How to Have an OBE in VR
I have been having some success achieving an out of body experience (OBE) through virtual reality. I work in the VR field, so I have some expertise on the VR side, but when it comes to OBEs most of my understanding comes from my dad. My father is a social worker and self-proclaimed hippie who used to have a real passion for hypnosis therapy treatment. When he felt I was old enough, he walked me through many meditative states that I haven’t been able to procedurally recreate since I moved out of my parent’s house. He also taught me many meditation practices which helped me to free my mind and be open to experiencing OBEs. I only provide this background so that you, as the reader, can have a bit perspective on my understanding of OBEs.
Based on my limited achievement in OBEs through meditation and hypnosis, I would describe the experience as “internalized”. I found that it was about delving deep into my mind and clearing it so that I could separate myself from the stimuli of the material world. It freed my consciousness enough to drift out of my body to places that are honestly hard to put into words. It has been a few years since I was able to achieve such a state, and a lack of practice has meant that even just clearing my mind can be a struggle in my more recent meditation sessions.
Which leads me to my surprising realization that I was having an OBE in VR, seeing as it happened by accident rather than after careful meditation. The experience wasn’t exactly the same as I remember it being in my childhood; I would describe an OBE through VR to be more of an “externalized” experience. It’s about tricking your mind into believing that its elsewhere, or at least letting yourself to suspend disbelief.
Creating the OBE with VR
How I have accomplished this is by first being familiar enough with the controls of the game that I don’t have to think about the buttons I’m pressing to interact with the virtual world. Better yet is when you can play a game that doesn’t require any controllers at all. However, the real key is to limit the stimuli of material reality. I do this by using headphones instead of allowing the sound to just play through the monitor. My secret weapon in this regard is my barbershop chair. It’s one of those classic pneumatic seats that can spin in 180 degrees and has no back. Although I have had VR OBEs while standing and moving around in VR I find it easiest to achieve the state when I am stationary in the material world and observing the environment around me is a simple swivel. I would like to clarify that I have tried to achieve an OBE through VR programs designed to guide the user through the experience but I have yet to find one up to the task. In my experience, you can achieve a VR OBE in almost any game provided you are familiar enough with the controls that you can interact with the world like its second nature. Still, I would recommend trying to avoid games with complex narratives or an environment that tries to recreate the real world. There aren’t graphics that can truly capture the sublime aspects of nature or the complex material qualities of architecture and recognize the artifice of something with a material world counterpart can often pull me out of the experience (not to bash any of the games, because they can be awesome).
To experience an OBE in a VR environment I would recommend paying close attention to the subtleties in the background of the game and allow yourself to follow the natural flow of movement. For example, if a ball rushes past you allow your whole body to naturally follow its movement. If a goalpost rises into the sky after you defeat a sports team watch the goalpost until it is out of view. You may find yourself trying to touch fish that swim up to you, or you might forget that you can’t lean on the desk in front of you and fall through it. These are signs that you are on the right track. Keep playing the game until you are familiar with it and allow yourself to forget yourself. The experience is a lot like reading an immersive book but amplified enough to allow yourself to separate you from reality, if just for a moment.
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.
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