This is a partial reprint of an email I sent to someone around 2001. I've added some words in brackets to clarify some sections.
For me, there was not a big change of consciousness with my first astral attempts. You will probably be (and have probably been) partially astral while doing simple mental visualizations without even realizing it. Every time you dream, you are partially 'astral' to some degree, even if only within your own subconscious. Dreams take place on the same level of reality (same frequencies) as what is normally called the 'astral plane'. You can even use your dreams as a springboard to project if you can learn to get control of them, but that takes practice.
My first consciously willed attempts at going astral were very hazy looking, hard for me to see, and also not very 'real' feeling to me at the time. It was then that I realized that I needed to work on my mental visualization skills in order to make my experiences more vivid in appearance. (The act of practicing your mental visualizations helps you to refine a portion of your psychic tools- if that area is refined and well-honed then it'll be easier for you to 'see' things when not in your body, or when an entity attempts to show you something psychicly etc.) I also saw that I needed lots of practice in order to make the experiences FEEL as real as they were. It's like learning to touch things in another world- at first you can't feel anything, and then after a while you can feel most everything once you've trained your mind to do it and become familiar with the territory.
The biggest mistake I kept making was that I thought there should [always] be a definite [sensation of] division that takes place between the mind and body in order for it to be an effective [or legitimate] astral projection; this was FALSE!!! Your mind will be where you want it to be or wherever/whatever you are focusing on. If you're thinking about your body and things happening to it, then THAT will cause you to snap right back into your body every time! THAT is what causes most people to fail at astral projection. They don't realize that even during normal daydreams you are already partially projecting! If you can learn to do that in a more vivid and controlled manner, then you can eventually learn to send part of your consciousness (i.e. project it) to someplace Outside of yourself using the SAME methods of thinking as found in simple daydreaming.
Many of my own astral excursions are very gradual.
During meditation I sometimes slip from one type of awareness to the other gradually
rather than consciously all at once (when there is a conscious and willed separation
it is done by relaxing, numbing, and detatching from bodily sensations and then
I often perceive the pranic tube and myself slipping up and out of it through
one of several chakras). As I focus my mind on other places in other dimensions,
I slip into awareness of the other place and temporarily forget about my physical
body. The body generally falls asleep while the rest of me retains full
awareness in a full projection. I usually end up in 100% projection if
I'm spending a lot of time focused on a place other than where my physical body
is. It happens all on its own; I never worry about whether or not I'm
completely out of my body or at what point the actual separation takes place
since that would only disrupt the process and/or cause me to think of my body…WHICH
would cause me to pop back into it AND ruin the working. For most practical
work that I do 'on the spot' and suddenly, I just do something similar to scrying
or remote viewing; I stay in my body and just view a place with my mind.
I have mostly full awareness of my body, but I also can 'feel' and 'see' the
astral/mental target that I'm working on. I find that this takes less
time and also saves energy for most quick things. In order to learn to
do stuff like that you'll need to get good at touching things with your mind,
and you start learning to do that by practicing mental visualizations of being
places (i.e. in the same room that you're in physically) while trying to 'feel'
things there. I'll talk more about that in a moment...
Exercises to start learning to project:
1. Basic projection: [Should be called a precursor to basic full projection.] Close your eyes and relax. Just sit and breathe deeply and slowly in a quiet place for several minutes until you're extremely relaxed and your mind is very calm and open. (You can use some common meditation techniques for that.) Now, imagine yourself standing on the far side of the room. Try to SEE yourself standing there fully. Try to FEEL yourself actually BEING there. You have to visualize this strongly and try to see the room from the other side of the room instead of where your body is. Don't think about your body, only think about seeing [and feeling] the [area of the] room you're [projecting into] vividly. Try to touch the walls and the floor and objects in the room and FEEL them as though they are real and solid. Do this exercise and similar ones as often as possible. When you can do this easily, then you'll have built a very good foundation from which to learn more advanced forms of projection. Even projecting into your own subconscious is a form of projection, by the way. The same basic principles/mental mechanisms are used. That is why I say that practice in mental visualization as well as learning to get control of your dreams can lead to astral projection when applied properly.
If you have trouble using the same room you are in, then try imagining yourself someplace really enjoyable. The emotional aspects of yourself are also involved when you are projecting, and sometimes it's hard to make yourself do something you really aren't interested in doing. It can be difficult to get emotionally excited about being in a boring place and then having yourself actually project successfully.
2005 addition to this article: A good test activity for projection is to try to go to places where your friends and family are and attempt to see what they're doing. Try to project into a friend's or relative's house and see if anyone is home. If it feels like someone is home, then how many people do you feel/sense are in the house? Where in the house are they? Rely on your feeling sense first - mental visuals alone may be inaccurate when learning to do this.
2. Projection using semi-shamanic methods: Once you get used to visualizing yourself in different places and being able to see and touch things mentally, then you can try creating a funnel-like portal or tunnel to new places. I just visualized a funnel opening up that was connected to a tunnel and then went through like a 'worm-hole' to wherever I wanted to go. Try to go to positive places for a while to avoid astral trouble.
3. Projecting into your own subconscious: See yourself standing on the other side of the room again, or right next to your body. Now, SEE your body as it lies there and visualize this strongly. Next, create a funnel/tunnel that leads into your body. When I got the idea to do this the first time, I just had the tunnel lead into my head. Next, see yourself and feel yourself entering the tunnel that you've created and going into your own head etc. Once there you can choose to view the stuff you find symbolically or as energy structures. A recommendation: Go to the subconscious area (for me I see my subconscious as being around my visceral organs or my 'guts' and more mental stuff being in my head) and try to find a place with doors that have labels on them like 'anger' and 'fear' etc. Because you're looking for such a place one will probably be spontaneously created for you within your own mind. Go into each door and see what problems are there. Confront those problems and fix them. If you see something that doesn't look or feel right, then Will it to change into something that is. Even try using Fire and Water to cleanse and purify stuff in there. Use your imagination and BELIEVE that it will work. Belief is [if necessary] for effective magick [in that it helps to lubricate the gears of possibility]. Doubts only stop you from being effective in anything you do, so DON'T have them while you're working on something.
Magick begins with the imagination and the mind.
Those are how you first learn to gain access to psychic type stuff, but the
reality doesn't stop there. These early attempts and practices only seem
like mind games until you get good at them, then they become a launch pad for
greater levels of experience. These exercises and experiences are the
foundation for more later on because similar types of thought are involved in
them that are used in more advanced types of magick. You'll also eventually
see how magick is just as real as you expect that it is if you keep searching