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Introduction - Transcending

[We are] that being in whom . . . the universe reflects on and celebrates itself in conscious self-awareness. - Thomas Berry

At some time or other, each of us has experienced moments of transcendence - often referred to as "peak" (or humorously as "peek") experiences - moments when the body-mind leaps beyond its ordinary limits, moments of supreme joy, of enlightenment, of gazing into the face of the Ultimate. You may simply be looking across the kitchen table at your children and be momentarily overwhelmed with joy. Or you may experience transcendence as the ecstatic high following sex. For a brief time all problems, all worries, disappear. You feel more "together" than you've ever felt before. There are many other examples:

  • Watching the waves at the ocean and losing your sense of time and space; feeling that the ocean is within you, not separate from you
  • Pushing your body to the limit in dancing or running a race; breaking through the "wall of pain," actually getting a second wind, and then feeling like you could go on forever.
  • The simultaneous breathlessness, excitement, and peace when a realization of unconditional love melts through you, followed by the urgent wish to "be" this love with everyone around you.
  • Total absorption in a piece of music, or blending with the dancers or actors on a stage so that the separate "you" is not your primary fixation.
  • Finding peace even in the face of deep grief, when the larger perspective of the interplay of life and death temporarily replaces a self-centered view.
  • The "Aha!" moment when the solution to a problem you've long wrestled with spontaneously pops into your head.
Then your window is clear, and as you pitch over, getting near horizontal, you catch the first glimpse out the window of the Earth from space. And it's a beautiful sight. . . . And you realize from that perspective that you've changed, that there's something new there, that the relationship is no longer what it was. - Russell Schweickart, crew of Apollo 9, March 1969

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