This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
I often hear people complain that astral travel sounds so delightful and that I make it sound so easy, whereas in fact it is not. I thought I would use this post to quote from my book The Afterlife: Hereafter and Here at Hand to explain why I feel that learning to lucid dream is so much easier to achieve and is definitely my favourite method when it comes to reaching out for departed loved ones in spirit.
‘Most out-of-body experiences occur when the mind becomes conscious, either spontaneously or deliberately, while the body remains asleep.
For me, this phenomenon began spontaneously in my teens, at least 15 years before I fully understood what it meant. I would be asleep, when my mind would suddenly wake up and I could not control my physical body. This happened whenever I stayed up late studying, or if I fell asleep exhausted for an hour or so in the afternoon – in other words, when my body was particularly tired, but my mind was still alert or overstimulated.
Like me, many students and athletes have reported the experience of ‘waking up’ in a paralysed body; or of being unable to open their eyelids, while hearing a buzzing sound or feeling a strong vibration in their heads; or of trying to shout out, but being incapable of uttering the merest whisper. Needless to say, it is an unpleasant sensation.
I recently learnt that this apparent anomaly – the early stage of which is known as ‘sleep paralysis’ – is due to the muscles in the body ‘turning off’ during REM sleep. If we did not experience this ‘atony’, or functional paralysis of the muscles, our bodies would physically react to whatever we do or see in our dreams, which could be dangerous for us.
Thus, if the mind is alert, while the body is still asleep, you may experience the unpleasant sensation of being prisoner to your paralysed body. This is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, fear or terror. However, objectively speaking, it is usually a brief experience.
As a teenager, having ruled out the possibility of any serious illness and resigning myself to these episodes, I devised a way out of the situation, by waking my body. I would imagine myself doing something that required intense concentration, such as two completely different movements with my hands – for instance, making a circle with one, while moving the other up and down – and this would be enough to wake my body.
These episodes of nocturnal paralysis continued for many years, until I discovered they were really a doorway to another world.
I was 29 and under a great deal of stress. I had recently been promoted and moved to the Milan branch of the company I worked for, but I had not found a place to rent, so I was still living in a hotel after four long months. One night, around midnight, I grew drowsy, when I felt the familiar sensation of heaviness in my limbs and the buzzing sound in my head. Only, this time, instead of struggling against my paralysed body, I was amazed to find that my hands and arms were ‘flying away’, detached from my real arms.
In shock, I instinctively pulled them down and woke up completely, physically as well as mentally. What had happened? Had I gone mad?
I had previously read that when the mind is awake in a sleeping body – a state referred to as ‘mind awake, body asleep’ – our consciousness is free to leave the body and move on other planes, in other dimensions. Those who are familiar with this subject generally talk of the ‘astral plane’, on which we move with this second, more subtle body, similarly called the ‘astral body’.
With this in mind, I soon realised that my physical limbs must have been paralysed as usual, and my consciousness (which had stayed awake and lucid enough to record the episode) had witnessed my ‘other arms’ flying away, i.e. the arms belonging to my astral body.
According to researchers, everyone and everything exists both in the physical and the astral dimensions. The astral aspect of the self is somewhat independent of the physical aspect. It changes and moves very fluidly and with great ease according to our thoughts, and sometimes ‘operates’ autonomously even when we are awake. For example, on more than one occasion, during a boring conference that made me feel drowsy, I have seen the astral forms of certain members of the audience move, turn, look around, look at the people next to them, while their physical counterparts sat practically still, listening to the speaker. Sometimes, while on the verge of sleep, I have seen my husband wander around the house, doing odd jobs, while his physical counterpart was tens of miles away.
This is what is called the ‘astral body’. It is a body that is not bound by the laws of space and time, is free to do the things that we only daydream about and, during an out-of-body experience, is as solid and tangible as a discarnate spirit, enabling us to touch and speak to our loved ones in the Afterlife.
