The Proto-Contemplative Life,
Lucid Dreams and Out-of-Body Travel
August 1, 2004
By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)
In response to some practical questions regarding how I actually arrived at lucid dreaming, Out-of-Body Travel (OOB) and a lucid sleep state I should really begin with the proto-contemplative part of my life. That is my dream world. As a child I had a very rich and lucid dream world that I enjoyed pretty much every night. And, therefore it should not be surprising that my earliest memory is of a lucid dream, which I had in my crib at about 18 months of age.
The dream is nothing really special. Too often we look to formal manifestations of the divine in early childhood to reveal the direction of someone's life. That "dream" was simply a lucid manifestation of a simple object of early childhood desire. As I recall I was lying on my back in my crib and an ice cream Sunday floated in the air just out of my reach. I recall the house was dark and silent, so it must have been late at night or early in the morning. And, I recall laughing at the apparition as it floated above my crib and out of my reach.
Those of an Asian background would say the dream revealed gluttony. It is possible. I had an eating disorder in my 20s however I did not manifest any form of eating disorder growing up. A Freudian psychoanalyst, I am sure, would interpret the dream as a libidinal breast obsession. That is certainly possible as well considering my age at the time. But, sometimes a dream is just what it is, just as a cigar is sometimes, just a cigar. In this case I am sure it was just an ice cream Sunday.
One of the common themes in my childhood lucid dream-space was annihilation in a flash of white light. At the time I associated those dreams with the Cold War and the nuclear threat. I also often dreamt I was a fish swimming about town, as though the streets had all been turned into canals and we all swam wherever we went. Those were very joyful dreams.
When I was 16 I was living in New Jersey, and I had another annihilation in white light dream. I recall waking up after the dream to see it was about 1:00 AM. In Hindu culture someone having these kinds of dreams would be targeted for special training in meditation. In our culture we would send the boy off to the therapist to probe into his obviously screwed up psyche. And, often the child would be medicated. Consequently I did not tell my parents of the experience. Oddly enough the next morning I noticed in the newspaper that New Jersey had been rocked by a single strong geological shock that was heard like a "clap of thunder." That was all the explanation I needed to ignore the dream.
The next few years however I began to have what appeared to be a shift in those lucid dreams, in which I would not notice the passage into sleep. At that time I began to have either paralysis dreams, engulfment by a terrifying blackness, or I would find myself falling or whirling madly across the landscape. Or I often awoke from dreams in which I was either reeling intoxicated or an object would be thrown into my face. I made the mistake of mentioning these dreams to some friends of the family who were psychologists. They suggested I come in for therapy.
At that time these dreams were very frequent and they worried me considerably. I now realize that they were simply proto-out-of-body experiences, but there was no conversation in my world in the late 60s about out-of-body experiences, so at the time I had no idea OOB experiences, as they are more commonly known, were even possible.
At about the age of twenty I began journaling my dream world, which I still practice today. I am certain that this practice of dream journal keeping contributed to an increasing awareness of my dream state, and thus being at least a partial cause to my out-of-body experiences.
The basics of dream journaling are simply to keep a pen, a journal and a light next to the bed for the purpose of recording one's dreams. The next important instruction is to remind yourself as you are drifting off to sleep that you want to recall your dreams.
It took about a week of this regular reminder as I drifted off to sleep for the first remembered dream to occur. Sure enough I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream. However, I was very tired and I was sure I would remember the dream, so I did not record it. That was a mistake, because later I did not remember the dream, only that I had one. And, it was at least another week or two before I woke up again from another dream.
The second time I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream I made sure I sat up and recorded the dream. After that I started waking up at first once a week, then soon it became every few days, then every night. I also found that if I even once decided I was too tired to journal my dreams, then it would be several days or weeks before I would be woken again.
That same year I happened to visit an old woman who had at one time been a boarder in my mother's house, Francis Grow. Since that year Francis spent with us, in 1959, she became my surrogate grandmother. She happened to be health conscious and an amateur homeopath as well. It was her rather unique lifestyle and subsequent health, dedication to a spiritual life, and positive outlook that inspired me to follow in her footsteps.
In conversation with her in 1973 I happened to tell her I thought I was going crazy because of the frequent "weird" dreams I was having. After I described some of them to her, she said, "Oh dear. You are just having out-of-body experiences."
She then explained to me the process of the OOB experience, and, as farfetched as it may sound, she revealed to me that she was a crypto-Coptic Christian who had been initiated into out-of-body travel in the 30s by an Egyptian immigrant, Hamid Bay, the founder of the Coptic Fellowship.
