The psychic world is all about mind, intention and the energy that you drive your intention with. If you are able to visualise clearly and have the energy to power it with, you will be a success in any psychic activity you undertake.
Are rituals and ceremonies important? There are several books on ‘ceremonial magic’ (eg Goetic spirits). All rituals are designed to make your mind work in a specific direction. If you control your mind, you control everything. Ceremonial magic is a short-cut which diverts you from the main thing which is strengthening your mind. Eg in some rituals your mind is stilled by using essential oils, incense, etc. These are effective and do work. If you are just starting with this you should use the rituals. But do realise that these are tools. Use the tools if you want, but never get dependant on them.
Focus on your mind, train your mind and you wont need to use physical tools. Your mind is your most important tool. Invest time in Dhyan, this is all important as the mental strength you develop carries with you in your next lives too. The time spent on spiritual practice is an investment. If you invest in ceremonial magic and rituals instead and ignore your mind, you will sooner or later be in psychic trouble.
A single puff of marijuana will definitely calm the mind and increase focus (More than one puff will fry your brain and down your spiritual potential). But why remain dependant on this external factor? It is more advisable, safer and more long-term if you can achieve this state of mind without the chemical intake. Do your regular Dhyan, and within 6 months you will get immune to all substances which give a ‘high’. The mental stillness produced in Dhyan is more deep than anything that any substance can produce. Avoid chemicals, these damage eventually.
Is group activity better? Another thing I have seen is that some people prefer working in a group rather than alone. This, in my opinion, is very dangerous. When you do anything connected to the astral, you are required to be very alert all the time. It is your mind, intentions and your energy. You should be quite aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. You should not venture into more than you can handle. The astral is not a place to take risks in.
A group is just as strong as its weakest member. There are so many variables, so many minds involved. Why link up with others minds so intimately? You do not know what karmic baggage your other group members are under. You cannot be certain when their mind/ intention/ energy will crack under the strain. Why should you put yourself in this uncertainty? When you are in the psychic states, your deepest buried emotions, feelings, experiences come out to challenge you. Why put your safety in the hands of others? Spiritual ability is affected by several things, the worst being intake of alcohol and drugs, the tiniest bit will put the person out of balance. You do not know the deepest background of your group-members, so group-activity is a needless risk.
The best way is to learn from a proper teacher and then do your psychic stuff alone. You can take guidance from others but ultimately all this is between you and your mind.
Another thing is entrainment of the mind. If, in your group, one member has very good control over his mind/intention/energy, he will dominate everyone else. It is not always a conscious domination, it is just that a weaker mind ‘follows’ a stronger one automatically. (I have written a post on this) This is bad for the person with the weaker mind. He loses his individuality and sort of resembles the other like a shadow or something faded. If the person with the strongest mind is not malevolent, the drain on the others will be less. But if he is actively unscrupulous he can drain the others without any effort at all. Now this drain can work the other way round too, with the weakest member requesting energy on the astral levels and you giving it to him. Both these cases would be a type of subtle psychic attack.
Then during such group activity involving the astral, if one of the group members is not trust-worthy, he can insert suggestions into the minds of the others. This is a sort of a hypnotic suggestion which can germinate later and cause problems. This is, in short, a malevolent psychic attack. If you are used to participating in a group, take 21 days off, do not contact your group members. Cut the energy cords and relax. If you feel better and more energetic after this time period, it means that the group was draining your energy. Avoid any psychic activity or spiritual activity in groups. A very big No to any sort of common group meditations.
Anything that you do with your mind/ intention/ energy is strictly a personal process. No one else should even see you while you are performing it. Shut the door to your room while you do your Dhyan and other spiritual practices too.
Now telepathic links are different. If I want to get the attention of my brothers (We Indians address cousins also as ‘brothers’.), I simply think of him, call his name and visualise my heart/Anahat chakra amplifying this energy of thought. This draws his attention immediately. He receives my thought-call via his third eye chakra. We can then exchange thoughts, energy, healing etc.
It is your mind and your wish. You are in charge, remember this always. Whatever you call with your intention, you can dismiss it with your intention equally easily. If you have created it you are capable of destroying it. If by chance or ill-luck you have got yourself into a situation, you have the potential to get out of it too. Just clear your mind and focus.
It is important to have a source of faith which acts a source of energy for you. All Hindus/ followers of Sanatan Dharma, are required to recite the Gayatri Mantra for just this reason, it is a source of unlimited energy. Another useful mantra is the Nav-avarna mantra. (Btw Sanskrit Mantras are also tools but tools made from conscious intelligent energy). If you do Jaap of such a mantra, the energy remains available to you in all states. If you get stuck, you can literally throw the mantra’s energy at your opponent and escape. During your regular spiritual practice make it a point to make one mantra your own. Pull the energy of the mantra deep into yourself so that you can use it when ever you want. (A few nights ago there was a particularly nasty entity waiting at the gate of my house for me and wouldn’t leave. I got rid of it, then recited the entire Tantroka Ratri Sukta over myself. All this in my dream state. You can programme your mind and then sleep. You will do whatever you had intended in the dream state. This ability is very useful). One thing which happens with regular spiritual practice is that the awake state and the dream state or the active astral states become seamless. You retain complete awareness during all these states. The only time when you really rest and rejuvenate is when you are in the deep sleep/ sushupti state.
The astral realms and the energies of the psyche are different to what we normally experience in our physical life. Some people can access these easily while some are completely unaware of them. You will be drawn to these only if your karmic balance is linked to it. But it always helps to be aware of things. Your psychic energy is very precious, be very careful with it.