Later in life I discovered that, when the physical body was asleep and the mind was awake, I could walk or fly with my astral body in the astral version of my bedroom or of the rest of the house. I could fly about the neighbourhood, reach distant places in no time and meet other people who were awake or asleep, wandering about in their astral bodies. I could even temporarily ‘cross over’, meet the deceased and visit where they reside. I have also seen special reception areas designed for such meetings with the deceased, and have found that it is possible to move in time and meet future or past versions of my loved ones.
In those early weeks and months following my first experience on the astral plane, I discovered that, when the mind wakes up and the body is still asleep, the body is no longer a barrier; it is no longer solid, but yielding and porous, composed of an energy that could easily be passed through. Not only was I able to leave that body, but I could push my astral hands through it. Likewise, I could sink through the mattress or pass through walls, sometimes feeling a faint vibration or tingle. I could float up to the ceiling like a balloon, or drift down to within a few inches of the floor.
I could also look at myself in the mirror and see my astral body reflected back at me. This soon became a habit I have continued to this day. Since the idea of looking at my body asleep in bed repulsed me – even though I had no issue with touching it, and even enjoyed listening to the rhythmic sound of my breathing – I found that looking at my astral body in the mirror was a daunting task. Furthermore, over the years, I have discovered that it gives me a much more accurate idea of my deeper emotional state than my physical body reveals.
For example, during the period of these early experiments with astral travel, I was a rather solitary person. I lived about 25 miles from my workplace and had no friends in town. I also had trouble adjusting to my move from Piedmont; so, despite being happy with my work, I was not quite what you would call a happy person.
The first few times I faced my astral body in the mirror, I was surprised to see that, while my physical body appeared attractive and well-presented, my hair swept up and my face framed with a different pair of earrings each day, my astral body looked emaciated, bruised and covered in plasters; my hair was dishevelled (once, I even wore curlers) and my clothes were always drab or tatty. Luckily, I have long been intuitive, so I did not let these images drag down my self-esteem. Instead, I immediately realised they were projections of my sad and lonely emotional self.
Over the years, I have seen myself many times in the mirror during my out-of-body experiences. After having a child and forming a family, I watched my astral body grow younger, more beautiful and more cheerful.
A more recent example of the images I have seen in astral mirrors occurred during a period of serious illness, after I underwent months of treatment that temporarily made my hair fall out. The mirror I looked in was in a more spacious, better-lit place than my physical house, in a room specifically designed for rest and physical recovery. The image reflected back at me was that of a beautiful woman, at least ten years younger than I, with long flowing hair. Oddly, her eyes were covered in a red veneer of fear. As I gazed at her face, I realised how crucial it was to overcome my fear and be confident about the future, if I were to get better. Months later, the results of my CT scan and full medical check-up finally put my mind at ease. When I next saw myself in the mirror on the astral plane, my reflection now had two enormous green eyes bearing no traces of fear.
I would like to stress that, in addition to reflecting my own image, as well as the images of any entities around me, over the years I have found mirrors to be extremely efficient portals, taking me quickly from the astral plane to whatever ‘place’ I wish to go to, especially if it is to meet a particular person, whether alive or dead.
Alice Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carrol is the book that most probably influenced me in this regard.
For example, during an out-of-body experience in January 2009 (two years prior to the therapy that made my hair fall out), I asked to meet Master Jesus, for whom I have always had a special fondness, particularly for his love of children. I was in a colourful, beautifully scented pine grove, but at the same time – and this was particularly odd – I could see a starry sky, as if it were nighttime. Jesus was teaching in a kind of institute, but he came outside specially to meet me. He had his traditional beard and long hair, but wore modern casual clothes: jeans and a shirt with the sleeves turned up at the cuffs. Looking into my eyes, he transmitted a thought to me that came from Scripture, which would later turn out to be extremely significant: he told me he knew the number of hairs I had on my head!