It might be worth pointing out that Hamid Bay began his career as a spiritual teacher here in the USA traveling the "circuit" in the 20s and 30s with Yogananda, who founded the Self Realization Fellowship. I am certain that it is not a coincidence that they both founded their organizations in Los Angeles, California and invoked the concept of 'Fellowships' in both of their organizations.
Francis initiated me into the practice of out-of-body travel. In about 3 months I had mastered the experience to the point I could leave my body at will, which I did several times a day. I found I could fly any where and any when I wanted to. That included different planets and solar systems as well as planes of existence.
The Out-of-Body techniques that Francis introduced me to were revealed in a series of 50 lessons written by Hamid Bay. The technique was basically a series of self-guided meditations in which the practitioner lay on the floor and entered into what is now a standard deep relaxation sequence, which is most commonly known as shivasana.
Basically, I lay on the floor on something soft, such as a wool blanket or yoga mat, it was pointed out not to cross any of the limbs. Legs were held slightly apart and the head was not elevated. The palms were facing up. Now days I have found a small diameter bolster or rolled up blanket could be placed under the lower back and underneath the knees. I have found one could also be placed under the neck. I did not however know about these props at the time.
The next step in the practice was to engage in actively relaxing the body. A simply scan of the body would be made at regular intervals to check for any sign of tension or stress, and that tension or stress would be actively released. Once the body had been fully relaxed, then the subjective part of the practice was engaged in.
Hamid Bay's technique was to project oneself to various pyramids in Egypt for initiations by the presiding deity. This was the part of the practice that did not appeal to me at all. I felt the idea of communicating with deities that were important to Egyptians 5,000 years ago would have little relevance to me now.
Since Francis had introduced me to the name and concept of the Out-of-Body technique, I went down to the local spiritual and metaphysical store and found Journeys Out of the Body, by Robert A. Monroe and another book I found equally as helpful, but I cannot recall its title or author at this time. However, I found these books contained similar concepts to the Coptic Fellowship without the deity worship angle. They also had a few additional techniques that I found useful.
These books suggested promoting a feeling of lightness or motion, or even rotation during the deep relaxation. I found these additions to be very helpful. I found floating worked excellently, but I also used the rotation theme as well. In fact I found rotation on all three axis highly useful. I tried promoting the feeling as though I was rotating like a hotdog on a grill, as well as tumbling head over heels and even spinning on the horizontal plan, disk-like. They all worked excellently.
The last technique that I found exceptionally useful was practicing these techniques as I went off to sleep at night. Within a few weeks of this stage of the practice I began to spend most of my sleep life out-of-body.
At first I used the Coptic Fellowship idea of projecting myself to a particular location. The pyramids just did not interest me, maybe because I had seen them and been in side of them, and they seemed no more interesting than an ancient mausoleum, however I went to a lot of other places. I recall being curious about what it would feel like to fly in the clouds, or to fly in the rain, so I did. It was great fun flying in big puffy cumulous nimbus clouds, and to "feel" the rain falling through me.
It was not long before I realized I could just as easily visit planets and stars, as well as to move backwards and forwards in time. I found all I needed to do was to keep in mind a destination, while I engaged in the deep relaxation and rotation practice, and poof I would fly there upon lift-off.
The final phase in this practice became simply letting go of the destination. I now simply relax deeply and let "it" take me wherever "it" wants to. When I let go the need to control the direction and the how of the out-of-body experience the experience became far more interesting. To this day my sleep space is fully lucid and the experiences are still wonderfully fulfilling.
Through lucid dreaming I have visited many planets, such as Mercury, Venus, the Moon and Mars. I have also flown through the sun and visited many, many other solar systems. I have also relived whole lifetimes in the brief period of a single lucid dream. And, I have visited many, many enlightened masters, such as Jesus, Buddha, and the Holy mother, as well as enlightened ones from many other cultures, such as Sufi and Kabbalist masters, as well as obscure tribal cultures from long forgotten peoples.
There are two other aspects of my contemplative life in the early 70s that I am certain now had some effect on gaining lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. These two additions are remote sensing, and a daily meditation practice.
That spring I attended a Silva Mind Control workshop. A year later I attended the advanced Silva Mind Control course taught by Jose Silva himself. For me, learning the remote sensing and healing techniques of Silva Mind Control filled in some of the gaps in the Coptic out-of-body work I was doing with Francis.
In 1973 I also began a twice a day meditation practice, that I am sure empowered me to accomplish the mastery I achieved in out-of-body travel so quickly. And, it is this daily contemplative practice that I still maintain. For the most part meditation has been not a formal cognitive exercise as it is often expressed in the 5 major religions. Meditation for me has always been a simply practice of cultivating a calm and still mind and a relaxed body, while remaining alert. After 30 years I still practice meditation this way.
May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,
Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)
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