Tag Archives: peak experiences

San-Ni-Ichi

Peak Experience3 ClombardTranspersonal experiences have blessed my life for many years. Perhaps one of the earliest and strongest occurred in 1987 while I was living in Japan. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I moved to Fukuyama, about 400 miles south of Tokyo to teach English.

Before I left, my brother gave me the name and address of Takashi (not his real name), a friend of his from business school who lived in Tokyo. Soon after settling in, I contacted Takashi and introduced myself. He replied with the suggestion that I meet him in Kyoto where he was planning a business trip. During the weekend, he would have time to accompany me through the ancient capital city.

I happily agreed to this idea. Kyoto is renown for its numerous temples and shrines. Surrounded by mountains and graced with bamboo gardens and philosopher paths, Kyoto seems to hold the essence of Japan. With a guiding hand, I hoped to touch this essence.

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The author and her guide Takeshi at Sanzen-in, Kyoto (1987)

When I left for our rendezvous, it was early February, a blustery cold month, that the Japanese calendar marked as the beginning of spring. Takeshi, a gentle-voiced Japanese with high cheek bones and a wide smile, met me at the train station. He wore a grey trench coat, standard attire for an international banker, and his jet black hair was flecked with grey, as if he had accidentally splattered himself while painting a room white.

The next morning, when I opened the frosted windows of my hotel room, I could hear the coo of morning doves mingled with the soothing trickle of a waterfall. It was a cold winter day, and we first visited the dimly lit temple halls of Sanjusangen-do where 1001 serene Kannon figures lined the wooden floors.

Later that afternoon, fat snowflakes swirled around us while we strolled through an ancient tea garden in the nearby hills. I stood spellbound in front of a plum tree that was in bloom. Swollen pink blossoms undauntedly fluttered in the snow.sanzenin

The next day, we caught a bus to Sanzen-in, a renown temple rebuilt in 860 A.D., tucked away in the mountains. Upon arriving, we found the snow piled high, the sky deep blue, and the air biting.  We entered the temple, and robed monks led us, along with other visitors, to a room with low tables. Sitting at the tables, we were given the day’s sutra written on hand-made, cream-colored paper. The monk then invited us to meditate and trace the kanji sutra.

kanji for peaceOn the same piece of paper, we also were asked to write down a personal goal.  At the end of each day, the monks collected these papers and burnt them with incense.  My mind felt cleared after tracing the sutra, as I waited for a goal to enter my heart.  Finally, I wrote “To grow wise with age,” and Takeshi drew the kanji for peace, the character depicting a stalk of rice next to a mouth—everyone satiated in all ways.

Takeshi then walked over to a shoji door. The mulberry paper meticulously covered its cross-lattice bamboo frame and seemed alive with sunlight. “San…ni…ichi.  Three…two…one.” He counted backwards and then slid the door open.

I was stunned. The garden beyond the door was unworldly in its beauty.  At that moment, I lost all consciousness of self and became one with everything, one with light. The manicured pine trees and carefully placed stones seemed captive in snow, frozen in time. Iridescent colors of green, blue and orange flickered in my mind’s eye. I felt like I had finally, breathlessly arrived in Japan.

Regaining consciousness, I found myself moved to tears. For only a split-second, I had transcended time and space and momentarily encountered a limitless universe, yet I felt I had been gone for days. A monk’s voice floated towards me in a soothing rush of monosyllables. The air tasted sweet and cold. A stream of melted waters ran beneath the snow.

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The author 30 years ago (!) at Sanzen-in, Kyoto

Takeshi offered me his arm, and we stepped into the temple’s garden. Pine trees occasionally shook piles of snow off their boughs onto our heads, as if to mock our awkward humanness.

Since that time, I have indeed aged. As for growing wise, that remains a work in progress. But one thing is certain, this brief glimpse of the invisible through the visible reverberates through my soul today.

You can also Journey to Places of the Higher Self

In our everyday lives we are often too busy, distracted, or caught in the mundane to be open to the places of the Higher Self. That is why these experiences tend to happen in foreign lands in beautiful natural settings. In this light, we would like to invite you to experience great natural beauty in the spiritual landscape of Umbria, Italy, with the hope of awaking a connection to the Higher Self.

Please join us as we Journey to Places of the Higher Self from September 17-23. During this five-day journey, you will have a chance to discover places of transcendence in the green heart of Italy – the Umbrian Apennines –home to many generations of seekers and saints of the transpersonal.

For more information, please visit Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

Meeting Ourselves in Foreign Lands

Valsorda

Valsorda, Umbria. One of our stops on Journey to Places of the Higher Self, September 17-23, 2018

During the initial interview with every client, I always ask: “Do you have any religious or spiritual practice?”

The following is a typical response:

“I would call myself an atheist. As a scientist, I know that there is no proof showing that God exists. But I also know that there is no proof showing that he does not exist.”

Interestingly, clients’ responses become very different when asked if they had ever had a feeling of connection to something greater than themselves. Without exception, all clients can recall having a transpersonal or peak experience at some point in their lives, mostly while they were in a natural setting in a foreign landscape.

bioluminescent bay

A bioluminescent bay

In fact, William James noted that nature “seemed to have a peculiar power of awakening such mystical moods. Most of the striking cases which I have collected occurred out of doors”.