To return to the night in the autumn of 1990 when my arms ‘flew away’, from that moment on, I began to read everything I could lay my hands on about astral travel. At the time, I did not have the Internet and I could not really bring up the subject with my normal circle of acquaintances without seeming ‘weird’. The first book I devoured was Journeys Out of the Body by Robert Monroe. Numerous others followed. I read and I practised. As I was single, I could give free rein to my imagination. I spent Saturdays and Sundays alone in my flat, with the phone unplugged and the doorbell silenced, so I could explore.
Since I kept a diary of my dreams and my OBEs, I discovered an experience that is very common and quite similar to astral travel. During a dream, the dreamer is aware of dreaming and, to a certain extent, able to control what is happening. ‘Lucid dreaming’, as it is known, is where we are aware of dreaming: we are conscious, but still partly in the dream state. Therefore, even the strangest or unlikeliest of things may continue to seem normal.
There are various degrees of lucidity during a lucid dream, which can be intentionally heightened to achieve an OBE. However, in an actual OBE, the mind is fully awake, albeit our priorities may be slightly different from when we are in a waking state, because our perspective is broader. The separation we experience in this dimension gives us the clear perception that we are moving in a body similar to the physical body, yet different and not subject to the laws of the physical world.
These unique and moving experiences have continued, both spontaneously and intentionally, for the last 26 years. Time, experience and my reading and thinking on this subject have made me realise that the ‘places’ I visit during my astral projections are not so much ‘outside’ of my physical body, as the name might suggest, but are inner dimensions of my consciousness and spirit. This, however, remains a subject for further debate, since the concepts of ‘in’ and ‘out’ do not hold the same importance beyond the physical plane.
In other words, everything we see and touch while awake and in our ordinary state of consciousness has an internal and an external aspect here on the physical plane; but beyond this dimension, the concepts of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ cease to be important. Hence, any discussion of whether the astral plane is ‘outside’ the physical dimension—as if it were some kind of energy screen surrounding us—or ‘inside’ it—as if it were the outermost part of the spiritual nucleus that is our very essence—is purely theoretical and perhaps irrelevant.
William Buhlman, one of America’s leading experts on OBEs, has defined astral projection as an inward journey. For my part, this particular interpretation has released me from a number of fears, the first of these being the fear of staying ‘locked out’ of my body or seeing the silver cord between the astral body and the physical body break while I was still outside my physical vehicle.
Regardless of such speculations, the fact remains that, although I spent the first years of my explorations focusing on the closest plane to the physical dimension, it did not take long for the desire to visit my loved ones in the Afterlife to take over.
… I would like to emphasise one last time my opinion that astral travel is nothing more than a state of greater lucidity than a lucid dream, in which we are aware that we are dreaming. I would also like to emphasise that lucid dreaming can, if we so desire, be the launch pad to astral travel: if we are aware that we are dreaming and conscious of what is happening, we can choose to heighten our lucidity and move into an actual OBE.
Although it may seem superfluous at this stage, I would like to underline my total disagreement with scholars, practitioners and teachers of lucid dreaming like Charlie Morley who consider 99% of the entities met during a lucid dream to be dream characters (or DCs) —in other words, mere products of the dreaming mind. Although I agree with the broader concept that this life is like a dream from which we wake up and return to our wider reality when we die, I do not find this a valid reason to negate the absolute authenticity and individuality of the incarnate or discarnate spirits we might encounter in the waking state or in other modified states of consciousness such as dreams or OBEs.’
[Quoted from The Afterlife: Hereafter and Here at Hand]
The reason I do not usually encourage people to learn to astral travel is because, in out-of-body experiences, our mind is wide awake, and all our logical and rational filters are in place, whereas with lucid dreaming, the mind is somewhat ‘sedated’ and able to accept insights and ideas that may not make sense when awake but be full of meaning when we are asleep.
The reason I often refer to my out-of-body experiences when teaching how to reach out for our loved ones in the Afterlife is simply in order to provide practical evidence to back up the experiences that are within everyone’s grasp, through dreams, lucid dreams and meditation.
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