I recently returned home from my first trip to the Monroe Institute, which is located in Faber, Virginia. I want to share this review while the memory of the experience is still fresh and active in my mind.
In a nutshell, it was life-changing. I had no idea what to really expect even though I had a few friends share their experiences with me before I went. I think it's best, just like TMI (the Monroe Institute) recommends, to go in with no expectations and an open mind.
They'll teach you how to explore your consciousness in a way you likely haven't done before. In addition, you'll be meditating in a place that's full of timeless energy with like-minded people, which tends to make your experiences that much richer.
Read on for a more detailed description of my experience at TMI and why I believe you should go too if it's something you're interested in.
What does the Monroe Institute do?
TMI's mission, according to their website, is "helping people create more meaningful and joyful lives through the guided exploration of expanded consciousness."
Robert Monroe established TMI in the early 1970s as a nonprofit research and education institution. Before that in 1956, Bob had his own radio production company and had begun to research the effects that different sounds patterns had on human consciousness. It was popular at that time to listen to programs that promised learning by way of the subconscious while you slept.
Bob Monroe frequently used himself as a test subject and in 1958 began having spontaneous out of body experiences. To say the least, these experiences changed his life in such a significant way that his professional career changed directions to follow his newfound focus and purpose. Thus, TMI was born and has been growing ever since.
Today, TMI (which is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization) offers numerous programs that explore varying levels of expanded states of consciousness. They teach you to access your own higher consciousness using "specially built binaural beat audio-guided technology", which was first created by Bob.
Their main program The Gateway Voyage is the best starting place, as it is also a pre-requisite for the majority of their other programs.
What is the Gateway Voyage experience?
The Gateway Voyage is a week-long retreat that teaches you how to reach expanded states of consciousness in order to access the higher self and other nonphysical communications. You begin by practicing with the first six waves of the Hemi-Sync® Gateway Experience® and by the end of the week, you understand how to do it without any audio sounds.
The Gateway Voyage explores Focus Levels 10-21. According to a handout I was given at TMI, Focus Levels are explained as such:
"Throughout Robert A. Monroe's out of body journeys, and during the course of several years, he mapped "territories," as he called them. These territories, or locales, remained consistent with specific deep-state levels of consciousness. His subjective experience of each locale was the same every time he entered the state of awareness associated with it. To avoid using mystical or religious language to describe these territories, Bob numbered them, calling them Focus Levels. Along with Hemi-Sync®, the Focus Levels formed the basis of Monroe Institute core programs."
The following are all of the Focus Levels that Bob mapped:
- Focus 1: "C-1" (waking consciousness)
- Focus 10: "Mind Awake/Body Asleep" (exactly as it sounds)
- Focus 11: "The Access Channel" (access to Total Self)
- Focus 12: "Expanded Awareness" (expanded beyond the five physical senses)
- Focus 15: "No Time - No Space" (the void, all potentiality)
- Focus 18: "The Heart Level" (unconditional love vibration)
- Focus 21: "The Bridge State" (access to nonphysical energies and intelligence)
- Focus 22: "Here and There" (a locale where you encounter people who are physically alive but unconscious, such as those in a coma or drug-induced state)
- Focus 23: "New Goners" (a locale where you encounter people who are no longer physically alive but haven't realized it yet)
- Focus 24, 25, 26: "Belief System Territories" (afterlife expressions of spiritual traditions)
- Focus 27: "The Park" (an afterlife area created by humans often resembling earth environments)
- Focus 34-35: "The Gathering" (allows communication with intelligences gathered to observe happenings on Earth)
- Focus 42: "The I-There Cluster" (allows awareness of even more aspects of Self)
- Focus 49: "Infinite Sea of Bonded I-There Clusters" (higher order guidance, "The Cluster Council")
My experience at the Monroe Institute
My goal in this section is to give you an idea of what you can expect as far as the physical basics go when staying at the Virginia location of TMI. The couple of friends that I spoke with before going gave me an idea of what to expect in this area and I found it to be very helpful.
Most rooms are double-occupancy, but the fact that you sleep inside your CHEC unit which has a curtain provides a considerable amount of privacy.
At the Virginia campus, there are two retreat locations which are the Nancy Penn Center and Roberts Mountain Retreat. I stayed at the mountain retreat location up the hill and had a room in the annex building, where most of us slept.