My client Henk (not his real name), who is quoted above, answered this second question as follows:

“When I was 20, I was on a boat at night and all around in the water were bioluminescent plankton. It was so beautiful; I became very emotional and cried. I wish my girlfriend had been there so I could have shared such a deeply moving experience with someone.”

When I asked another client this question, her appearance completely changed. While relating her experience in nature, Maria’s tense, drawn face become radiant and smiling. She said:

“I had a deep connection while swimming in a lake in Finland under the stars. There were many experiences like this while I was recently traveling in Norway. I don’t believe in God, but I admit there are times when I think there might be a superior cosmic intelligence capable of creating this natural beauty.”

Join Us on a Journey to Places of the Higher Self in Umbria, Italy

eremo di carceri

Eremo di Carceri, Assisi. Another stop on Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

In our everyday lives we are often too busy, distracted, or caught in the mundane to be open to the places of the Higher Self. That is why these experiences tend to happen in foreign lands in beautiful natural settings. In this light, we would like to invite you to experience great natural beauty in the spiritual landscape of Umbria, Italy, with the hope of awaking a connection to the Higher Self.

Please join us as we Journey to Places of the Higher Self from September 17-23. During this five-day journey, you will have a chance to discover places of transcendence in the green heart of Italy – the Umbrian Apennines –home to many generations of seekers and saints of the transpersonal.

For more detailed information, please visit Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

Spiritual Atheists

Image result for bioluminescence planktonThe title of this blog might seem contradictory, but in fact this is exactly what I discovered when working with my clients. My findings have recently been published in Pastoral Psychology. In this scientific peer-reviewed article, I describe how psychosynthesis counseling helped to awaken spirituality in three out of eleven clients who identified themselves as atheists. This article in its entirety is published on Open Access and is available for free. I urge you to share it with pastoral care workers that you may know.

Fundamental to psychosynthesis psychology is the idea that we all have spiritual drives as much as we have combative and sexual ones. To determine how well my clients are in touch with the spiritual part of themselves, I always ask during the initial interview “Do you have any religious or spiritual practice?” Most often, my clients say that they have no religious affiliation or belief in God and describe themselves as atheist. The following testimony is a typical response:

“I would call myself an atheist. As a scientist, I know that there is no proof showing that God exists. But I also know that there is no proof showing that He does not exist.”

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Christmas Desires

Magi Icon

Ukranian icon, 17th century

Recently I realized that desire, in all its dimensions, is beautifully woven into the Christmas story. This word desire can evoke so many different images and feelings. Assagioli saw desire as an integral part of ourselves and subject to both our personal will and the will of the Higher Self.

In fact, the word desire fundamentally holds this idea of a higher or transpersonal will.  I was amazed to learn, not so long ago, that the word comes from the Latin roots dē, which means to “come from” and sīdus which means “heavenly body.” In other words, our longings literally “come from the heavens.” This idea may have originated from astrology, which attempts to understand how the heavenly bodies – stars and planets alike – can define who we are and what we want to become.

It seems to me that the journey of the three Wise Men beautifully captures the nuance held in this word. Their desire to find, exalt, and pay homage to the Prince of Peace came from and was guided by a unique and brilliant heavenly body, a bright star in the desert sky. Their deep inner desire driven by their personal will prompted them to caravan long distances across dangerous, foreign lands.

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Spring Breath of God

With standing room only, the bus sped down the freeway on a bright warm morning. Once we turned onto the bollenstreek, long ribbons of intense blue, mauve, and white stretched to the near horizon. At the same time, the colours seemed to invade inside and pour over us. Fields of yellow daffodils blared spring’s final triumph over the particularly long winter. Every head on the bus turned and gazed. And then suddenly, quite spontaneously, everyone sighed together, “Aaahhhhhhhh.” A breath song of collective awe.

We were headed to Keukenhof Gardens, near the Dutch town of Lisse, famous for its variety of bulb flowers, especially tulips. I was feeling particularly triumphant because I had two Dutch people in tow. My husband had finally run out of excuses and decided to appease his American wife. Along with us was a friend who had actually lived near the gardens for the past 35 years and had never visited them before.

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Oh Come All Ye Atheists!

During our initial interviews, I ask my clients if they have any religious or spiritual practice. Most of the people coming to see me for counseling are scientists or engineers, highly trained to think rationally, and without a religious affiliation or belief. In fact, nearly all my clients have identified themselves as atheists. One said this to me:

“As a scientist I know that there is no proof showing that God exists. But I also know that there is no proof showing that He does not exist.”

My reasons for asking such a question are to understand how aware they are of the Self, how connected they are to superconscious material, and how they relate to transpersonal experiences. Interestingly, their responses become very different when I alter the question and ask if they have ever had a feeling of connecting to something greater than themselves. Without exception, all have had a transpersonal experience at some point in their lives. The client quoted above said:

“When I was twenty, I was on a boat at night and all around in the water was bioluminescent plankton. It was so beautiful, I became very emotional and cried. I wish my girlfriend had been there so I could have shared such a deeply moving experience with someone.”

Continue reading