This will be the first in a series of posts that will cover all the "How to's" of phasing. There are literally hundreds of techniques out there that have been talked about over the years to reach the out of body state. What I have found is that all of these can be grouped into one of three categories. This post will focus on the first of those three categories. "Direct Techniques". The term Direct Technique was coined by Russian Author Michael Raduga and while this is one of the more difficult approaches to experiencing the phase, it is also probably the most widely known and most commonly talked about. What sets Direct Techniques apart from all others is that there is no lapse in consciousness as you shift from the physical to the astral. You are awake, you achieve the required level of relaxation, you put yourself in the proper state of mind, and you make the transition. There are those who have been able to achieve this through meditation. Personally, I have only experienced this through what Robert Monroe calls the "Mind Awake, Body Asleep" state.
What is it that makes this approach one of the most difficult to become proficient in? Because evolution has wired our minds and bodies over thousands, maybe millions of years to let our minds drift to sleep before our bodies. I personally had to break a 30+ year habit in order to reverse that cycle. Perhaps you are starting to grasp the difficulties that this presents. I spent literally months trying experiment after experiment, trying to develop new neural pathways that would allow me to reach this state. In the end, I am unsure which of my experiments worked. Most likely, it was the combination of more than one that did the trick. That being the case, I will share with you everything I tried and you can take the pieces that resonate with you.
I will start with those things that I am most sure about; things that I still do to this day, and save the more experimental measures for last.
The first, and probably most important thing is to get rid of all distractions. Put your phone on silent. Lock the pets out of the bedroom. If necessary, wear an eye mask and earplugs. The more you can deprive your physical senses the easier it will be to turn all of your attention inward and focus on this monumental task. I found personally that it can be incredibly frustrating as you are learning this process if you share a bed with a partner who tosses and turns at night. After months of frustration, I found a solution, albeit somewhat extreme, that I would highly recommend if space and money allow. We got rid of our bed and bought two twin beds. They are positioned about half an inch apart, but with their own box springs and own supports. No longer having my achieved state broken by every little movement has turned out to be one of the biggest contributing factors to my success.
Second, lie down in a position that is not natural to sleep. I typically sleep on my side, so when putting my body to sleep, I always lie on my back. This will help you slow the transition into sleep and retain more control over it.
Third, remain absolutely still. Take time up front to find a position you can hold for an indefinite period of time because any movement, once the process is underway, will start you back at square 1. Movement in my experience includes everything from the more obvious, like scratching an itch and rolling over to the less obvious like swallowing and looking around under my closed eyelids. The urge to swallow was a hard thing to overcome. What I found was most effective for me was to prop my head up almost to the point where I am looking down at my toes. This keeps the spit from pooling in the back of my mouth and prevents the swallowing reflex. As far as what to do with your eyes, this is a tricky business. Close your eyes for a moment, select a spot to look at, and try to keep them still. Now hold that for one minute. Now hold that for five minutes. You will find that it is an incredibly difficult thing to do. They are always twitching this way and that, almost as if they have a mind of their own. For this, I have found that letting them gently roll back and towards the center of my forehead tends to be effective. This position is natural to sleep and gives me a target to look at so I can reduce the unintentional movements.
Fourth, those #@$%&* itches! There will come a point where your body starts to wonder if you are still awake and its methods of verifying your level of consciousness can be incredibly difficult to ignore, not to mention annoying. Just when I am starting to feel good about my progress, it happens.The feeling of a spider web strung across my face, particularly around my nose. Tiny pinpricks of tickling, itching insanity that I have lost my progress to more than once. The good news is that these are not ordinary itches that will remain until scratched. If you ignore them for 10 or 15 seconds, placing your attention firmly elsewhere, your body will be satisfied that your mind is asleep and they will simply fade away. An interesting note about these itches. On those occasions when I have lost the battle to those itches, the instant I reach up to scratch them, they are gone. They disappear before my hand can even reach my face. My body has won and I have fallen for its trick. All I can advise here is learn to ignore them and they will go away.
Fifth, relaxation is crucial. You may ask, "why is relaxation fifth on your list?". It is fifth because, at the beginning, relaxation is not too difficult. We all fall asleep every night, and you have to be relaxed to do so. Relaxation only becomes a challenge when you begin to make progress. Up front, the things you will want to consider revolve around general comfort. Is it too warm? Too cold? Too warm and you will fall asleep too quickly, too cold and you will never reach the required state of relaxation. For me, this usually means a light blanket or just a sheet, along with comfortable loose fitting clothes. All other relaxation concerns will not come into play until the sleep process begins. The sensations when your body is falling asleep are anything but mundane. I found that my initial involuntary reaction to many of these sensations was to tense muscles, or clench my jaw, or hold my breath; all of which will wreck any progress. The solution to this is practice. As you start to feel that lead blanket feeling creeping up your legs, begin taking inventory of your body and various muscle groups over and over. Start at your feet and evaluate each muscle, moving your attention slowly up your body. Ask yourself as you get to each muscle, is it relaxed? Is there any tension? Can I let that body part sink any further into the bed? Once the answer is "no", continue to the next body part. Repeat this process as you progress.
