More About The Trance State

by Don DeGracia, Ph.D.
(March 1996)

Hi everybody. Welcome to the 3rd installment of Plane Talk. This time around I'm gonna leave theory behind and focus on more practical matters. As I said in my first column, I receive a lot of questions from readers of DO_OBE and the vast bulk of these questions revolve around the practical matter of going into trance. In DO_OBE, I described what I call the Trance Method as a way to achieve an OBE or projection. What I want to do in this column is address some of the more general questions I receive about going into trance and hopefully clarify a few points about this practice. Also, I'd like to mention a couple new insights I've gotten for making your practices more efficient.

To start, let me briefly review the idea of the trance method. Again, this is a method for astral projecting, inducing an OBE, or going into a lucid dream (as all you readers know by now, I believe these three terms refer to the same experience). The idea of the trance method is to go directly from the waking state to the projection state. In a nutshell, what this method entails is letting your body fall asleep while, at the same time, you keep your mind awake and alert . This method is practically identical to the method taught by Dr. Stephen LaBerge called WILD (waking induced lucid dream). In DO_OBE, I described the stages involved in going into trance. You lay down with the intent to project and allow yourself to relax deeper and deeper. As your relaxation deepens you can expect to experience a number of changes in bodily sensations and in your perceptions. These include feeling sensations of getting heavy, sinking or floating, and perhaps the onset of hypnagogic images and sounds. After a certain point, your trance becomes deep enough and you feel yourself 'separate' at which point you are 'out' of your body. You may or may not experience a momentary break in your consciousness. And when you finally get out, you will either be somewhere in the projection/dream realm, or in a place I call 'the void', but you will be in full consciousness. At this point, your projection/OBE/lucid dream will have begun.

For readers unfamiliar with the Trance method, I strongly recommend you read up on it in DO_OBE, give the exercises a try, and then come back and read this column. This column is meant to be a supplement to what is described in DO_OBE, and is NOT intended as a stand-alone introduction to going into trance.

One of the most frequent questions I receive has to do with feeling vibrations as you go into trance. Quite often, after you have been laying there for a while (perhaps for 10-15 minutes depending on how tired you are), you may feel a tingling sensation on your skin, or in your arms and legs. When you feel it on your skin, it feels almost like light chills, as if you are slightly cold. I have found when I get these sensations in my arms or legs that they are somewhat uncomfortable.

Now, the point is, it is inevitable at some point in your practicing of the trance method that you will feel these kinds of sensations. Many people write me and ask me what these vibrations mean, and, if by feeling these vibrations, does this indicate they are getting close to projecting. These are, of course, very valid questions. And here is the answer I tend to give.

Remember that when you go into trance, you are trying to let your body fall asleep, yet keep your mind awake. What this means is that you want to loose the perception of your bodily sensations. This means you do NOT want to feel your body. These vibrations are sensations coming directly from your body. By focusing on them in your consciousness, this only serves to keep your body awake. Therefore, feeling vibrations actually PREVENTS you from projecting.

Now, this may go against things you have read elsewhere. Robert Monroe (author of Journeys Out of Body, Far Journeys and Ultimate Journeys ), for example, wrote about the vibrations that often accompanied his OBEs. But he is referring to something different here. In DO_OBE, I spoke about kinesthetic sensations that occurred as you went deeper into trance. Again, this included feelings that your body was getting heavier, that you are sinking into the bed, that your body is floating, tipping or other such sensations. These kinesthetic sensations seem like true bodily sensations, but they are not. I perhaps may not have described these sensations, and what they mean, as well as I could have in DO_OBE, and since they are so related to this idea of vibrations, let me elaborate a bit about kinesthetic sensations.

The term "kinesthetic sensations" normally means "feelings of your body moving". However, in DO_OBE, I used it in a different sense. What I was talking about are bodily sensations that you feel after your body has in fact fallen asleep. What I now think these trance-associated kinesthetic sensations are are hallucinations created by your brain after your body has indeed fallen asleep. See, what I didn't know when DO_OBE was written is that, when we fall asleep, our bodies become paralyzed, particularly during the REM phase of sleep, which is the sleep stage in which both ordinary dreams and projections/lucid dreams occur. That is, during REM sleep, sensations coming into our brains from our senses, including our senses of touch and bodily sensation, are inhibited. In other words, if someone were to touch you while you slept, that sensation does not get to your brain as easily as it would if you were awake. Its almost as if there is a volume control on our senses, and the volume gets turned down when we sleep, particularly in the REM stage of sleep.

