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Sleep Paralysis as a Gateway into Out-of-Body Experiences

by Ryan Hurd. at DreamStudies.org
Link to original article with comments

A lot of my focus on sleep paralysis and its related night visions has been on how to transform fear into curiosity. Then a reader recently commented, “I can’t believe no one’s talking about the out-of-body experiences!” So let’s open the dialogue, because this is one of my favorite aspects of sleep paralysis/hypnagogic hallucinations, although I make no claims to OBE mastery or the final say on the “reality” of soul travel.

The following is an excerpt from my book Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night. The excerpt includes a couple tactics for inducing OBEs from sleep paralysis, as well as the role that expectation and fear can play in their unfolding.


The experience of being out-of-body has been recounted for thousands of years. Whether you believe that the soul is actually separating from the body or that it is a simulation based on sensations from the brain, out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are highly linked to sleeping and dreaming states. Many people start their journeys while lying in bed, and when the experience is over, they wake up safe and sound.

Sleep paralysis is a reliable launching pad to an OBE. The powerful feelings of being crushed, twisted, or pulled along are a good indicator that you can separate your mind (the “I” or the seat of your personal perspective) from these bodily sensations. According to SP expert David Hufford, OBEs are more likely to emerge after SP experiences that last at least 2 minutes.

Here’s an example of an SP-to-OBE I had recently. I was sleep deprived (jetlagged actually) and knew that if I took a nap lying on my back I could probably have a SP. It worked like a charm. Here’s the account:

I hear a rushing sound in my ears; it comes and goes like ocean waves. I focus on my ears so the rushing increases; it comes back in longer and longer durations. Finally, the rushing sensation is constant and I hear a distinct tone as well, like a bell. I try to move but cannot. “I am in sleep paralysis,” I think. I then try to move out of my body. I try to go up but it seems blocked, so I kick myself out to the left and down. It’s an odd sensation; my “me” leaves a part behind. As soon as I’m “out,” everything changes. It is quiet, cool, and dark. I feel like I’m drifting down a stream. I have a small fear arise, and then I relax into the sensation… it’s very calming. Some lights like stars are overhead. My breathing is slow and deep. After a while, I decide to go back. I wiggle my little toe (which I cannot see because I am still floating down a dark river!) but the focus brings me back. After a few seconds, I can move and I open my eyes.

Note how I calmed my fears, noticed my breath, and finally used the tried-and-true toe wiggle method to wake myself up. With a little practice, these techniques become second nature.

Two Techniques for Inducing OBEs from Sleep Paralysis

Focus on the Belly

This tactic was devised by Jorge Conesa-Sevilla. When you are in SP, focus on your belly. Specifically focus right underneath the navel. Now imagine your body is “rolling up” into that spot. If the feeling of pressure increases just on that spot, but nowhere else, then you are doing it right. When the pressure increases, again use your attention to just “roll” out of your body. You may feel a “pop” as the mind dissociates from body feelings. From here, you can go on to have an out-of-body experience or simply wake up from the dream.

The Sit-Up Trick

This method works for a friend of mine who is an advanced dream adventurer. When he feels he is in SP, he focuses his intention by concentrating on the spot between his eyes, and then, he tries to do a sit-up. Of course, he’s in SP, so he can’t actually sit up. But if the intention is strong enough, rather than waking up, you can “pop” right out of your physical body and float around.

A Note Concerning Fear During OBEs

OBEs are weird. Even veteran explorers of the inner worlds say that OBEs feel different than the usual dream. They feel more real than real. Sometimes you may get scared, especially if you start floating off into the sky and have the thought, “What if I never come back?” Like many aspects of conscious dreaming, your beliefs can greatly affect your experience. Sometimes our beliefs can be limiting (“That’s impossible!”), but they can also be grounding (“I trust that I cannot be hurt because I am dreaming”).

Unexamined beliefs are the wild cards: These act as subconscious expectations that can really hijack a conscious dream. Take a moment and reflect on what you believe about out-of-body experiences. Do you believe in a soul? Do you believe in life after death? What about reincarnation? Are you in fear of a final judgment? Is the OBE a trick of the brain, a “virtual reality” owing more to synapses than to souls?

These are the kinds of thoughts that can greatly influence your OBE, negatively or positively. Sometimes, an unexamined belief can actually cause a serious crisis of faith in the middle of these experiences. So, the more you have considered these deep questions, the more comfortable you will be in this profound altered state.

When all else fails, wake up!

Just like a lucid dream or sleep paralysis, you can will yourself to wake up whenever you want during an OBE. Control your breath; control your fear. Also, focusing on one point for a few moments is a good way to disrupt an OBE and lead you closer to snapping back to the “real world,” whatever that means anymore.

Click here to visit Ryan Hurd.

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