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Transcendence and Integration

    In looking at the dance between transcendence and integration, some of us continue to solely seek transcendent experiences instead of also doing the work to integrate those experiences. 

    However, this does not bring about true, authentic transformation. 

    Integration brings about a synthesis where something new can emerge. On the other hand, transcendence is temporary. Both have their uses, and both are important for transformation.

    What is transcendence?

    Transcendence is the act of going into nonordinary states of consciousness, or altered states of consciousness, where experiences of the divine, the numinous, the Godhead, unity, the universal web, and so on, may be experienced. These experiences can be so beautiful, and full of such awe-inspiring sensations, visions, and other phenomena. 

    Transcendent experiences may be brought about by meditation, breathwork, innerdance, Kundalini Dance, entheogens (psychedelics), fasting, sensory deprivation, nature, sex, dance, and music amongst many other modalities. A transcendent experience may also be very scary in the way it can deconstruct aspects of our reality. They can catapult us into great, long-lasting transitions as has been written by psychologists William James, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Stan Grof, Steve Taylor, and many many others. States of transcendence may allow us to experientially understand peace, unconditional love, and the radiance of this mystical universe. They may connect us to our body, each other, and the natural environment in ways we never experienced before. Acts of transcendence are extremely powerful because of the experiential understanding they provide of spiritual truths around interconnectedness, creation, chaos, and love amongst many others.

    Benefits of altered states of consciousness

    Here are some potential benefits of altered states of consciousness, or states of transcendence:

    • emotional healing
    • spontaneous physical healing
    • experiences of bliss and unconditional love
    • transformational potential
    • insights on life and death
    • connection to the mystery of life and the cosmos
    • informational downloads
    • glimpses of deep truth regarding self and other
    • may inform a more spiritual path through a life imbued with meaning and purpose
    This list is not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive.

    When states of transcendence can be an ego trap

    I hope that I’ve made a clear case for the potential benefits of transcendence, and now I’d like to increase the complexity here by identifying the pitfalls. 

    The biggest pitfall that I’ve witnessed, is that of a lack of integration. Experiences of transcendence are only beneficial to the extent that they are integrated. 

    We have two choices:
    1. Seeing out transcendence repeatedly as a respite from our pain and suffering.
    2. Integrating transcendent experiences so that they may transform our ways of being and doing.

    Transcendence can be when one continuously seeks spiritual experiences as a way out of their daily life. Transcendence may come in the form of an addiction to a meditation practice because of the peaceful state that it brings about. Or, seeking a breathwork practice because of the expansion it brings instead of looking at root causes of anxiety and fear. Or, taking journeys via drumming, psychedelics/entheogens, or sensory deprivation to step into somatic energies because daily human life of chores and interpersonal connection is just not as interesting or enlivening. This is when spiritual bypassing often occurs because of a lack of integration of mystical states (“Eyes Wide Open” by psychologist Mariana Caplan is a rich resource if you’d like to dive deeper into spiritual bypassing for Westerners).

    To conclude this section, only seeking transcendence can lead us down a disembodied path. We may disconnect from our humanness. And, what we really need now, are deeply embodied beings that can pull their spiritual selves together and step into the world of suffering and disconnection wholly and completely… remaining tethered to their spiritual understandings.  

    A personal tale

    After a powerful experience at an innerdance energy school with Serena Olsen of a universal pattern, I found myself catapulting into seeking those same levels of expanded consciousness. I found subtle energy sensations within my body, and became aware that they could repeatedly and consciously be brought about through the innerdance process. I found myself lying down, going into an altered state of consciousness, seeking, and expecting these same vibratory sensations. I found an addiction. This experience for me came within the container of innerdance, kundalini understanding, and over a decade of yogic practice… so I had the theoretical knowings to somewhat comprehend this experience. Yet, theory and first-hand experience are quite different. 

    In my seeking and expectation of these transcendent experiences, I wasn’t doing the work of integrating these experiential understandings into my life. For me, expectations of a certain type of experience brought disappointment and feelings of unworthiness, shame, and guilt. I wasn’t transforming my ordinary way of living based on the insights that came through expanded states. I wasn’t integrating, nor was I looking at the unworthiness, shame, and guilt… I only wanted sensations of bliss and subtle energy in the body. It took time of gentle guidance from a deep intuitive place to step into a life of integrity that was imbued with my spiritual understandings. I began to integrate my spiritual experiences into a life of

    I share this experience in loving hope that it is supportive to read for another. I learned by reading another’s story, and so I extend my narrative in this way to the reader. 

