The pillar of transcendence (DW#991)
Nov 15, 2021
The third pillar of meaning is also about stepping beyond yourself, but in a somewhat different way.
The third pillar is the pillar of transcendence.
Transcendence is right at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for the human being but it is a quality that is not often discussed.
According to Abraham Maslow, "Transcendence in the sense of loss of self-consciousness, of self-awareness, and of self-observing. It is the same kind of self-forgetfulness which comes from getting absorbed, fascinated by concentrating on something outside one’s own psyche which can produce self-forgetfulness and therefore loss of self-consciousness".
Although hard to put into words, transcendence is not that rare an experience.
In fact, if you have you ever looked up at the stars at night and realized that you are just a tiny part of a large whole, and that somehow you are connected to the greater whole, then you have experienced transcendence.
In other words, transcendent states are those rare moments when you're lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away, and you feel connected to a higher reality in which everything is interconnected. Oddly, you experience a paradox in which you feel connected to a higher power but also feel extremely insignificant at the same time.
It is important to understand that people experience transcendence in different ways. Of course connecting to the Divine is a key way to go beyond the self and this is more than just sitting on the prayer mat.
Experiencing the glory of nature or getting absorbed in a piece of art or poetry are some ways to experience the feeling of forgetting ourselves and connecting to something larger than ourselves.
Interestingly, some studies are finding immediate and direct benefits of even small moments of transcendence. One study for example, had students look up at 200-feet-tall eucalyptus trees for one minute. Immediately afterwards, they felt less self-centered and they behaved more generously when given the chance to help someone.
The easiest and most direct ways to regularly experience transcendence is to connect with nature on a regular basis. And this can be as simple as starting your day by opening the curtains and looking outside mindfully for a few minutes - at trees, birds or the sky and getting present to the vastness of the space outside of ourselves.
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