After reading hundreds of accounts of people having out-of-body experiences, it became clear to me that some people have a natural ability to induce them. Unfortunately, I was not one of those people.
As a boy I was fascinated by accounts of near-death experiences and stories of people who were visited by relatives who had recently died. I was also intrigued with the phenomenon of out-of-body experiences (OBEs), where people appeared to experience consciousness independent of their physical body for short periods of time.
The first book I read on OBE was Beyond The Body by Dr. Susan Blackmore. This was the first time I'd heard of someone deliberately trying to induce the state. That was when I began my personal quest to have an out-of-body experience (sometimes referred to as "astral projection").
My first instruction manual on OBE was a book called Llewellyn's Practical Guide to Astral Projection. The book's central OBE preparation technique consisted of mentally "running energy" through one's major chakras. Once this technique was mastered over a period of weeks, one could then attempt projecting out of body.
The prescribed projection method involved imagining a projectable double floating overhead. Once this felt concrete, one was to mentally transfer one's consciousness to the double using an imaginary silver cord that connected the double to one's physical body.
From the very beginning I had trouble practicing the techniques. The instructions called for practicing the chakra energizing exercise in a standing position with eyes closed. Shortly after beginning the technique, I would find it difficult to maintain balance. When I tried the exercise while leaning against a wall, I found that my lower legs itched incessantly.
Discouraged, unable at the time to see how energizing my chakras related to getting out of body, I eventually gave up. My initial attempts had failed before I'd even made any serious attempts at projecting.
About a year later I was studying in the school library when a friend passed me a magazine article about out-of-body experiences. The piece featured The Monroe Institute, an organization dedicated to conducting seminars about exploring human consciousness. The Institute's foremost workshop was called the Gateway Voyage, a week-long residential program where one learned to have an out-of-body experience. Participants spent much of their time in what amounted to a sensory deprivation room where they listened to a special sound program calculated to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain, thus making projection out of body possible.
After reading the article, I imagined the Gateway Voyage to be the panacea that would fuel an out-of-body experience. One could take the workshop and before long be flitting around invisibly, flying, visiting distant places. If only I could experience the Gateway Voyage for myself.
But it was 1985 and I was only in high school. I didn't even have a job. The likelihood of being able to afford a trip across the country to the Monroe Institute seemed pretty unlikely.
About a year later I was browsing in a local music store when I came across a display of self-hypnosis cassette tapes. One of the tapes was labeled "Astral Projection". The tape used a verbal induction method to bring about an out-of-body experience. It wasn't Monroe's special sound program, but it seemed promising.
The tape talked the listener through a relaxation technique, followed by healing imagery, and finally an exercise where one visualized lifting out of body using all one's will to float up and off the bed. The idea was that your spirit would rise off the bed while your body remained behind.
The instructions that came along with the tape also required that one write positive affirmations thirty times a day to program one's subconscious that astral projection was possible.
For weeks I wrote affirmations until my hand cramped. Every afternoon when time permitted, I listened to the tape and practiced the techniques. But after two months I was still no closer to getting detectable results.
The hypnosis tape instructions never emphasized how important relaxation was to having an out-of-body experience. Every time I was willing myself to lift off the bed, I was also tensing my muscles. As long as I did that I'd never succeed. But, of course, I didn't know that at the time.
I few months later I invested in a cassette tape album from Master of Life catalogue that contained four tapes for learning how to have an out-of-body experience. These tapes also used self-hypnosis, but the visualization techniques were more advanced and didn't tempt me to tense my muscles. I had some great mental projections using these tapes and was able to visualize distant places and accurately describe what was taking place there. Still, I never had anything like an OBE.