    Why is integration important for wholeness, transformation, and embodiment?

    When we transcend, we seek to go beyond the challenges of our humanness. With going beyond, how deep does transformation go? Integration of wanted and unwanted aspects is necessary for deep transformation.

    Some of us may think that it’s better to transcend than to integrate. Our inner voices may say, “This part of me is bad.” Or, “That was a negative experience. I don’t want to integrate it because that could mean I’m bad.” Or, “Ahhh meditation feels so good when I’m in it. Let me do it 2 hours per day. It feels better to focus on the rhythm of my breath than to sit with my sadness.” 

    Yet, transcending aspects of self via non-ordinary states of consciousness doesn’t transform nor heal those aspects. (Though, to add to the complexity with integrity… it can, but very rarely). Integration is important for a more whole sense of self; a more whole you to come into being in your life of work, play, love, and relaxation. In the same way, transcendence is important for a whole sense of self; a more whole you to come into being in your life of work, play, love, and relaxation. Both are important to come into relationship with.

    Integration brings love and acceptance for self 

    Integration calls on bringing all parts of self into wholeness. The more completely we can be with the fullness of being human, the greater resiliency and capacity comes to continue the expansion of consciousness. Self-love and acceptance comes about when we integrate all parts of self. We can more authentically reside in the present and understand our living experiences with wisdom and compassion. From this place, we can bring about the transformation we wish to see in our environment. Furthermore, the work of integration brings about the transformation in our daily lives where we may begin to make different choices around physical and emotional health, interpersonal relationships, environment, and/or spiritual embodiment. 

    We begin to weave all parts of self with loving acceptance for the whole system. 

    How do I do the work to integrate?

    Integration must be a creative process. It may be lead by the experiences of transcendence. Sometimes, people seek out a professional counsellor or coach to support the process – this is the work I do. The process of integration can sometimes be a lonely experience, so it may be nice to seek out the support of someone who can hold space and offer guidance. 

    In creating a process for integration of transcendent experiences, allow the process to be intuitive and highly creative.

    Here are some examples of possible ways to integrate experiences:

    • journal writing 
    • more time in nature or curbing the use of plastic for environmental transcendent experiences
    • more fruits and veggies in the diet for experiences of self-love and self-care
    • authentic movement to allow for embodied expressions
    • decluttering and beautifying personal environment 
    • regular 15 minute meditation practice to help settle and be with what arises 
    • bodywork to release psychosomatic tensions
    • shadow work to integrate those darker journeys on self
    • sharing circles or group calls

    This list is not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive. 

    How to integrate spiritual experiences

    Furthermore, I assume that some of you will come here to read about integrating your spiritual awakening experiences. If yes, spiritual awakening must be integrated across the five dimensions of intellectual, interpersonal, emotional, physical, and spiritual. A worldview shattering experience such as that must by holistically integrated into our being on multiple fronts. I invite you to reflect on how your newfound spiritual worldview may impact your relationship with self (your emotions, your body, etc.), your intellectual understanding of the cosmos, and your interpersonal relationships. 

    Integration is hard work

    It is a lot of work to integrate experiences that our body wants to pull away from. It is also completely normal for our ego to reconstruct itself after an experience of transcendence. There is a certain glow after expanded states that shift the self deeply, which needs to be embodied in the self while the ego is trying to return to previous structures of self. 

    It is an interesting dance. 

    Thus, again, the importance of another person to support the continuation of bringing the insights from that state into normal waking consciousness. There is a play between, one, what has been revealed to consciousness in the experience of transcendence and, two, bringing that insight into the self’s way of being in this world. 

    It is paramount that we ground and embody our insights.

    My wish for this piece of writing is to offer a realistic pleading for continuing the inner work beyond a breathwork session, or ecstatic dance bliss, or peaceful meditation, or spirit/shamanic journey, or whatever your methodology to reach altered states of consciousness. Ground the insights. Allow for the insights to ripple into transformation for self. Trust that the larger dynamic system, which is holding the self, will feel the waves of change rippling throughout the system. 

    If you would like to book a free discovery session with me to see if I may be supportive to your process of integration, see below …

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