Iâ€™m lying on a mattress thrown on the floor by someone Iâ€™ve only just met. Nine other people are laying around the house in three rooms and a hallway. Lights are dim, no one is talking and everyone is there for one purpose, and it isnâ€™t crack cocaine.
Everyone is hoping to have an OOB, or Out of the Body experience. Iâ€™ve been allowed to attend this meeting because I have an interest in all things metaphysical and spiritual, and many of these folks have been taking trips for some time, out of the body.
All of us have brought a pillow and a set of headphones and we are all plugged in to various hubs around the house. This is a TMI meetup and that doesnâ€™t stand for â€œtoo much informationâ€ but rather The Monroe Institute.
Iâ€™m more interested in this eclectic group of people, all eager for a deeper experience with worlds outside our own consciousness. Many believe that there are spiritual guides that await us when we dare to explore in this way. Some may consider these guardian angels.
There is some polite chit chat, and then we get down the business at hand.
An MP3 is started in the central media player and the soft sounds of tonal music begin. A docile female voice guides us into a deep state of relaxation.
Some of us slip out of our bodies to places yet unexplored; others of us wonder if we should buy a memory foam mattress like the one we are laying on.
The guy next to me starts snoring like Fred Flintstone and everyone ignores it. Everyone but me because heâ€™s harshing my mellow. And this mattress is just so damn soft, maybe itâ€™s a Temperpedic, Iâ€™ll have to remember to check out the tag when the lights come back on.
I do experience a very deep relaxation, along with some very alien sounding music and after a period of about 45 minutes we are all brought back into the real world with soft inviting tones. Fred Flintstone wakes up; all of us stand and stretch. Smiles and nods, Oh yeah baby, some serious OOB travel goin on up in here.
But itâ€™s interesting; each person is private about what they experienced. No bragging or comparing going on, just a satisfied sense that each person felt relaxed and that it was a deeply personal and satisfying session for everyone there.
I asked a couple of people why they do it. One woman in her late forties who has been having OOBâ€™s for fifteen years said â€œSelf discovery and growth, as well as the assurance that this isn’t all there is-that we go on.Â As well, to offer help to others, to be a conduit to a dimension not everyone has access to.â€Â
Another woman in her fifties who has never had an OOB stated: My primary motivation for the meditation cd’s is to enhance my personal growth and healing. Â I do believe, and experience tells me, that it can make a difference in one’s capacity for growth, healing, change and expanded consciousness. Â Â It affirms for me, through direct experience, that I am more than my physical body (thank God!).â€
Iâ€™m fascinated by OOBâ€™s and have researched this topic extensively. One thing is certain: not everyone agrees on its validity.
In some of the earliest writings of missionaries to South America the use of ayahuasca by the local shamans is mentioned and referred to as demonic. This plant is used to this day by shaman in sacred ceremonies and it is common for persons taking ayahuasca to have an OOB, along with intense vomiting and hallucinations.
Sounds like a Friday night frat party, but I digress.
In 2006, The New York Times reported on a research project that created OOBâ€™s for people artificially in the lab. â€œIn Switzerland, Dr. Olaf Blanke, a neuroscientist at the Ã‰cole Polytechnique FÃ©dÃ©rale in Lausanne, Switzerland, asked people to don virtual reality goggles while standing in an empty room. A camera projected an image of each person taken from the back and displayed 6 feet away. The subjects thus saw an illusory image of themselves standing in the distance.”
Then Dr. Blanke stroked each personâ€™s back for one minute with a stick while simultaneously projecting the image of the stick onto the illusory image of the personâ€™s body.
When the strokes were synchronous, people reported the sensation of being momentarily within the illusory body. When the strokes were not synchronous, the illusion did not occur.â€
Back at the house as folks are rolling up their headphone cords and milling about, Iâ€™m fascinated by the ordinariness of these people. One is an engineer, another a physicianâ€™s assistant, another an IT guy. Theyâ€™ve all come together today to support each other in this very extraordinary exploration and as we leave there is a happy camaraderie in the air.
This is deeply personal spiritual exploration, and I was honored to able to peek into the mother ship for a little while.
Deep stuff. And man, that mattress was soft as a downy chick.