But first you have to understand. And in order to understand, you have to know what OBEs are. The experts say you can't know until you've had one, and sometimes, simply having one isn't enough. And though most people can have one, it's also a matter of accepting what's happened. "Not everybody's ready," Buhlman says. "We're trained to think we're hunks of flesh," he adds, noting that the average Jane or Joe has a hard time disconnecting from that notion. "It's not something where you can take a pill and you're going to have an experience. Every spiritual pastime takes a little bit of effort."
So, then, what is it? "It's the separation of the consciousness from the physical body, and it's temporary, as opposed to the near-death experience, which is more dramatic," Buhlman explains. "But it's really quite startling the first time--you can literally feel yourself standing in another part of the room, looking at your body." Leva is a bit more technical. She says there are two basic types of OBE--the Type One, or classical instance, in which awareness is propelled separately from the body, and the more common Type Two, or partial separation, a momentary lapse that can occur while a person is driving, daydreaming or meditating.
A former nurse intrigued by the experiences of others she witnessed bedside, Leva eventually traveled to the Monroe Institute in Virginia, a center for the scientific study of OBEs, and became a professional trainer. "I put this in fun, predictable terms by using car-talk language," she says. "I say I teach unique driver's-ed classes on the weekends, where I teach people how to go into other states and literally acquire the right driving skills to go into various 'cities,' or non-physical states of consciousness. I teach them how to shift gears." It's just another skill you can learn, she notes, like cooking an omelette or riding a bicycle--a way of putting unused portions of the brain to work. "It's not just some woo-woo pseudo-science; the exercise of soul-related skills has been proven to light up different parts of the brain not normally used. We use only 10 percent of our gray matter. This is about using the other 90 percent."
And why bother? "People who pursue this want to have a profound spiritual experience," Buhlman says. "This is a proven way to do that without sitting in a cave for thirty years. You can do it in the comfort of your own home."
Adds Leva, "If you've had an experience in another spiritual realm, when you come back here, life isn't so awful or so short. It's no longer controlled by your dying, by blowing up and that's all she wrote. You can give up this thing about going dust to dust."
Out-of-Body Exploration Weekend, 6:30-10 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun., March 12-14, Fiske Planetarium, Regent Drive, CU-Boulder campus, $150 ($30 Friday lecture only), 303-772-0811.