person or situation was a bit different, if only the weather was better if only I was more attractive or younger, if only...then I would be happy. There is a bright light that we can bring into this situation and that light is an 'acceptance of the present moment.' Once you accept the nature of your present moment experience you take a huge chunk of the ego's power away." (pg. 78)
Chapter 9 is "The Path." Llewellyn lists these elements of the path: Fasting, Giving, Discipline, Ethics, Love, Pain, Fear, Persistence and Positive Attitude.

I especially liked what he said about love. He told the story of a well-known Indian Baba called Neem Karoli Baba:
"Once a western disciple came up to him and asked him 'How to meditate.' Initially the Baba told him to go away but as the Westerner was leaving the Baba said "Just meditate like Christ."
"Later the disciple came to him and asked him what he meant. The old Baba closed his eyes and seemed to disappear for a few minutes. When he came back and opened his eyes, he had tears in his eyes. "He lost himself in love. He loved everyone, even those that crucified him. That is the way to meditate, just be like Christ or Gandhi. Just lose yourself in love." (pg. 105)
As for pain, he wrote:
"We always hold one jewel in the face of suffering and pain. This jewel, is the way we can respond."
I also loved this quote about death:
"It is not possible to be really vividly alive unless you are aware of death, because death is woven up into the very fabric of life. The essence of everything is eternal but at the same time transience is woven into all. Death is the other side of the coin of awareness. Everything brightly shivers in the transience of this world." (pg. 122)
In the "third door" section, Llewellyn has lots of meditation exercises, and he's got a lot of them. He has dynamic energy exercises like Robert Bruce. He has breathing exercises like Bhastrika: Bellows Breath, and Kapalabhati: Cleansing Shining Skull Breath. He has lots of exercises, mostly geared toward different kinds of meditation. They're all very solid, and different from most exercises you find in ordinary OBE books, but he uses a lot of these exercises to supplement his OBE techniques.

The "fourth door" is all about inducing lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. He makes some interesting observations. I've always believed that lucid dreams are basically OBEs with a hallucinated dream environment. Llewellyn has a different take:
"Lucid Dreaming body of consciousness and the Astral body of consciousness are like different zones in the same sea. The experience will be different depending on the vehicle and level of consciousness that is being utilized." (pg. 187)
I think he comes closer to the truth when he tries to clarify it later:
"[Lucid dreaming] is like a man sitting in a room watching events on the TV that are happening in the street outside. The events are being represented very well on the television screen, but still it is not the same as being outside." (pg. 189)
That's not to say lucid dreams are less valuable:
"It is wrong to believe that astral projection experiences are necessarily always superior in some way to lucid dream experiences, as this is not the case at all. Lucid dreaming offers a safer, more usual and more protected route of exploration than astral projection, at least in its initial stages does..." (pg. 190)
I really only disagreed with one thing the author said:
"There is no real clear boundary between lucid dreaming and shamanic journeying, so both states, which may very well be the same in essence can be used to explore the same terrains of the spirit." (pg. 193)
In my opinion, lucid dreaming is completely different from shamanic journeying. Lucid dreams occur when the body is completely asleep and inanimate, and your conscious awareness is firmly anchored in the self-created hallucination called the dream. Shamanic journeying is more like Robert Monroe's "Focus Level" experiences in which your conscious awareness remains centered mainly in the physical body, but you observe and even interact using a remote mechanism, much like remote viewing.

Llewellyn also writes about being careful when interacting with spirits, especially those who claim to be guides or masters. He also talks about the need to stay grounded and centered:
"Having said that we should not fall into the trap of abandoning our human spiritual friends and community in some kind of persuit [sic] of a purely non-physical community of enlightened friends." (pg. 199)
This is what he says about transitioning from a lucid dream to an OBE:
"If you want to shift from a lucid dream into an astral projection experience, all you need to do is activate and bring your astral body with you." (pg. 215)
I found that confusing, but he does say that as you get more experience with both, lucid dreaming will start to "phase" into the astral projection state.

The last chapter of the book is about astral projection, and he does give some good exercises. For example, he gives a technique called "Pulsing" which is basically the same as Akhena's "The Fire and the Diamond" technique in which you shift your attention from chakra to chakra, but Llewellyn uses multiple chakras whereas Akhena only used two: the root chakra (Fire) and the third eye (Diamond). He also recommends doing hundreds of "perineum mula-bhanda contractions."

Beginners often ask what to do when "the vibrations" hit. Llewellyn basically recommends the same thing I do, which is:
"Just allow the vibrational waves and energy to build up until it has reached its peak, perfect pitch tone, and this will shift you to the threshold. When this happens you can now exit." (pg. 258)
Achieving OBEs represents the final door of "The Initiation." There's one more chapter about psychic self-defense (or as they say in the UK, "defence") which is largely based on Robert Bruce's teachings.

I liked this book. The writing is mature and well done. It's 282 pages, so there's a good amount of content, and it's high quality. And there are lots of practical exercises.

My only complaint is that there are a lot of small mistakes. I didn't even notice it in the first half of the book, but by the last third I found a mistake on almost every page. I'm not talking about grammar-Nazi mistakes like spelling or even grammar; things like the wrong word (like physic where he meant psychic),  missing words, extra words, etc. Things that a good editor would have caught, but it's easy for authors to miss because they get too close to the work. Still, the content and principles are solid.

I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Bob Peterson
08 January 2019