Lucid dreamers tend to report a fairly high frequency of out of body experiences (OBEs). This is probably because they have learned the trick of self-awareness and become more attuned to their naturally shifting levels of consciousness.
OBEs which start from the dream state can last a long time, whereas a typical waking OBE tends to be brief and spontaneous, as in this example from Celia Green’s book Lucid Dreams, where a mother is leaning over her little son’s cot reciting nursery rhymes with him:
Suddenly I was suspended in mid-air a few feet from the bottom of his cot, looking down at the scene of myself still leaning over the cot. I felt very puzzled and bewildered but it was all over in a couple of seconds. When I got back in my body my son was still repeating a line from the nursery rhyme. (p.17)
Are OBEs a kind of lucid dream?
There can be experiential overlap between lucid dreaming and certain types of out of body experience. This makes sense if we consider that whenever we are asleep and dreaming, we are ‘out of body’ in the sense of not acting out in our physical body and being cut off from it to a large extent on the sensory level. The physical body is naturally paralysed during sleep, so we take on a ‘dream body’ through which we experience the dream as a multi-sensory reality. Sometimes I read a person’s report of an OBE and I think: Well, if they hadn’t explicitly said that this was an OBE, I would have assumed it was a lucid dream. So it can seem open to interpretation. However, other OBE reports definitely do not describe dreams in any way or form as they do not arise from sleep.
In terms of onset, the out of body experience (OBE) differs from lucid dreams in that an OBE might arise from the waking state, trauma, meditation, fainting, or in the midst of great physical danger. However, the OBE can also arise from sleep states such as hypnagogia, sleep paralysis, non-lucid dreaming, and lucid dreaming.
– Clare R Johnson, ‘Surfing the Rainbow: Fearlessness and Creativity in the Out of Body Experience,’ Consciousness Beyond the Body (ed. Alexander De Foe) To read this chapter – or to download the whole book as a free PDF, click here.
Are OBEs dangerous?
OBEs can be beautiful, transformative experiences. Weightlessness and painlessness can provoke a sense of great freedom and joy.
Yet there are still plenty of fears surrounding out of body experiences. People have contacted me to say that whenever they have OBEs, they panic and think they are dying. They ask: What if I can’t return to my body? Are OBEs dangerous? How do I stop them? Of course, other people are not fearful but curious, and they want to know: How do I induce an OBE?
Out of body experiences (OBEs) can involve powerful physical sensations such as being swept up by a giant wind, being shaken by earthquake-like vibrations and hearing a roar so loud it’s as if an aeroplane is taking off right by your head.
– Clare R Johnson, ‘Surfing the Rainbow: Fearlessness and Creativity in the Out of Body Experience’
The sensations sometimes involved in OBEs can be frightening when they happen for the first time. But when we realise that there is nothing to fear from an OBE, and that we will return safely from the experience, we can relax and go with the flow just as we can in lucid dreams. An attitude of respectful curiosity goes a long way.
A fascinating new book on OBEs, written by a group of authors and experts, has just been published and is open access so everyone can read it for free. Follow this link for more information and the free PDF of the book.
Inducing and enjoying OBEs
- Visualisation is a great way of inducing OBEs. Lie down, relax with closed eyes, and picture yourself rising out of your physical body. Anyone who does yoga nidra (the relaxation) will already be adept at floating between sleep and waking.
- Meditation works well for the same reason – the mind and body are stilled and awareness is raised. Regular meditators are likely to experience OBEs more frequently than non-meditators.
- Once ‘out of body’, relax! Breathe. Observe. Enjoy the feeling of weightlessness. Know that you are safe and will return safely from the experience.
- Remember the lucid dreaming rules of expectation and intention: if you expect to have a bad time you probably will, so why bother? Instead, expect something lovely to happen. Using your intent, you can move around and play.
- Experiment: head through a wall or simply explore your surroundings. Try flying to the stars, or just look down at yourself to see what kind of ‘body’ you have in this state.