The rooms were nothing fancy but they were clean and provided everything I needed for the week. I also had amazing sleep in the CHEC unit–they provide lots of blankets and the air conditioning in the unit was great. I was worried I'd be a little warm, but the units were nice and cool.
Inside your CHEC unit there are headphones, an overhead dimmable lamp and a small shelf to put things. There are buttons on the inside wall for adjusting sounds and switching your ready light on so the instructors can begin your meditation.
In the room I stayed in, we shared a bathroom. My friends stayed at the Nancy Penn Center and said bathrooms are located outside the rooms (they also said there are LOTS of bathrooms everywhere, so not to fret)!
Overall, the room situation was fine. Of course I'd love to not have to share a room, but so much time is spent in meditation and group sessions that it wasn't that big of a deal.
Also there were shuttle services that brought people from the airport and took them back at the end of the week. A few of us drove in, such as myself since I live only 3 hours away.
I never got a picture of the dining area, but this table spread was waiting for us in the Fox Den the first day we arrived. Everything was fresh and and high quality.
TMI has a kitchen staff that includes a chef who prepares the most delicious meals! Our chef was Mark and he had the best energy, which is probably why his food was so good. He even took requests from us, making someone's favorite cookies one day for example.
They work hard to accommodate everyone's diets, which is really nice. There was something for everyone. The salad bar was always stocked and included homemade dressings that everyone raved about.
We had three meals a day and the kitchen was always open if you needed a snack. They had fruit, nuts and candy out at all times, plus the leftover homemade desserts from the previous day. There was also coffee, tea of all kinds and water available. The chef would flavor the water daily with different combinations of herbs and veggies. My favorite combination was ginger, lemongrass and cucumber–it gave such a unique, delicious flavor to the water.
A lot of people brought their own water containers, but there are also water glasses and mugs you can use all throughout the day.
The Gateway Voyage experience is centered around the meditations. We did around three meditations between breakfast and lunch, and up to two more after the afternoon break.
Each meditation lasts for about 40 minutes. I actually didn't time them, but that's the length that they seemed to be around.
They always take place in your CHEC unit. Also, you'll pee more times at TMI than you have your whole life because they advise you to before every meditation. Nothing worse than getting into an altered state and realizing you need to go to the bathroom, so definitely don't skip it!
Once inside your CHEC unit, you'll shut your blackout curtain, get into a comfortable position (some people sit up, halfway up, or all the way down), get your headphones on, turn your ready light on and your lamp off.
It's normal to fall asleep during some meditations and the running joke at TMI is how nice those $2,000 naps are! I also learned the meaning behind the term "clicking out", which happens when you're alert during a meditation, but wake up to the sound of the meditation ending and realizing your consciousness went somewhere else at some point.
I always try to focus on affirming that I remember all of my nonphysical experiences. This is half the challenge of exploring the nonphysical–bringing the awareness of it back with you.
There are group sessions before and after most meditations. Before breakfast every day there is an optional yoga session you can attend. Only a few people in my group went to these. After breakfast, we would have our first official group session of the day. These sessions were educational and an opportunity to ask any questions we had.
After each meditation we would debrief, share any experiences that we wanted to share and then discuss the next meditation. This was pretty much the pattern while at TMI: discuss, meditate, debrief, repeat.
Most people wore loose-fitting, stretchy clothing. I went in September so it was mostly warm outside, but it's good to take cardigans or sweaters because you never know if the air conditioning is going to make you feel chilly. Also, most people wore casual sandals that they could easily slip on and off.
Some other random info that comes to mind when I think of going to group sessions is that TMI provides umbrellas so if you're trying to travel light, don't worry about bringing one of those. In addition, if you'd like to tip the staff, make sure you have cash on hand to do so.
Breaks & other notable things
Every day we had a long afternoon break that started after lunch and lasted until around 4 p.m. TMI is big on "no time", which means there are no clocks posted anywhere. You simply listen for their bells to ring which signal the next activity. But I observed the afternoon break to be around two to three hours long.
During the afternoon break, people would nap, go for walks, run, swim in the pool, get massages, or relax in peaceful sitting areas they have around campus. Most people also visited the bookstore at some point during the week, where you can purchase audios, souvenirs, books and other items.
Back to the time thing, I noticed they generally woke us up around 6:30 a.m., yoga at 7, breakfast at 8, lunch between 12 and 1, break from 1-4 and our last session ending around 9 p.m.
