out of the body experiences & the non-corporeal self

Vic Shayne
Consciousness: The Potentiality of All Existence: Exploring reality and belief as a subjective experience

Ihave had out-of-body experiences (OBEs) for more than 60 years, since I was a little boy. This makes me both experienced and old. What I know for certain about OBEs is only of my experience, but I hope to at least stimulate some thought about them in this brief article.

what is an out of body experience?
In an OBE, the awareness is no longer with the physical body but rather elsewhere and independent of the physical body. The physical body may be asleep in bed while the awareness is hovering near the ceiling looking down upon it, or the awareness may be across the world having an adventure of its own. When we begin to discuss awareness we can easily go down a fascinating rabbit hole and realize that out-of-body travel is not actually travel, but rather points of awareness; and the same can be argued about living in the physical world. But we can save this for another discussion.

For the sake of communication, the phrase “out-of-body” is a spatial metaphor, suggesting something that it really is not “out,” though it seems to be. Perhaps the awareness is away from, or not focused from the point of view of, the physical body, but because this awareness is not actually connected to anything, there can really be no separation from your own beingness. You are you and you cannot get away from you. Can you travel away from yourself?

an obe is not all in the head
To someone who has never had an OBE the idea may seem fantastic or attributed to brain activity located in the angular gyrus — or just imagination. But it isn’t. If you’ve had one you know full well that you have had the knowledge and experience of being somewhere other than the limitations of the physical world and its physics. You have seen what cannot be seen by the physical eyes or from the perspective of a sleeping body ten feet to a few thousand miles away.

When you bring back information following an out-of-body experience that can be verified, science is at a loss to explain what is beyond its limited understanding. Unlike in a dream, the out-of-body state is controllable and there is lucidity that is mostly absent from dreams (unless you train yourself to become lucid with in a dream). Dreams generally have a plot to them and are often disjointed or confusing. On the other hand, an OBE is like waking life, often uneventful and without hidden meanings pertinent to uncovering the reason for an emotional or mental issue.

In the out-of-body state you can see people, objects, places, and animals while your physical body is at rest elsewhere. And other people can see you as well, even if rarely. In the late 1980s my wife saw me out of my body, standing at the side of the bed. It was in the middle of the night and she woke up my physical body to tell me what she had just seen. I told her to go back to sleep, because I was going to project out of my body again and wanted to know if she could see me a second time. She went to sleep and I projected out of my body and floated about 6 feet off the ground at the foot of our bed. My wife woke up and rubbed her eyes in amazement. I tried to speak to her and flapped my arms around and then pointed to myself, but she did not hear me. She did, however, see my silly expressions as I tried to communicate by way of a dazzling display of undecipherable gestures.

In the morning I asked my wife what I looked like in my out-of-body state. She said I looked like my physical self, except I was not entirely solid and sort of whitish, like a ghost portrayed on TV or in a movie.

what can an out-of-body experience teach you?
I’ve heard a number of people say that they had a single out-of-body experience and now could fully understand the meaning of life and the universe. This is a bold claim that may be originating from delusional thinking. Believing that one, two, three, or four out of body experiences offers you insight into the entire nature of reality is like saying that a one-time visit to New York means that you know what every neighborhood, theater, bar, restaurant, person, and apartment house is like. The physical world is vast, but the out-of-body world is much vaster, and no matter how many times you’ve had an OBE you haven’t even begun to map the terrain.

Despite whether you’ve had one or a couple thousand out of body experiences, there is at least one takeaway lesson: Life is not limited to the physical body. While reincarnation is a popular and awesome concept about survival of physical death, an OBE can show you right here and now that the physical body is not who you are and does not define your existence. Beyond this, there are implications that people are bound to overlook: Although an OBE is an amazing experience, it rarely informs you of who you really are independent of the sense of self with which you are familiar in your physical existence. This brings us to the next idea…

retaining the sense of self
I have written extensively on the sense of self and how it is created. Basically, the self is the person you take yourself to be and includes all the ideas, beliefs, preconceptions, prejudices, physical appearance, and so on, that you identify as. The self is your identity as a “me,” but none of the aspects of the self is the real you, because they are all imposed upon the brain and mind by way of psychological conditioning since a very early age. Nevertheless, you think you know what you are, but such knowledge is only based upon ideas implanted in, and impressed upon, you.

When you travel out of the body, most often the sense of self remains intact. This means that your awareness is of another place, and perhaps another time or dimension, but you still know your name, where you live, who your friends and relatives are, and so on. But I should mention that I have had OBEs wherein I was not my self, but rather consciousness experiencing reality through another being, but I don’t think this is a usual experience for most people.

a body without a body
There used to be a popular song that began, “I ain’t got nobody,” which always reminds me of the out of body state. There is no body. But then again there is a body. Yes, it’s paradoxical, because we are not speaking of the somewhat predictable and stable state of our physical existence.

It seems that theout-of-body state is one in which consciousness can create its own reality, including a body. When you are out of the body you can float up near the ceiling and look down at your out-of-body self and notice that there is no visible body. Yet at other times you can see a body, and apparently, a person in her physical body can see your out-of-body self. You can see and be seen. Robert Monroe (see below) wrote about pinching a friend while he visited her out of his body; and then later he asked her if she felt the pinch. She not only said that she had, but proceeded to show him a small bruise where he had pinched her.

