Whether you are long into your spiritual journey or are just becoming awakened to the idea of something beyond yourself, it is possible to have experienced transcendence with or without a present, conscious awareness. Transcendence is an elevated sense of awareness and connection to something beyond our mundane reality. For many this is God, while for others it is nature, science, beauty, or a sense of connection to humanity. Transcendence involves our beliefs, bodily sensations, and our emotions. Transcendent moments are often in the details of life—a sunset, an act of kindness, meaningful words from a friend—and they change us. Transcendence can be intense and experienced in profound, sensational moments or ongoing and experienced in a peaceful, knowing or guiding kind of way. Regardless, meaningful transcendence shapes the way we view ourselves and the world and our responsibility and active role in it. Becoming attuned to the existence of transcendence allows us to pursue transcendence in order to intentionally deepen our spirituality.
Here are some questions—considering upward, inward, and outward connections—to inspire your next step towards deeper, more vibrant spiritual practices.
UPWARD: Do you have an awareness of a connection to God or a force of love beyond yourself? When and how do you tend to be aware of them?
Broadening our understanding of transcendence can increase our awareness of how we can notice these moments in our daily lives and how to seek them out. Our blog series on transcendence is the perfect place to begin this journey.
In her book, The Awakened Brain, Dr. Lisa Miller offers insight into what research teaches us about our brain’s design for spirituality and walks us through what it means for our brains to be awakened to spiritual realities. She discusses this with Dr. Pam King on our With & For podcast.
Here is an easy exercise that offers an opportunity to connect with transcendence.
INWARD: Do you feel awe, gratitude, joy, hope, or a sense of elevation when in nature or when experiencing God, beauty, or art? What physical sensations accompany these feelings for you (Ex., a pit in your stomach, tears, laughter)?
These can be thought of as “transcendent emotions.” Transcendent experiences are embodied. In other words, we need our bodies to experience transcendence. That might seem ironic to need our physical bodies to experience something that is considered spiritual, but it’s true. Transcendence not only involves our minds to think transcendent thoughts and to experience the emotions associated with it, but transcendence can involve all five of our senses–seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling. When you are aware of transcendence what emotions do you tend to feel? Which of your senses tend to be engaged? Colors, scents, and sounds are often used to heighten our awareness and invoke a sense of transcendence. It’s those times when we experience something so fully that we feel its sensation in our physical bodies. If you feel you are more disconnected from your emotions and these inward physical feelings, there are certainly ways to reengage and awaken these parts of yourself.
Part two of our transcendence blog series offers a deeper dive into transcendent emotions, with practices that can provide space, guidance, and reassurance for your journey.
OUTWARD: Do you have a community where you feel connected to God and others when you worship, gather together, or engage in shared activities?
Although we each embody our emotions independently, our emotional experiences are actually deeply intertwined. It is often relationships that bring the very opportunity for transcendent experiences. When we feel overjoyed by the words of a friend or feel peace while reading a book to a child, are filled with gratitude by an act of kindness, or experience a connection with those we don’t know through our compassion and service–all of these things have a major commonality: people. Can you recall moments like these?
Relationships are central to all parts of our spirituality, including transcendence. If you feel out of place in your relationships or want to explore more about how they influence and shape our spirituality, we have some deeper reading in our blog series, Created for Community.
Transcendence (Part 1): The Beauty of Transcendence and How it Informs our Spirituality
Our minds are designed to receive loving transcendent experiences. Learn more in this post and try some practices.
Transcendence (Part 2): How Transcendence Can Lead the Way to an Open Heart
Believing in Something Greater Than Ourselves is an integral part of our spiritual health.
The Power of Transcendence and Spirituality in a Modern World
Pamela King reflects on the church of her youth and considers lessons from her current research findings about spirituality for the future.
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