So, what all this means is that, as you are getting deeper and deeper in trance, at a certain point, your body literally falls asleep, although your mind has stayed awake. At this point, your mind has literally been cut off (for the most part) from sensations of touch and movement coming in from your body. However, and this is very important, you still continue to feel a body and still continue to feel as if this body is moving. It is these sensations of a body that occur after you have fallen asleep that I was calling "kinesthetic sensations" in DO_OBE. In fact, a more realistic term to refer to these sensations is "kinesthetic hallucinations" for these are not true input from the nerves in your body. These are sensations created by your brain when the real input from the body is being inhibited. In other words, these are hallucinations of bodily sensations. And these are what you want to learn to recognize as an indicator of how deep you are in trance.

Again, for most of the people that write me, when they describe "feeling vibrations", they are referring to actually input from their body, and the fact that they are feeling their body indicates that they are still wide awake. And concentrating on these vibrations will only reinforce keeping you awake. So, the bottom line is, if you feel these vibrations, it is probably an indication that your body is not tired enough to go into trance. And if you continue focusing on these vibrations, it will only keep you awake and prevent you from projecting.

So, I hope these ideas about kinesthetic sensations (or actually from here on out I'll refer to these as "kinesthetic hallucinations") and feeling vibrations are a little clearer to you readers. Hopefully people won't get as hung up on this.

Now, to wrap up this discussing of kinesthetic hallucinations, again, these are important indicators of how deep your trance is. And what I have been telling people is that the best way to learn about these kinesthetic hallucinations is to pay careful attention to what it feels like when you fall asleep at night. This is actually a very simple exercise and is not something I mentioned in DO_OBE. When you go to bed at night, simply pay attention to what it feels like as you fall asleep. Don't try to project or anything. Just pay attention to what it feels like as you drift off to sleep. And indeed that is what you will feel: as if you are drifting, or sinking, or getting heavy. You want to learn what these sensations are and how they feel because you will feel these kinds of things every time you try to project by going into trance.

So, I hope that is clearer now!

Next topic: hypnagogic images. I get a lot of letters from people about the hypnagogic images. To remind the reader, hypnagogia is the state of consciousness that lies in-between waking and sleeping. When you are in the hypnagogic state, you may see hypnagogic images. Hypnagogic images are crystal clear visual perceptions. You may see faces, or trees, or landscapes, or abstract images that are hard to describe with words.

Now, as you practice the trance method, and your trance gets deeper and deeper, you may or may not see hypnagogic images. People write me and are concerned when they try to go into trance and they do not see any hypnagogic images. They wonder if they are doing something wrong when they don't see these images. Again, I simply want to make this crystal clear: you may or may not see these images. Seeing hypnagogic images is not a requirement for projecting by trance. As I said in DO_OBE, if you do see them, then this indicates that you are getting deeper into trance (as a matter of fact, for you physiologically inclined readers, I have read that the hypnagogic state tends to occur during stages 1 and 2 of nonREM sleep). But if you do not see these images, it doesn't mean you are doing something wrong. Its ok not to see hypnagogic images as you go deeper into trance on your way to projecting.

Again, I hope that this clarifies this point.

Finally, there is one last thing I want to discuss, and this is: when is it a good time to practice going into trance? Now, this is not something I discussed in DO_OBE. This is not something I knew when I wrote DO_OBE. But as I have studied more about all this, particularly about the physiology of sleep, its become very clear when its the best time to try to go into trance. And here it is:

The best time to try to project using the trance method is in the early morning, preferably 15-30 minutes before you would normally wake up.

The worst time to try to project using the trance method is in the night when you are going to bed.

Let me explain why this is.

Again, remember what we are talking about here: An astral projection/OBE/lucid dream involves taking your waking consciousness into the dream world. To do this via trance, you are trying to keep your mind awake while, at the same time, letting your body fall asleep. So, the key thing about the trance method is keeping your mind awake and carrying it across the border, so to speak, into the dream world.

Well, the simple fact is, when you go to bed at night, you are tired from your day.s activities. And you are also tired because your brain is intrinsically programmed to fall asleep in a rhythmical fashion. So, if you try to project via trance at night, you are, in effect, trying to swim upstream, or fighting an uphill battle. Your body wants to fall asleep at night, and so does your mind. Its an inherent rhythm built into your body. You need sleep and you need rest. And, for God only knows what reason, true sleep and rest require you to loose your lucidity. Everything in your body and brain is conspiring against your intentions to keep your lucidity intact when you go to bed at night. For all these reasons, trying to project, via the trance method, when you fall asleep at night is a BAD idea.

On the other hand, as I said above, what you can do when you fall asleep at night is pay attention to what it feels like as you fall off to sleep. Do not try to maintain your lucidity. Just simply pay attention and try to remember the sensations you are feeling as you fall asleep. This is one constructive use of falling asleep at night.

