As you know, we live in a universe that is constantly changing. We’re along for the ride and all too often we might feel like a bronc bustin’ cowboy holding on for dear life, but not all change is traumatic. In fact, it’s a blessing when we can transcend one condition for a better one. A grubby caterpillar metamorphosing into a grand butterfly is magnificently symbolic of how wonderful transcendence can be. In this article, I hope to flutter around and alight on ideas around the concept of transcendence that will inform and inspire.
Okay, So What is a Transcendent Experience?
Merriam-Webster states, “A transcendent experience is one that takes you out of yourself and convinces you of a larger life or existence; in this sense, it means something close to “spiritual”.
In an article written on magellantv.com, Eden Arielle Gordon wrote:
“ ‘Transcendent experiences’ ” are events that bring us out of our ordinary minds, making us feel connected to the world around us. People report accessing them through use of certain drugs or through spirituality, magic, and the occult. They can also be triggered by nature, meditation, and even near-death experiences. Additionally, new scientific studies are discovering that transcendent experiences – however they’re reached – could be helpful for our mental health.“
I admit I’m partial to the spiritual aspect being part of a transcendent experience, but I would like to put in a word for the possibility of it being less lofty. For example, a person could be training to do something such as setting tile and after some struggling, the process suddenly clicks and the worker goes from being a tile setting student to a tile setter. When an aspiring dancer fully understands all the steps and nuances of a choreographer’s creation, she transcends to becoming an accomplished dancer. As stated in the Merriam-Webster definition, a larger life or existence is realized.
Several years ago, I attended quite a few meetings of International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS). People in the group shared some amazing stories of their near-death experiences. As they were losing their grip on their bodies, they found themselves as spirits beholding things they never had when completely body-bound. Most of them transcended to states of peace and love, letting go of any fear of death.
I believe a transcendent experience will not inflate the ego. It will be humbling in a way, but most importantly there will be raised consciousness on unity with others. Ego inspires separateness. If the tile setter or dancer settle into pride over their accomplishments, they have sacrificed much of their transcendence.
I wonder if a true transcendent experience is always permanent. First times for many life events are often the best of their kind, never to be equaled. They can’t be recreated and the sweet memories of them don’t reach the heights of the original. Quite possibly, the true transcendent experience is above and beyond the materially-oriented ones. Still, standing on a mountain’s summit and contemplating the interconnectedness of all life may not hold up years later in the face of a bitter divorce and broken family unit. I suspect there are no absolutes here. In the final analysis, a person is forever changed by a transcendent experience whether they fully retain the improvement it brings or if it fades like a dream.
A Few Techniques
The transcendent experience can happen spontaneously, but it’s rare. One of the ways it can occur without going much out of your way is to sit with nature for extended periods of time. That’s one of Henry David Thoreau’s suggestions. It’s a meditative exercise.
Speaking of meditation, this practice can definitely lead us to spiritual transcendence. With persistence and dedication, the meditator can improve concentration and use techniques for deeper and deeper dives.
Contemplative prayer done with sincerity and single-minded intensity can bring amazing results. By contemplative prayer I mean a passive state in which a person sits silently and contemplates God. It can bring unimaginable love and insights for those willing to wait and listen.
Although I don’t recommend it, psychedelic drugs can produce transcendent experiences. If a person is so inclined, it would be best to find a professional therapist who can administer the drug and guide them through the “trip.”
A Final Thought
There’s more to life than the mundane human existence. Our five senses are limited. When we open ourselves to experiences beyond the ordinary, we can widen our horizons in ways that are enriching and even astounding.