Transformative experiences

 

I am fascinated by transformative experiences, perhaps because my own life has been greatly colored by one of these. (An awakening or opening in my mid-teens.)

There is a wide range of these transformative experiences, and how they impact us depends on many factors: the type of experience, the setting, how we interpret it, our own background, our resources and support, how those around us respond, and so on.

Types of triggering experiences

What are some typical experiences that can trigger this transformation?

Here is a brief and incomplete list: near-death experience, psychoactive drugs, spiritual openings, alien encounters, and peak experiences. It can also be more prosaic sounding like loss, chronic illness, giving birth, experiencing a war, going to prison, experiencing a surprising and great act of kindness, and so on.

It’s common to call these transformative experiences, but it’s more accurate to call them triggering experiences. They are not, in themselves, transformative. It’s how we respond to them, consciously and at deeper levels, that leads to transformation or not.

We can choose to experience some of these types of experiences, although we cannot know if or how we’ll be transformed. Often, we don’t have so much choice. And although we can, at some level, choose how we relate to it and what we do with it, it’s questionable how much say we have in how and how deeply we are transformed.

The transformation

How do we typically get transformed? There is a wide range of transformations, and – as mentioned above – it depends on many factors.

Some of the things that can happen are….

A reprioritization of our life. We sort through our values and priorities and find what’s more and less important to us. Often, love, kindness, caring for life, and so on come out on top.

Wanting to live in a way that’s meaningful. Wanting to live according to our deeper values and what’s meaningful to us.

A need to live an authentic life. To live with integrity and honesty with ourselves.

A sense of how precious our life is. We are here only a short time, so let’s make the most out of it. We cannot take anything for granted.

A sense of the oneness of life. We are all part of the same web of life. What we see and sense as “us” includes more of life, all of life, or even all of existence.

A sense of the sacred in all of life. We may get a sense of the sacred or divine in all of life or all of existence.

Engaging in a healing, spiritual, or awakening path. This can take many different forms, depending on what’s available to us and what we are drawn to.

An opening of our mind. This can also take many forms. A healthy version, as I see it, is a sense of the profound mystery of existence – the mystery inherent in all of existence, and the profound mystery in that anything is at all. We may find a deep fascination with life and many sides of life while knowing we cannot know anything for certain.

Some triggering situations can also lead to trauma, contraction, and illness. And sometimes, there is a mix of it all.

Why the transformation?

Why does this transformation sometimes happen following the triggering experiences? What is it about these triggering experiences that leads to transformation?

It’s often a combination of….

A strong experience we cannot avoid or dismiss.

An experience that goes outside of what we are used to and are familiar with and that breaks our familiar worldview.

An experience that puts our life in a much bigger perspective.

In short, it’s an experience that shakes us up and out of our existing life and worldview.

My own story

I became an atheist in elementary school mainly due to the required one-hour weekly lessons in Christianity and some Christian relatives. At the same time, I was deeply moved by the vision of the universe presented by Carl Sagan and interested in mysteries like ESP, ghosts, and UFOs. In my teens, I started reading books about the interconnection between science and near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and so on.

At age fifteen, I got a mystery illness and had a year where the world – including this human self – seemed very far away. My “center of gravity” shifted into observing and what was observed seemed almost infinitely distant. I went to a lot of specialists who couldn’t find anything, and it didn’t seem spiritual in any way.

After a year, there was another big and life-transforming shift. I walked down the dark gravel path to the house, a big wind was blowing through the landscape, and I could see myriads of stars over me. Suddenly, all was revealed as God. All of it was consciousness and a form of the divine. Any sense of “I” here was the divine locally and temporarily having that experience for itself without any ultimate reality in it.

This lasted and it has transformed my life. Since I was so young, it’s difficult to say how my life would have been without it. And it’s clear that my life turned out very differently because of this.

In this particular case, “I” as a human self did nothing for it to happen and I didn’t “choose” a particular way of relating to it. If anything, it’s mainly been a process of trying to keep up with it and figure out how to live with it and, to some extent, from it.

