Astral projection, or an "out of body experience," is the process of separating one's consciousness from the physical world so that it can perceive and explore the Astral realms more easily. The Astral realms are the energetic and spiritual planes that lie just beneath the physical one, giving and reflecting its spiritual substance. By separating your consciousness from your physical body you enter the astral planes making it easier to perceive and navigate.
What is Astral Travel?
Astral travel is the next step after astral projection. Once you have entered the astral plane with your consciousness you can go exploring. Your astral self will maintain it's link to your physical body through a anchor which will make it easy to find your body again no matter where you wander.
Why Would I Astral Travel?
Even though the astral realms reflect the physical realm it is much more vast and varied. As well the first Astral realm works as a sort of gateway to many realms such as Faery, the realm of dreams, the astral planes associated with other planets as well as angelic and demonic realms and many others. In your astral body you can explore all these places and gather information on the spiritual state and health of the universe, information about these other realms and maybe even speak to some of the entities that inhabit them.
What Are the Dangers?
Just like any sort of mundane travel, astral travel can be fraught with problems. You might lose your way, or find yourself in a part of the astral that is strange, confusing or frighting. The biggest problem most people have with astral travel is allowing yourself to feel disconnected from your physical body. The sensation is often dizzying and uncomfortable and can cause a lot of anxiety. People tend to keep their consciousness firmly rooted inside themselves and having it separate away can be extremely disorienting and can even cause a "flight or fight" reaction from a misconception that one is dying. Preparing yourself with meditation and lots of practice can help to overcome the unconscious fear of astral projection. A few people also experience an inability to find one's way back to one's body or trouble reintegrating into it properly. Learning to sense your tether and even to use it to snap back into your body is a good way to prevent this. As for and inability to reintegrate, learning to ground or simply doing something very physical like working out or eating can correct this.
Other dangers of astral travel tend to do with what sort of entities you might encounter. Spiritual entities are much more powerful on the astral plane. Learning psychic protection techniques, creating astral weapons and armor and testing entities with holy symbols are all a good way of protecting yourself from negative spirits you may encounter.
How Do I Astral Project?
Astral projection can often be hard to achieve as it involves allowing your spirit or consciousness to separate from your physical body which is counter to your natural state except perhaps during sleep. One of the ways to achieve this is to but yourself in a state of conscious dreaming, such as lucid dreaming. Another way is to place yourself in a trance-like state. Certain stones, oils and herbs are also helpful for learning to astral travel.The best way to learn how to astral travel however is to learn from a practitioner. For a good book try Astral Projection for Beginners by Edain McCoy or check out Matt's workshop on astral projection happening this Sunday in which "you will be given the tools to make use of this time honoured skill. You will be given anchors to powerful trance states in which you can easily achieve out of body experiences."