Conversely, there are reasons why trying to project via trance in the morning is much more efficient. First, your body, brain and mind are rested by morning. Therefore, if you try to go into trance in the A.M., you are not fighting against the needs of your body. A second factor is that, when you first wake up, you are still drowsy. This is a fact all of us know first hand. And this can be used to your advantage when trying to project via trance. From the point of view of getting up out of bed and starting your day, being drowsy is a bad thing. But from the point of view of trying to project, being drowsy is a head start on going into trance. When you are drowsy you are already deeply relaxed and your body will fall asleep quite easily. All you need to do then to go into trance after waking in the morning is to keep your mind focused and alert (i.e. lucid) as you drift back off to sleep.

Interestingly enough, this is something I have quite instinctively done all along. The fact is, the vast bulk of my projections, including most everyone in DO_OBE, occurred in the morning shortly after waking from my nights sleep.

The procedure is simple. Set your alarm to wake up a little early, maybe 15-30 minutes early (of course, this presupposes you have time in the morning to project, and don't have to worry about such things as going off to work). Then, when you wake, go and go to the bathroom, because this is something you'll have to do (as if none of us don't know that!). Then, you may want to occupy yourself in some light mental activity for about 10-15 minutes, usually reading. I used to get up, go to the bathroom, then read books about projecting for 10 minutes, then lay back down and try to project.

Now, in fairness, although this is the way I have done things since 1987, I never really appreciated the significance of approaching projecting this way. The light bulb clicked on in my head when I had read an article by Stephen LaBerge which describes this exact approach to projecting/lucid dreaming. So, credit needs to be put where credit is due. And again, the things I am describing are practically identical to Dr. LaBerge's method called WILD.

Finally, there is one more important reason I am aware of why trying to project in the A.M. is more efficient. This has to do with the nature of the sleep cycle we go through several times each night. As I mentioned in the last column, and as many of you may know, there are 5 phases to the sleep cycle, and the entire cycle itself lasts about 90 minutes. The 5 phases are called: stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4 and REM. It turns out that early in the night, after just going to bed, the bulk of the first 90 minute sleep cycle is taken up by stages 1-4, and the REM stage is very short in duration (maybe 10 minutes out of 90). But as the night progresses, stages 1-4 shorten, and REM lengthens in duration. So, by the early morning, after 4 or 5 sleep cycles, REM accounts for maybe 45 minutes of the entire sleep cycles. And again, the key link here is that it is during REM that dreams and lucid dreams (or OBEs/astral projections) occur. So, what this all amounts to is that, for reasons still unknown to brain scientists, your brain can get into the REM stage much easier in the early morning than in the night, and this will greatly facilitate you having a trance induced projection (or WILD - which ever term you prefer).

Ok, so now I'm done for now talking about practical stuff related to the trance method of achieving OBEs/projections/lucid dreams. I'd like to conclude, still on the note of practicality - but not the practicality of going into trance, but the practicality of which ideas you use to conceptualize the projection/OBE/lucid dream experience - by making the following observation.

Since I've started writing these columns, I've clearly been espousing a more scientific view that sees this experience as a lucid dream and not dwelling on the occult view of astral projection. This shift in viewpoint has real practical consequences, which is why I have shifted in the first place. None of this is philosophical speculation (i.e. read "hot air"). We are discussing something very real and repeatable. The scientific view that sees this experience as a lucid dream has very practical consequences, many of which were outlined above. For example, sleep researchers revealed that the sleep cycle exists. Dr. LaBerge's work has revealed that projections/lucid dreams occur during the REM phase of the sleep cycle. These scientific observations allow for the practical advice that attempting to project in the morning, upon waking, will be more effective than trying to project at night when falling asleep. There is nothing in the occult view of astral projection that would allow us to come to this practical conclusion. This is only one example of the strength of the scientific view over the occult world view.

And this also illustrates how what we believe and know affects how we act. Since the theme of this column revolves around practicality, I want to just conclude with the thought that what ideas we do or do not accept have practical consequences, and that some ideas are more practical than other ideas. The truth is, the main reason I have shifted away from occult views and towards scientific views is because the scientific views are more practical. The scientific ideas allow us to act more efficiently and to get things done. And as well, there are mountains of evidence that support the scientific ideas. In contrast, the occult ideas are cute fairy tales - still of value I believe, for reasons I will go into in a future column, but not as of such direct value as the scientific views of this altered state we are discussing.

So, gang, I'm outta here. Good luck with your attempts to get into the dream world lucid! Talk to you all soon!