Memory from between lives

 

Since it seems slightly unusual, I thought I would mention it here. (I have written about it briefly before.)

As a child, I sometimes had vivid flashbacks. It seems they were often triggered by a sunny day and sunlight filtered through the moving leaves of a tree. The flashbacks felt like memories from before this life.

I feel profoundly at home, living in and as a golden light, living in and as profound wisdom and love. There are formless beings here and wordless communication and knowing. All is happening within and as an infinite sense of being home, a gentle bliss, and infinite wisdom and love.

All is Oneness filled with a golden light, infinite wisdom and love, and some formless beings I can wordlessly communicate with. All is happening as timelessness although with a slight sense of time.

The words don’t nearly do it justice. And I didn’t have those words back then, of course.

I had these vivid flashbacks up until about school age.

From then on, I would sometimes wake up in the morning with a deep longing that nothing could satisfy. I tried all my favorite things – spending time with my parents, eating strawberry jam sandwich, drinking hot cocoa, reading Carl Barks stories, playing with friends – and nothing could satisfy the longing.

When the initial awakening later happened (age sixteen) and everything without exception was revealed as God – I realized what the longing had been for. The longing had been for all as the divine. For home.

The home I had flashbacks to as a kid and that was revealed to me as always here when I was sixteen.

About the same time, I also realized that the flashbacks – and the initial awakening – in some ways were similar to near-death experiences. I have always felt a kinship with people who have had near-death experiences although I haven’t had any myself. The effects on my life seems similar to how people describe the effects of near-death experiences.

There is a second (and third) part to this which I may write about later. I have also included the initial draft which includes a few paragraphs about it.

In short: In the initial awakening (which never went away), there was a more clear memory of the time between the lives. Specifically, I remembered being “told” by about a dozen formless beings that it was time for my next incarnation. I was shown some general things about this life. (Mainly, that it was important for me to incarnate now because humanity was going to go through challenges and a transformation and I could help.)

I was also asked if I wanted to incarnate into this life. I said “yes” although parts of me meant “no”. It seems to have created some trauma in me and this lack of clear communication reflects a pattern in my life that has been painful. When I have gone back and replayed it differently, I found that I could say “I know it’s right and good, and yet I don’t want to leave”. I would be met with deep understanding and love, and felt I could do it from a more wholehearted yes.

Note: When I say “formless beings” I mean that they were beings without physical body or any body with a form. I assume they must have had energetic bodies. And they and everything else happened within and as Oneness, within and as the divine.

Note II: This was initially written March 20, 2017 but I didn’t publish it for whatever reason. I decided to rewrite it slightly and publish it today, April 6, 2020.

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Spiritually Transformative Experiences

 

I have been reading more about Spiritual Emergencies and Spiritually Transformative Experiences (STEs) again recently. (I was very much into it in my teens and early twenties). A couple of things stand out right now. One is the commonalities in what happens to people after an STE, whether it’s an opening or early awakening, a Near Death Experience (NDE), apparent alien abduction, loss, death of a loved one, child birth, travel, sex, or much more. For me, it was an opening or early awakening in my teens, and the way it changed me is very similar to how people who experienced other types of STEs report it changed them.

Watching a documentary about Near Death Experiences, I am also reminded of another commonality. As a child before school age, I had flashes of memories of how it was before incarnation: infinite love, infinite wisdom, all a radiant golden subtle light, infinite sense of being home, infinite sense of belonging. (All of these are crude descriptions.) People who have an NDE report something that’s quite similar. And there is also another parallel: a sense that this was in the past, and not here now. I perceived it that way too, for a while. Now, I see that what was then, is also here in immediacy. All the characteristics of what was “then” is here now. A simple and sincere inquiry helped me see that:

Is it true it’s not here now?

A thought may come in and say “it’s not the same, this is much less strong”. Which leads to another inquiry:

Is it true it needs to be strong? Is it true that strong is “better”? Is it any less real or significant if it’s not as strong?