Sixth, let's talk about breathing. What do you think about when you think of breath in relation to meditation or astral projection. If you have read the same books I have, you probably think of very deep breathing, or pot belly breathing, or pranayama breath holding. While this is great for relaxation in general, I find that for me it is not the most effective way to breath when trying to bring on the mind awake, body asleep state. The reason for this, as I briefly discussed in the vibrational state post is because once the sleep wave reaches your chest, that heavy sensation that presses down on your lungs makes it feel as if you are straining for breath. This can lead to discomfort, modification of your breathing pattern, or even panic, all of which are bad news when it comes to progressing deeper. Instead, I try to keep my breathing shallow, short, but very importantly, comfortable. You don't want to feel like you are depriving yourself of oxygen, but if you can keep from expanding your lungs fully, it will make it easier to adjust to the weight on your chest when you reach that stage in the process.
Seventh, keep your mind busy with something repetitive and monotonous. This is the final piece of solid advice I can give you. If you have ever spent a night thinking about a bad day at work or an upcoming vacation, you are familiar with the fact that racing thoughts can easily prevent sleep, sometimes for hours on end. Your goal here is to keep your mind busy, but with something much less interesting than your upcoming trip to Cancun. Repeat over and over again "mind asleep, body awake", or count backward from 300 to 1. Every time you find yourself losing your place, just start somewhere and continue. It isn't important that you think every single number, just that you keep returning to that repetitive thought whenever you realize you have started to lose concentration.
And now into the realms of experimentation and guesswork.
One of the skills that will come in incredibly handy in this process is the ability to let yourself dip into sleep and through intention alone, pull yourself back out. There are times when no matter how long you lie still in bed, nothing will ever happen. Perhaps your mind is too active or perhaps your body is just not tired enough. In situations like this, if you can let your mind bob up and down in that borderland state, maintaining control to pull it back out every time it slips under, you can take that frustrating scenario and move your progress forward at a surprising rate. This, unfortunately, as it seems with all things projection related, is no easy feat.
My first experiment came at the suggestion of Robert Bruce. Robert recommends propping your elbow up on the bed, fingers facing the ceiling, and letting yourself fall asleep over and over again. As you drift off, your arm will start to fall, waking you. You then return your arm to the initial position and repeat this process over and over again. I was not successful with this technique. I found that with my arm in this position, it is simply impossible to relax enough to ever make it anywhere near sleep. That problem intensified after holding this position for 45 minutes to an hour. The muscles in my arm started to ache and burn and I was not able to dip into sleep even once. The idea was a good one, but in my opinion, it was not effective in its current state. I needed to improve upon it.
My first attempt at improving upon this idea was to create an Android app (did I mention I am a geek?) that would very simply, cause the phone to vibrate any time you let go of the volume down button. At first, this seemed like it was going to work. I laid there in bed, phone in hand, thumb on the volume button, and as I started to drift off, my thumb lifted, the phone began to vibrate, and it pulled me back into consciousness. In the end, however, I am sad to say that this method suffered from the same problem as Robert's technique. Fatigue. My thumb started to get tired and eventually I couldn't hold consistent pressure and the phone was just vibrating non-stop. I needed something else. Something that didn't rely on muscle tension that could potentially lead to exhaustion.
I came across an interesting article about Thomas Edison. As it turns out, Edison found that he could access inspiration and untapped creativity in the hypnagogic state. He would sit in a straight-backed chair, steel ball bearings in each hand, metal pans on the floor beneath the bearings, and he would let himself fall asleep. As he drifted off the ball bearings would drop into the pans and wake him up. He would repeat this process, allowing him access to this borderland state. This gave me an idea. I went into my garage and found a small steel weight that I could tie a string through. I tied that small weight to my finger and held it in the palm of my hand. That night, I laid in bed, letting my hand hang just off of the bed, and let myself fall asleep. It worked. As I was falling asleep, my muscles relaxed, the weight fell, and the string pulled at my ring finger, waking me back up. Even better, with the string being fairly short, I could pull the weight back up while remaining in that semi-relaxed state and repeat the process. I did this night after night, over and over again.
The last thing worth mentioning is daytime practice. I devoted an hour at least three times a week for over a year during my lunch breaks to developing this skill. I would go to my van at lunch, put down a sleeping bag and pillows in the back, lay down, and try with nothing more than the intention to pull myself out of sleep over and over. I would set an alarm to go off every 15 minutes or so just in case I lost control and dipped too far into sleep. The alarm would wake me back up so I could continue.
So what is the end result of all of this? The end result is, now I am able to lie down in bed, put my body to sleep, and enjoy the void-like borderland state almost every evening. I have not yet discovered if this is similar to riding a bicycle or not. If I were to stop my daily practice, would I retain this skill? After so many months of hard work, I don't want to find out. I have made putting my body to sleep before bed my daily routine even on those nights when I have no plans to attempt projection.
That seems like a good place to stop for now. Next time we can go into some more detail on what the opportunities this state provides