There are two kinds of "astral projecting" that are both often referred to throughout written occult history using the same terminology, which makes things terribly confusing when referencing one instead of the other. On the one hand, there is "astral projecting" to the "astral plane," an entirely separate world of varying layers and locations depending on who you ask, which is traveled to via a consciousness exploit on the border of waking and sleep and appears to largely be a multiplayer "dream server." This is why astral projecting is often compared to the internet (along with the fact that taking advantage of an "exploit" in the "programming" of "reality" is how one even begins to do so, but that's a topic for another article).
Often times this first form of "projection" is confused with lucid dreaming, and vice-versa: to briefly add on to the concepts presented in my "lucid vs. invasion" article, when everything is controlled by "you," you are simply consciously controlling your mindspace and "projecting" your etheric body into it. It is possible to encounter other beings this way, but if you do, it will be in a "shared mindspace" or "SMS." Areas you may travel to in this psychic/mental world that exist independent of any one person's mindspace are what most people think of as the "astral plane." Most people who think they are accessing these areas, in all honesty, are simply creating fascimiles of these areas as they imagine them within their own mindspace, and constructing thoughtform entities to play the roles they imagine astral beings in this space should play. I do not say this to belittle these magicians, as doing so is still a genuinely impressive feat and excellent practice for controlling one's consciousness "physically" in a proper SMS battle (and can help you learn to break free of physical movement limitations you're used to in "reality" and in "realistic" dreams), but do remember that any space in which you are a "god" (can control the world and all its inhabitants on a mental whim) is not a proper SMS, but a lucid dream.
Sorry! I make this distinction not to be snide, but to hopefully help prevent the oft-repeated tragedy of a top tier lucid dreamer encountering an enemy magician or even evil entity in a SMS and realizing that they suddenly can't just will their opponent to die instantly or turn into a loving anime girl. One is essentially a simulation you control, one is an extension of normal "shared reality" and holds you to the same kinds of restrictions you are used to as a magician in the waking world. Pre-existing abilities will function, but you can't just make up new ones to instantly win. Think about it--you are fighting magicians/beings who can casually hop into your mindspace and attempt to kill or at least debilitate you by destroying your etheric body. Do you really think that they wouldn't just instantly will you to die by default, if winning in this world was that easy!?
I've sadly had to stop traveling to neutral areas for this reason, as I have a sort of "curse" that serves as an etheric "beacon" to would be do-badders... the same is true in the "real" world, but at least here enemies can't just teleport behind me and try to blast my etheric body to bits. As such, most of my personal experience with "astral projection" of this kind is by others entering my own original mindspace and turning it into an SMS, or by simply adjusting my own etheric body to astral frequencies in the trance-state. Doing so allows for astral communication and external contact, just without removing my etheric body and physically moving it around in these "psychic/mental" dimensions. This gives me the failsafe of being able to immediately "unplug" if attacked, as well: etherically existing WITHIN a mindspace, and having to "wake up" to escape it, allow for SMS invasions that easily become "kill or be killed if you want to wake up again," which--while clearly winnable given by the fact I am alive--is simply without advantage to me to risk. I'll try to write a tutorial on this technique in the near future.
Finally, on to the second type of "astral projection." This refers to leaving one's physical body to explore the "physical world," by separating one's literal aura or "etheric double." This is often referred to as "out of body" astral projection, and it is distinct from multiplayer dreaming in that you are not projecting into your own mind but rather sliding out of your actual physical body, which you will be able to view from outside like an astronaut looking back at Earth! This can also be used to view other locations physically without traveling there--see the concept of "remote viewing." This is an easily abused power if obtained, which is of course why world governments have been obsessed with it and spent stupid money on it. I've managed to leave the body many times, but I've never managed to travel far enough from it to do any useful remote viewing, mostly due to an inherent anxiety of being that far away from my physical body. The magickal world has agreed over a hundred years ago that there is a "silver cord" that keeps the etheric body from getting separated from the physical body, but fuck that, if I get attacked by a liminal creature in Timbuktu I'm not going to feel any better about the fact I'm technically connected by an invisible shiny ribbon.
There are many etheric creatures that can be encountered this way: beings that are more than mere AI thoughtforms spawned from people's dreams, but that are (usually) unable to manipulate physical reality. These beings exist overlapping the physical world, as opposed to existing in a totally different world somewhere. Think of the difference between a unicorn you conjure in a lucid dream and a traditional "haunted" location's "ghosts." I call these "liminal creatures," as they are not thoughtforms OR physical organisms, and exist on the boundary between the physical and the etheric. It's not even neccessary to leave your body to encounter these liminal creatures... there's nothing "special" about separating the etheric body from the physical one aside from the sheer novelty of the sensation (or the ability to spy on other people in physical reality discreetly--please don't be "that guy" and abuse this ability, if you seek it). A skilled aura magician can "see" these beings with aura scan and interact with them through their etheric double, even with it still "overlapping" their physical body as it normally does. It's definitely easier up front to be in tune with these things and view them tangibly by leaving the body, as it forces one to use psychic/"third-eye" senses exclusively, but this is kind of like saying it's easier to see other cars at night because their headlights light up... it's not wrong, but it's also not neccessary to experience these extrasensory beings and sensations. Basic aura awareness and manipulation are the only prerequisite. Since neither out-of-body projecting, or the first form of "astral projecting," are really my focus as a magician, I prefer to interact with liminal creatures in this way instead, but your mileage may vary!
My next feature will be in the "oddities" section and will detail various types of liminal creatures I've encountered. While these can be the most benevolent and simple of beings, they can also be the most dangerous. Look for that page to pop up soon--it's already proving one of my most fun to write; I hope it will be equally enjoyable to read.