I’ve always found the concept of Astral Projection to be far-fetched. It seemed really spooky that someone who is alive could hover over their own body, even moving around the house in “spirit”. Then, a few months into my spiritual journey, I read the revered saint, Yogananda’s autobiography where he elaborates on his astral plain experiences. I later discovered that other spiritual teachers and masters that I follow, such as Osho and Sadhguru, also talk about this stuff. Even a Noble Prize winner like Richard Feynman couldn’t resist sharing his dream state musings in his book!
So when Chelsea from The Woo Lab podcast reached out, offering to share her astral experiences, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate! While I don’t consider myself ready to learn this art, I do find it intriguing to hear about others’ experiences. And Chelsea not just offers us a personal reflection, she shares the science-based and spiritual-based side of astral projection too!
I loved reading her in-depth research and insights on the topic, and trust that you will too. Here’s what she shared.
Unpacking Adventures in the Astral Realm
I was certain my brain was buzzing. I could feel my physical body around me like a shell, and at the same time, I could move away from it. But I knew I was asleep. Suddenly I landed in a full-color, tactile, sound-infused virtual reality. A woman was seated on a stool beside me doing a puzzle. She handed me a piece; it was pink and it felt like rubber… FELT like rubber? She giggled at my confusion and said with a hint of mischief, “Do you want to help me put it together?”
Near tears one night, I told my husband that my dreams were beginning to feel as real to me as life itself. My poor husband – who lives as squarely in the 3D world as I do – blinked like I said I’d seen Jesus on a piece of toast. I didn’t want to tell him, but the truth was that I was afraid to go to sleep… and also afraid I was dying.
I experienced astral dreams before I had a name for them.
Initially, a psychiatrist advised me to get a neurologist’s opinion and perhaps a brain scan. I avoided it. Frankly, I was scared to get diagnosed with a tumor. But also, my days were still completely normal – what kind of brain disorder only plagues a person at night?
It took weeks of WedMD, internet, book, and podcast searches for “brain buzzing” and “intense lucid dreams” before I finally matched what I was experiencing: characterized by vibrations, full consciousness, lucid dreams, and a feeling of being out-of-body. Even the initial fear of death was reported as a common ‘symptom.’ Such testimonies were too similar to my own to deny, and eventually, I began to accept that I had joined the ranks of a peculiar minority who astral projects, dreams, or travels.
None of which I necessarily believed in.
Fun Fact #1:
According to a February 2022 article by LiveScience, surveys suggest that somewhere between 8-20% of people have had something resembling an out-of-body experience: “a sensation of the consciousness, spirit or ‘astral body’ leaving the physical body,’ usually during sleep or hypnosis.”
Fun Fact #2:
A live survey of astral dreamers contributes further data; over 75% of 9,000 respondents have experienced this phenomenon less than five times in their lives. I was having them every week. By now, you probably get the sense that I’m a data-minded person. So while I was relieved to finally have a “diagnosis,” I was also left with a universe of new questions, namely: what was really happening to me?
It turns out that whether you defer to science or spirituality, the answer may be shockingly similar.
A Scientific Perspective: Dreams as Projections of the Mind
Neuroscience professor Matthew Walker studies the science of sleep. In his 2021 TED Talk shared below, he summarizes one of the functions of dreams as a kind of overnight therapy, “associated with an enhanced ability to solve the next day’s problems. It’s almost as if we go to sleep with the pieces of the jigsaw, but we wake up with the puzzle complete.”
I saw his talk after my first astral dream: his puzzle reference was not lost on me.
He further explains that dreams help to process emotional experiences, resulting in a better ability to address feelings the next day. But neuroscience has little to say about the thin distinction between astral and lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming is simply a state in which you are consciously aware that you’re asleep, so you can attempt to control your subconscious dream experience. It’s like being in a theme park and realizing it’s your theme park. You could fly around, change shape, or go on rides; very much like being in a custom video game.
Psychologists and dream experts have a harder time pinning down astral dreams with this logic. It’s still a form of lucid dreaming, but with the heightened awareness that you are watching other aspects of your mind go to work.
It would require a scientific theory to address the possibility that our conscious and subconscious are able to become so separate that you feel like a visitor in your own dream, and less in control of it. It’s like being in a theme park and not recognizing it as your own theme park, therefore it must belong to someone else. You can still experience the park, but the events that transpire are operating so subconsciously and separately from your own conscious level of awareness that they feel foreign.
Needless to say, the spiritual community is far more comfortable with the astral realm.
A Spiritual Perspective: Dreams as Introductions to the Other Side
In 1971, radio broadcasting executive Robert Monroe became one of the few people to publish personal accounts of his astral dream experiences in his book Journeys Out of the Body. He’s since been credited with the popularization of the term “out-of-body experience.”
Not exactly a mystic, Monroe thereafter founded The Monroe Institute, an organization geared toward applying research methods to better understand consciousness. Today, the group has evolved into the wellness space, promoting self-actualization with its courses and programs.
Similarly, William Buhlman (Adventures Beyond the Body) and Sahvanna Arienta (Lightworker’s Guide to the Astral Realm) have also published their astral dreams. I read all three books, in an effort to overlay their experiences like case studies and arrive at some kind of consensus.
There is plenty of nuance among their beliefs. Bulman sees astral realms as a few distinct, ever-deepening layers of self, whereas Arienta conceives of seven distinctive energetic realms. But in all cases, the dreamers seem to conclude that something lies beyond our conscious experience on earth; and while the “realms” visited at night may not be physical they do exist as responsive spaces – meaning they sometimes collide with the consciousnesses of others.
More plainly said, you may be able to visit others in astral dreams – alive or dead – through some kind of energetic connection, only available during sleep. This is a major dividing point between science and spirituality.
But although held from a spiritual point of view, the purpose is still wildly similar to Matthew Walker’s theory.
Whether we are visiting the dead, the living, or our own internal mechanisms, we’re still simply working things out: relationships, fears, aspirations, identities, you name it.
Then what’s the point of the dream format? I’d argue that whether we tackle our dream-time jigsaws unconsciously (as with normal dreams), consciously (as with lucid dreams), or in psychedelic technicolor (as with astral dreams) the specific environment seems to tailor itself the best route for learning, digesting and accepting the subject at hand.
But that’s not a scientific or spiritual perspective.
A Personal Perspective
I’m a year and a half into my own astral dreaming experiences. And after plenty of research and numerous podcast episodes on the subject (including a mini-series on dreams), I’m getting more comfortable with imperfect answers and less concerned about the sources.
That’s a core takeaway. We live in an age when the lines between science and spirituality are too distinct to develop consensus about the gray area between them. But that doesn’t mean the nature of what we experience should be ignored.
Whether dreams are deep layers of the mind at work or a mystical adventure we embark on, I routinely find myself growing – my waking and sleeping experiences compliment each other, sometimes changing my perspectives and sometimes cementing them. That’s satisfying enough for now.
But maybe one day, I’ll get to see the whole puzzle.
Wasn’t that awesome?! It was like a mini adventure to read Chelsea’s insights into Astral Projection and how she came to terms with this mystical experience. Her podcast offers some equally awesome information and personal narration into the world of out-of-body experiences. Go check out her work below:
- How to Have the Dreams of Your Dreams
- An Interview With Our Resident Astral Dreamer
- 7 Dream Types You Never Knew You Had