Let’s deal with Hypnagogia first because it is important. This is the visceral experience of a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. During this state of consciousness, at the onset of sleep, mental phenomena including hallucinations and sleep paralysis among others may occur. It is not uncommon and there are many websites devoted to people discussing this psycho-physiological phenomenon.
Sleep paralysis is a much more common problem than you might think. It is well-studied, well-documented and well-understood to be directly related to brain-wave patterns and the amygdala’s fight/flight response. It is a state of mind wherein a channel between surface and sub-conscious is open and the semiotic references of a life-time of sensory input are allowed to flow freely. Hence the image on the bubble gum wrapper quickly becomes the monster under the bed.
Please read this article carefully to help you through your sleep paralysis and encourage you forward to either wake easily, fall into easy sleep, or go forward confidently and explore the astral.
If you are not familiar with sleep paralysis, it’s that condition in which you find yourself awake, but unable to move your body. It’s as if you are stuck between awake and sleep, in some kind of mind-glue. A common tendency at this point is to freak out for the simple fact that it is indeed a freaky feeling. The amygdala is in overdrive. And this is where my most important advice comes in. If you ever find yourself stuck in sleep paralysis, you will realize at the same time that you are almost completely lucid. This is because you have only just begun to make the cross-over between beta brainwave function (wakeful consciousness) and alpha-theta brain wave function (first levels of sleep). It is important that you understand and realize that you are still breathing and will continue to breathe.
The Panic Reflex
A symptom of the sleep paralysis state seems to include an involuntary slide into panic. This is the consciousness’s connection with the biochemistry of the primal urge to fight or flight. The state often begins as a dream, with imagery closest to the surface of the sub-conscious. You haven’t gone deep yet and may see your home or people near your present inner circles. You will not realize that you are dreaming until something odd, like a hallucination or other minor detail out of place strikes you, at which point you will become lucid of the fact that you are dreaming. The desire may overcome you to wake up from this dream. At that point is where the panic of the sleep paralysis can overwhelm. It will not be easy to wake up. And when you realize the difficulty, the panic will entrench itself beginning a vicious circle. It is important that you understand and realize that you are still breathing and will continue to breathe. Just as the sympathetic nervous system may be flash-feeding your body with adrenaline at the very moment of panic, so also the parasympathetic nervous system which is controlling your heart and breath is not going to stop working. This one realization from within your lucidity can help you abate the panic characteristic of sleep paralysis and allow you to calmly direct your awareness into other directions. Remember! “I am breathing. I am dreaming. My body is fine as it is and I am fine as I am. I will return to my body just as soon as I am finished with this dream.”
How To Astral Project
Some people outright dismiss this phenom for any number of reasons from pseudoscience to fear of the wrath of God. There seem to be a lot of definitions of this activity out there, too. Considered though the topic of awareness itself and the potential for its reach. Consider meditation and the philosophy of yoga that speaks about the inner worlds of man, the separate nature of an ego ‘I’ and an over-lordship of a Greater I? Consider even that the CIA approached the study into the nature of human telepathic capabilities in a program known as remote viewing. How about the Jewish mystic construct called Kabbalah and the Tree of Life?
I mention all this by means of showing the inroad to Astral Projection. For the purpose of this article, let’s define AP as the conscious decision to send our awareness further than our body in order to experience lucidly the ‘astral’ dimension. We’ll leave motivation aside for the moment.
But What is the Astral?
That’s actually a really tough question only because there are quite a few systems out there that have defined it according to varying degrees. Again, for our present purpose, let’s define it as a layer of awareness accessible with a variation in your brainwave state that is most commonly achieved on the way into sleep. In the simplest terms possible, let us call it lucid dreaming with benefits, without getting into ‘the benefits’ just yet to avoid making this too complicated or extraordinary.
So how do I project into and maintain that ethereal layer of awareness that allows me to trip through the dimensions of mind? Short Answer: You will it. But the conditions have to be right. Some suggest going to sleep on your back. Some suggest using steam, bells, binaural beats, incense, this and that. I suggest meditation.
Not only do you NOT have to be asleep in order to relax your brain rhythms and expand your awareness, you do NOT have to experience sleep paralysis. You do NOT have to go through any rituals. You do NOT have to make astral projection anything more or less than what it is.
There are a lot of people that have gotten so mentally used to this particular level of awareness, as opposed to physically, that for them it’s like a day dream and they easily slip into the state on the way into deep sleep as their brain waves begin fluctuating. It’s like recognizing the rising tide of a particular emotion. For you who have never done this before though, you are absolutely ripe for doing it the easy way.
With a bit of conscious breathing and 20–30 minutes of focus, you can cause changes in your own brain wave patterns. If you lay down to sleep right after, or better, during your meditation, you will be in the perfect position to begin your journey.
Let’s say that you decide to try this. You can contact me in the comments, or message me, for pointers on the breathing and anything else relating to the meditation aspect that you might need. During your meditation, you are going to employ a visioning technique. At some point you will begin to feel your focus drifting and you will be getting ready to sleep. Here is the point when it is possible to let go and fly. One minute you will be meditating. You will make a decision to lay down to sleep while maintaining a particular vision that you are fond of. You will take that vision into the dream world with you. If you are successful, you will begin to dream lucidly on your way down.
How do I know that I’m projecting and not dreaming?
If you are lucid, first of all, have a look around. Will yourself to see your immediate surroundings. You should be able to identify everything in your immediate vicinity. Turn around and look at yourself. Or try to identify the silver chord attaching your awareness to your sleeping form. These are symbols. These are manifestations of your mind. Like archetypes. Your conscious mind doesn’t know what to make of this experience yet and so will show you symbols to help you define the experience. Sorry -this goes so much deeper than how do I AP. But there’s actually some stuff to know about the mind, about awareness and consciousness. But perhaps this was a good primer.
And remember! Any little inconsistency can trigger the fight/flight response quite suddenly. That response can sometimes also be the trigger itself for the downward spiral into sleep paralysis when, though lucid, you are unable to wake yourself up. You just remember to tell yourself, your body is still breathing. You will get back to the body in due order. Start sending your awareness, consciously, to your fingers and toes – try to wiggle them. You’ll snap yourself out of it. Either that, or as you start feeling safe in the knowledge that you are actually, alright, you may also just go with the experience of whatever the subconscious threw up at you, go with the dream, and slide effortlessly all the way down into deep sleep and try again tomorrow.
For a little bit more of an intermediate perspective on the practicalities of astral travel, please check out this piece on pulling knowledge from the astral realms.
…is a Saiva Tantrika, Gyana Yogi and founder of Uma Maheshwara Yoga & Ayurveda. David has an MA in Semiotics, lives in Japan with his family and works as a coach in L & D, devoting his time to developing science-based tools and programs that help people reach the fullest potential of the human condition.