The concept of astral travel is used to describe a range of 'out of body' phenomena, ranging from near-death experiences and drug hallucinations to deep spiritual meditations and lucid dreams.
In simple terms, astral travel, also known as astral projection, occurs when an individual's spiritual consciousness moves beyond the confines of the physical body to higher planes of existence, or to distant parts of our corporeal world. Examples of astral travel might include the act of looking down on one's own body as an outside observer, as is often the case with near-death experiences; witnessing far off events across the globe, or travelling to distant galaxies and other dimensions. Though the nature of astral projection is such that it cannot be scientifically proven, there numerous cases in a wide cross-section of cultures and religions. Astral travel can be simplified to three main categories.
1. Involuntary out of body experiences
This is when you find yourself suddenly thrust outside your body, witnessing events from an entirely different perspective. Near death experiences (NDE) fall into this category, but it can also occur in other times of extreme emotion or physical crisis. Many NDE survivors describe intense feelings of joy and love, often accompanied by bright light at the end of a tunnel. There can be culture-specific imagery, such as a religious deity. Some even describe seeing events in the future, or revisiting scenes from the past.
2. Voluntary astral travel
Many societies around the world, and throughout history, have experimented with inducing astral projection. Shamans and Indian holy men have brought about supernatural states of being for millennia, using a combination of meditative trance and mind altering substances. This continues in many isolated tribes around the globe, and is even showing up in modern psychotherapy. Western and Soviet intelligence services are alleged to have engaged in 'remote viewing' experiments during the Cold War, for purposes of espionage and reconnaissance. Remote viewing and astral projection have also become popular in New Age circles. Many people claim to have communicated with extraterrestrials through the use of meditation and other techniques.
3. Subconscious astral travel
In other words, dreams. This is the most common form of astral travel, and perhaps the least well-known. Advocates of astral travel propose that our dreams are in fact journeys on the astral plane within our subconscious. A technique known as lucid dreaming can be used to gain further insight the astral dream world. Lucid dreaming is a state of consciousness in which the dreamer 'awakes' within the dream, recognises it as such, and is then able to take control of events.
Why do people practice astral travel?
Different groups and people practice astral travel for different reasons. Many tribes believe they can communicate with ancestors and spirit guides, and seek guidance in their everyday lives. For many in the Western world, it is a way of confirming that there is more to life and the universe than meets the eye. Others see it as a way to learn more about their inner-self and the infinite universe around them, or grow closer to God or Source.
Where do I begin?
Although different cultures have used a variety of methods for astral travel, certain basic elements are common throughout:
Find a quiet comfortable place where you will not be disturbed
Clear your mind of all distractions. This takes practice, and will require the discipline of a daily meditation ritual. The purpose of this is to silence what Easter cultures call 'the monkey mind', the constant chattering of the ego and the conscious mind.
Reach a deep trance state. The key to astral travel is to put your body to sleep while awakening your mind and spirit to the fullest extent.
Feel, don't think. Astral travel can be achieved when the mind is open to limitless possibilities.
Practice constantly. Few things in life come without hard work, and this is especially true when trying to cultivate a receptive mind suitable for astral travel.