I have had experiences of floating around my living room and over to a big mirror hanging on the wall. I looked in the mirror but didn’t see a reflection. Then I looked down at my hand and it appeared, yet there was no arm or body attached to it.

what is the substance of the out-of-body entity?
I don’t know what the out-of-body self is made of. I know it is subtler and more changeable than the physical body and the way it relates to the physical world. It seems that thought can create a body in this state, and thought can immediately relocate the awareness to another locale.

I have read a number of explanations from other sources regarding what the substance of the out-of-body entity, but because I don’t know for certain whether they are right or wrong, I can’t vouch for them. But if you are interested in reading or hearing about them, I would begin with those who have truly studied this phenomenon, including some of the Tibetan Buddhists who inherited a 2500-year tradition of observing the mind’s role in reality. Another source is Luis Minero, a man whose OBE impressions and personal experiences struck a rich chord with me when I spoke with him about a week before I wrote this article. Minero is the author of an excellent book entitled Demystifying the Out-of-Body Experience: A Practical Manual for Exploration and Personal Evolution. And then, of course, there is the work of one of the most famous figures in out of body study, Robert Monroe, author of Journeys Out of the Body, and Far Journeys, among others.

In his book, Master Key to Self-Realization, Siddharameshwar, the enlightened, early 20th Century mystic from Bombay, wrote about various nonphysical bodies at length. He taught that beyond the physical body is the subtle body, characterized as having senses, a mind, and intelligence.

Despite the fact that we have nonphysical bodies, Siddharameshwar reminded his students,“Whatever is seen is unreal; only the seer is real.” In other words, it’s a mistake to identify with a body, even if it is non-corporeal.

what’s a non-corporeal body?
Back in the mid-70s I took a Humanities class at a local junior college in Miami. One day, my professor was droning on and on about Greek philosophy. And then he spoke of their belief in a non-corporeal body. My ears perked up and the class suddenly became interesting because I could relate to what he was saying. He spoke about the Greek philosophers‘ idea’ that human beings not only have a physical, corporeal, body, but also a non-corporeal body that was lighter and airier and could flit around, hover, and float like that of a ghost or spirit. The non-corporeal body, said the Greeks, survived the death of the physical body. From my out of body experiences I understood my professor’s description to be true and was stunned that my experiences had been confirmed by millennia-old teachings.

what does consciousness have to do with any of this?
While the mind may be fooled to identify with a body, rest assured that awareness only exists in consciousness, unattached to any body, identification, concept, memory, or sense of self. Consciousness is so hard to explain that it’s difficult to find any consensus among neuroscientists, medical doctors, physicists, philosophers, biologists, or mystics. And it is often confused with awareness. The act of being aware occurs in consciousness, but consciousness itself is everything that exists, with an often-unseen will or unfoldment to “be.” This is difficult to understand, I realize.

can anybody do it, and can you die doing it?
I began having out-of-body experiences at around the age of four, from what I remember, and the process and the adventures came naturally to me as an integral part of my life. But for others I have known, OBEs have been problematic. I had a friend back in 1980 who told me that on one occasion he left his body, found himself beside his physical form sleeping in bed, and was so frightened that he was immobilized and feared for his life; he didn’t know if he had died. He vowed to forever keep any such experiences from happening again. In other cases it’s possible to encounter, as I have, negative entities while in the out-of-body state. So, yes, fear can be a big part of this experience and can even stop people from repeating it or even wanting to know about it. Hiding under the covers is as good a preventive than anything, I suppose. Yet for others, OBEs are mysterious occurrences they want to participate in, no matter what the risk.

So to answer the question of whether you can die from an out-of-body experience: I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I have had at least a thousand OBEs, and here I am. Some of these experiences were exhilarating, while others were very negative. Most have been rather mundane and consisted of nothing more than floating around the living room in the middle of the night or hovering over my physical body while it was asleep. I have not only seen people in their houses while in their own physical bodies, but I have also interacted with other beings in their non-corporeal bodies.

When I was in my mid-thirties I read Robert Monroe’s bestselling book, Journeys Out of the Body, and was intrigued with the idea of purposely leaving my body at will. So I practiced and practiced. In a few weeks I was having several OBEs a week and racking up a lot of experiences. It’s not so much that I learned a technique, but rather that I focused my attention on having OBEs, and this is what led to more and more of them. It’s sort of like deciding that you’re going to look for yellow birds and then you begin noticing them everywhere. As I said from the start, it’s mostly a matter of awareness — in this case, being aware of this alternate reality and the possibility of having an out-of-body perspective while your physical body is at rest.

in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen…
If out-of-body travel is new to you, perhaps we should end by recounting a few pertinent points:
1. Nothing leaves the body; you are the totality of what you are, and this includes a physical body, a subtle body, other bodies, consciousness as a whole, and something that is other than existence (see my other articles).
2. Though we use the spatial metaphor of being “out” of the body, nothing is actually moving in or out of a body except for awareness, and you are actually an ineffable Self that is aware.
3. Out-of-body experiences are not the result of imagination or the brain simulating an existence away from the physical body.
4. It is possible to practice having out-of-body experiences and experiencing them at will.
5. One of the greatest obstacles to having a purposeful OBE is a staunch belief that you are somehow tied to, or associated with, a physical body.



…writer for 40+ years, mind/body practitioner, self-enquiry meditation, NY Times best selling author (https://amzn.to/2CeaSE), consultant, researcher.

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Vic Shayne

…writer for 40+ years, mind/body practitioner, self-enquiry meditation, NY Times best selling author (https://amzn.to/2CeaSE), consultant, researcher.