I also enjoyed the sounds they played at night in our CHEC units, as well as the wake up recording done by Bob. The sounds at night were made for sleeping and had these faint airplane sounds that are conducive for going out of body in my opinion. They currently do not have these night sounds available for purchase.
Bob's wake up call was awesome. His voice would come over the speakers quietly and he would have you affirm how good your day was going to be. It was such a nice way to wake up.
Noticeable changes before and after
There were several apparent changes that I noticed within myself before I left TMI and after going home as well. I noticed several other people experiencing the same things. The following are some things you might experience:
- decreased appetite
- vivid dreams (or no dreams)
- feeling the need to ground often (which they assist you with)
- feeling like you're high after going home (a very relaxed, blissed state)
- driving too slow, being a bit more zoned out
- vivid dreams after returning home
- feelings of love and connectedness with others
- seeing people in a new light
- no more fear of death
- increased or newfound psychic abilities
I met a person at TMI who had his first out of body experience while there. It was short but blew his mind. Another woman who also had no previous experiences saw vividly a small craft hovering over her inside the CHEC unit. She reached up to touch it and her hand went through it. She was so awe-stricken during our next group session that she was visibly shaking while retelling her experience.
I myself did not have a conscious out of body experience while there besides small recollections of walking up the stairs outside or checking my phone while meditating. I did receive many psychic impressions during the meditations and also found my personal meditation before sleep to be super powerful, such as feeling vibrations for an increased amount of time.
Since I struggle with some social anxiety and am very sensitive to energies, I found myself a little drained each day and not fully charged up for having an out of body experience or even much dream recall.
I found myself appreciating more the process of learning how to induce these expanded states of awareness rather than needing to have the experiences there. Since returning home, I have been able to apply what I learned so that my meditations are much more effective and efficient. Before, I might meditate for up to an hour and never really reach a good meditative state, but now I know how to get there within less than 10 minutes.
Using Hemi-Sync® to expand consciousness
Before I went to TMI, I would listen to Gateway Experience meditations every so often. I really didn't know what I was doing, but the synchronization sounds would put me in an altered state and I would have some really cool experiences.
I would mainly listen to Focus Levels 10 and 12 at that time. The sounds alone would make my meditation so much more effective. I remember one of my first experiences using Focus Level 10 took me to some time in the 1700's here in the U.S. I was inside a cabin and we were deciding where to hang a picture. If I had that experience now, I would know to inquire more about it, but at the time I just sort of marveled at it and wondered what it meant.
The following Focus Level recordings are the home study versions of the audios used for the Gateway Voyage:
- Wave I (Intro to Focus Level 10)
- Wave II (Intro to Focus Level 12)
- Wave III (we did at least one from this track, like "5 Questions")
- Wave V (Intro to Focus Level 15)
- Wave VI (Intro to Focus Level 21)
Each day we essentially focused on one wave, three in the morning and two in the afternoon. The audios are slightly different from the home study versions, but I noted they're pretty much the same. The ones at TMI might be slightly longer.
I definitely recommend Focus Levels 10 and 12, linked in the above paragraph, or you can get them in this collection which contains Wave I and II. It's likely you will experience some very cool things even if you're not fully understanding everything.
Bob's books are recommended reading before you get to TMI. They are:
I read his first book a year before attending TMI and found it fascinating. Before attending TMI, I read the last two, which were also fascinating in a different way. Those books explored a lot of his experiences and conversations with nonphysical entities.
You can also read this post for my favorite books on astral projection.
I took this picture from my front yard right after returning home from TMI. The three cloud rings reminded me of their logo and I was in such a state of gratitude.
Without a doubt, I highly recommend anyone interested in exploring their consciousness to attend TMI at least once. I personally would love to attend yearly. Not only is it educational, but it's highly conducive for getting in touch with higher aspects of yourself.
I am typically someone who will read books and "do it myself," but I walked away from my experience at TMI with so much more context and understanding than I could have ever gotten on my own. Or at the very least a lot faster than it would've taken me otherwise.
Despite being a more private and sensitive person who can struggle with social anxiety, I really encourage anyone like me to still attend. There were a few people there like me and we all felt it was worth it.
I plan to go again many more times with the personal expectation that the energy will be strong, I'll feel it, I'll struggle some with social interactions, but I'll walk away with so much more than I walked in with.
It's a life-changing experience, and if you ever get the chance to go, I say don't let it pass you by.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article and found something to take away with you.
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Jessica Dimas is the author of Sacred Self-Care for Your Chakras.
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