Thursday, February 11, 2010

What is an out of body experience?

By Oudam Em

An out of body experience is a subjective experience in which one's consciousness seems to depart from the body, enabling him or her to perceive the physical world from the outside. The term out of body experience is often used interchangeably with astral projection, but the two phenomena, while similar, are not synonymous at all. Astral projection, by contrast, is the idea that a person has an astral body, usually connected to the physical body by a silver cord, that can travel freely in the astral world. The astral world is a subtle replica of the physical world but may contain elements that have no counterparts in the physical world. Unlike an OBE, an astral projection does not require one's consciousness to travel through the physical world and being able to perceive physical reality from outside the body.

Out of body experiences can be terrifying, especially while one experiences it for the first time. The sensation of separating from the physical body may make a person feel as if his or her soul is leaving the body (i.e, dying). To experienced practitioners, on the other hand, OBE can be an exhilarating adventure, allowing them to fly and walk through walls with their sense perceptions largely intact . Owing to its remarkable intensity and vividness, out-of-body experiences can be spiritually transforming, affirming the existing of the soul and the afterlife.

A common trait of most OBEs is that the person experiencing the phenomenon seems to perceive the world from a location outside his or her physical body. Nonetheless, no two out of body experiences are identical. According to the English psychologist Susan Blackmore, no out of body experience definition is perfect because OBE is subjective.

Out of body experiences are quite common. Many are spontaneous. A patient undergoing a surgery might see his own body being operated on during the operation. An OBE experienced by a person who is close to death is known as a near death experience, NDE, a phonomenon that is perhaps better known among the general public and one with more religious significance. Some people may experience an OBE while falling asleep.

Out-of-body experiences also can be induced by mental exercises. There are many techniques to induce OBE. Many of the techniques rely on relaxation, imagery, and concentration. The ideal state seems to be one of physical relaxation accompanied by mental alertness.

Relaxation often leads to a state of paralysis. When one falls asleep, the brain shuts down his ability to move his limbs, so that he does not physically respond to images in his dreams. An OBE can be induced by maintaining mental alertness as one enters sleep paralysis, that is, by prolonging the intermediary state between wakefulness and sleep. This transition state is often characterized by vibratory sounds and sensations. By mentally prolonging the "vibrations", the transition state may be used as a launch pad for an out-of-body experience or lucid dream.

Some people view OBE as affirmation for a "non-physical" identity that can exist independently of a physical body and perhaps survive bodily death. However, while perceptions during an OBE are often lucid and coherent as if they they take place in a stable, physical world, they do not seem to be veridical, that is, they do not conform to one's actual physical reality. There are many cases where the experiences go far beyond anything that can be observed in the physical world. To the exent that nothing actually leaves the body, an OBE is not necessarily a paranormal phenomenon or one that necessarily carries much religious significance. This, however, should not necessarily diminish one's fascination with and pursuit of the experience.

Oudam Em is the webmaster of Out of Body Experience blog, a site that publishes articles, news, information on out of body experiences, astral projection and related phenomena.