Yes, I’m lying in bed in the dark at 2pm, but I have a legitimate excuse. I’m attending an astral projection workshop.
Teacher Jade Shaw, who’s leading the remote session, is murmuring about floating on a perfect cloud.
A hypnotic beat pulses in my ears and I’m so relaxed I could melt. I’m also pleasantly dizzy. Then I become aware of a gentle buzzing sensation at the edges of my physical form. This is it, the ‘vibrational state’. This is what precedes an out-of-body experience!
An out-of-body experience, or astral projection, is what it sounds like. Your consciousness is said to leave your body, enabling you to travel as a disembodied entity, like a ball of psychic energy or a soul, whether to the next room or to other dimensions. It’s ‘out there’ in every sense.
Jade Shaw, 36, consulted on hit Netflix series Behind Her Eyes and also runs astral projection workshops, also known as out-of-body experiences (stock image)
The phenomenon is exploited to great effect in the hit Netflix psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes, on which Jade was a consultant.
In the series, astral projection proves a useful way to spy on people, from checking up on your spouse at the office, to seeing what your friends get up to at home. After watching it, I’ve decided I’d quite like astral projection as my superpower.
However, lying on my bed, I realise that coaxing one’s conscious mind to leave one’s body is quite a skill. This subtle tingling is apparently a precursor to an out-of-body experience but, of course, the next stage is the one that really matters.
Jade, 36 — who has an MSc in Transpersonal Psychology, the study of consciousness, spirituality and the quest for meaning, from Middlesex University — has taught us, several ‘exit’ techniques.
Earlier, she told the group to lie on the floor and roll from side to side with increasing momentum. Now I must invoke that memory and mentally ‘rock’ my ‘self-awareness’ from side to side with increasing speed, to propel it out of my body. This is the ‘rollout technique’.
Exasperatingly, my awareness stubbornly remains. But I feel encouraged and am determined to try again at bedtime.
The ‘sweet spot’ for an out-of-body experience is when your mind is awake but your body is drifting into sleep — and it’s early afternoon, plus I’ve had two coffees.
In today’s workshop, we are learning the ‘self-initiated out-of-body experience.’ Anyone can attend a one-off workshop, though some participants are regulars. I’m surprised many of the 35 men and women in my group look surprisingly down-to-earth.
In Netflix’s Behind Her Eyes (above, Eve Hewson, Tom Bateman and Simona Brown), out-of-body experiences, or astral projections, are used as a way to spy on people
Were it not for the pandemic, this would be a face-to-face session in London, but Zoom has enabled people to attend from all over the world.
Jade tells me some people manage an out-of-body experience after just one workshop; for others it takes months of practice. However, Jade believes it’s a skill anyone can learn.
She says astral projection can also occur spontaneously when mind or body is under threat, or at a crossroads in life. ‘It happens in a trance-like state, when we’re deeply relaxed, but it can happen in a heightened state of anxiety, too,’ she says.
A sign of being on our astral way is experiencing a ‘vibrational state’, a feeling or ‘sense of internal sounds. It can feel like the bed is shaking,’ says Jade.
Next step is ‘a visceral state of separation from the body. It’s a sense of exiting. From here, we can travel to different places and dimensions. People feel this sense of floating or flying through space, or walls’.
Jade reassures us that, despite what film or TV may imply, you can’t get ‘stuck’ outside your body. ‘You always come back. It’s not always a smooth return. You may get a crash landing.’
But is this actually possible? Jade quotes the Dalai Lama as saying that ‘consciousness can be trained to leave the physical body,’ but Wikipedia isn’t so sure, noting that an out-of-body experience ‘assumes the existence of a soul called an ‘astral body’ separate from the physical body and capable of travelling outside it’.
It also states that astral projection has been called a ‘pseudo-science’. Another suggestion is that it may be a hallucination or false memory.
‘Sceptics say it’s your brain generating a new reality based on your memory and imagination,’ says Jade. ‘But that doesn’t account for verified experiences.’
But how is it possible to verify an event that takes place in your mind? ‘People see something in their out-of-body experience, like a door number, that they then visit, and find it to be the same — despite never having been there before.
‘Some people visit friends during astral projection and later find a friend was doing what they saw at that same time.’
Jade, who’s from Yorkshire, describes herself as ‘a sceptical mystic’ but, in 2014, she experienced an out-of-body experience that ‘changed her life’.
She’d got back in bed after a night-time visit to the bathroom and felt ‘a flash of white light and an energy surge’. Jade recalls, ‘Like Velcro, I peeled away from my body.’
She floated into the street, and — aware she needed to answer the question ‘is this real?’ — looked for a landmark. She saw, at a crossroads, ‘a pointy house with an arch-shaped green door, number 18.’
The out-of-body experience phenomenon is exploited to the Netflix psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes, on which Jade was a consultant (above, Eve Hewson on the show)
On waking, she found the house and was ‘gobsmacked’: it was number 18. While this might not hold up in court, I want to believe.
Jade says ‘anyone can develop the skill’ of having an out-of-body experience. But she can’t have one at will — ‘very few people can’ — and has never spied on anyone.
To deepen my understanding, I also attend one of Jade’s immersive astral projection and lucid dreaming workshops. (Three participants have an out-of-body experience and I am so envious.)
Lucid dreaming means we know it’s happening and consciously influence our imaginings. It features in Behind Her Eyes, which stars singer Bono’s daughter, Eve Hewson.
Jade says you can learn how to use the lucid dream state to ‘project into astral projection’. I smugly think I know this already, from the show.
One character goes from a lucid dream to an out-of-body experience, by visualising then stepping through a door. It turns out this was Jade’s idea.
‘I call it The Portal Technique. You create a door or portal in the dream and say: ‘When I step through this door, I will astral project.’
After seeing the series, I liked the idea of astral projection as a diversion. But now I consider its potential. Out-of-body experiences can be transformative, according to those who say they’ve had them.
Jade says they report, ‘a decreased fear of death, less anxiety, increased inner peace, greater self-awareness and new or affirmed spiritual beliefs’.
Some at Jade’s workshops feel the ability will help then heal emotional pain. Others want to contact a deceased loved one.
She mentions a client whose father died. She’d missed his last phone call and felt terrible guilt. In an out-of-body experience, they ‘spoke’ and she felt lighter.
She told Jade she wasn’t sure if it was real or a hallucination, given that the grieving mind can play tricks. ‘Maybe it didn’t matter either way,’ Jade says, ‘as she’d felt healed.’
Meanwhile, I’m keen to swing by wherever my late Dad is and give him news of his five grandchildren. But lying in bed that night, and every night since, my consciousness won’t budge.
I will keep trying but I may have to accept my body-bound perspective of life as it is.
For events visit jadeshaw.com or alternatives.org.uk.