Currently I'm reading Adventures Beyond the Body, by William Buhlman, an interesting look at the author's many out-of-body experiences. With a book like this, you are asked to take the author at his word; he says he has had hundreds of OBEs and has taught other people how to do it. I have no reason to doubt him, but as far as I know, he has not been tested by parapsychologists, so there is no independent confirmation. He maintains a Web site and offers seminars on OBEs.
Reading his book, I was reminded of two experiences of my own that had possible features of an OBE.
Some years ago I tried using a relaxation tape made with Hemi-Sync technology. The tape was very effective; I was aware of being more relaxed than I could ever remember. Suddenly I began to notice this strange vibrating, buzzing feeling throughout my body. Perhaps it was the prelude to an OBE. Many people, including Buhlman, report that an OBE often starts with a humming, buzzing, or vibrating sensation. They also say that if you are alarmed by the sensation, the OBE will stop. In my case, I was sufficiently unnerved by the feeling that I slipped out of my state of relaxation. Nothing further happened, so if an OBE was about to commence, I must have aborted it.
I've listened to the same tape several times since then, but I've never become relaxed to the same degree. Subconsciously, I may be wary of doing so.
On another occasion, also several years ago, I had what might have been an OBE, though it may also have been simply a vivid dream. I had fallen asleep on the sofa in my living room. In the dream (if it was a dream), I floated out of my body, then floated over to the stairs and proceeded to float up the stairway to the second story of my home where, for some reason, I detoured into the walk-in closet in my den. I don't recall if I opened the closet door or simply passed through it.
I remember three things very clearly about this dream: first, my progress up the stairs was very exciting, because I could feel that I wasn't actually touching the steps but was sort of "treading water" in the air; second, there was a continuous electric tingle that I felt all over my body throughout the time when I was floating around; and third, a strange yellowish-golden light seemed to travel with me wherever I went, illuminating my immediate environment. (I also remember being in contact with a spiritual presence who gave me some meaningful personal information, and that the electric tingling sensation increased noticeably during this communication, creating a kind of euphoria or mystical, transcendent feeling, the equivalent of thinking "it suddenly all makes sense.")
Usually I forget my dreams almost immediately, but I've never forgotten this one. Was it a dream, or was it an OBE? I don't know. But from what I've read, an actual OBE can have some of these features.
Of course, the mere fact that I cannot be sure if it was a dream or an OBE points up the difficulty inherent in this subject. Could all OBEs be nothing more than dreams? Conversely, could some so-called dreams actually be OBEs?
Many of the experiences described by Buhlman (and by fellow OBEr Robert Monroe) sound a lot like lucid dreams. Indeed, at one point in his book, Buhlman speculates that lucid dreams might be OBEs. He notes, "Physicist and author Fred Alan Wolfe postulates that lucid dreams are actually visits to parallel universes. He has repeatedly stated that lucid dreams might better be called 'parallel universe adventures.'" (p. 114) But one might just as easily argue that OBEs, or at least some of them, are lucid dreams misinterpreted as metaphysical explorations.
Perhaps this is an area where the boundary between subjective experience and objective reality blurs or even breaks down altogether. If so, it would hardly be the only realm of psi phenomena to challenge our basic conceptions of how reality works.