Integration of a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE)
Research demonstrates that the profound changes and aftereffects associated with spiritually transformative experiences typically require an extended, period of adjustment. Integration is ideally achieved when the experience, its meaning and its aftereffects have been incorporated into one’s life to a degree that is assuring to the experiencer and when accompanying challenges, stresses and disruptions are reduced to an acceptable minimum. When integration is complete, experiencers recognize that their STE is now an important part of their lives, congruent not only with their attitudes but also their actions.
What does it mean to have thoroughly integrated an STE?
**In the most recent online survey, ACISTE asked the following open-ended question of 50 experiencers. “In your view, how would you describe someone who has thoroughly integrated their spiritually transformative experience into their lives?”
12% volunteered that one can never thoroughly integrate an STE – that it is an ongoing process of growth, exploration, work and learning. From the diversity of responses, it is suggested that both the integration process and desired outcomes are highly individualized. There is no one size fits all.
Nevertheless, the survey indicated that there are general clusters of ideal understandings, states of mind, attitudes and fulfilling activities that an experiencer may wish to be working or growing towards or feel they have achieved.
Those include the following in order of prevailing responses.
At peace: Feeling at peace, having no fears or anxieties, feeling safe or comfortable in most situations.
Respectful: Respects, forgives, listens, accepts, understands and does not judge others who hold different views. Several indicated that this would include the lack of a need to impress their views or values on others.
Balanced: Being emotionally and mentally balanced, whole, grounded, centered or able to live effectively with a foot in both worlds.
Aware: Being aware, enlightened, evolved, awakened, realized, or being fully conscious.
Connected: Able to appreciate connections, feel oneness with God, their spiritual nature, and others. They’d see the divine in others and in all situations or things. Spirituality would be present in all aspects of one’s life.
Living with Purpose: Doing work that is creative, meaningful and/ or serves humanity or the greater good. Involved in activities that are valuable, enjoyable, fulfilling or inspirational for others.
Financially Stable: Able to comfortably maintain one’s home life, has a secure financial base, is successful or has the resources to pursue one’s inspiration.
Present: Able to focus on the here and now, be present in meditation, accept, learn or live well within each moment or is present when needed or when events arise.
Loving and Compassionate: Loves, cares or is compassionate for all.
Accepting: Has accepted the experience, one’s self, being here, trusts that the spiritual realm is always available, has no fear of death, accepts not everyone is ready to hear of their experience, trusts that one is always being guided.
Joyful: Is happy, content, blissful, ecstatic or able to enjoy life.
Healthy relationships: Has loving, supportive, like-minded or fulfilling relationships.
Authentic: Truthful, walks the talk, genuine.
Open: Able to share freely, hearts are open.
Respectful of Body: Loves one’s body, respects one’s body as a divine tool.
Inhibiting or promoting factors include: how well the sharing of the experience was accepted in significant relationships, the health of the individual, one’s life situation, the intensity of aftereffects, the age of the experiencer, the manner in which one was returned, etc. An experiencer may also have different issues depending on the length of time that has passed since the experience. Childhood and teenage experiencers may have compounded issues as they deal with the ordinary challenges of growing up. Peer pressure to conform, school and parental expectations, puberty, making friends, etc. may all contribute to distress or isolation. Childhood experiencers may not remember their experiences initially, but sense that they are somehow different. Again, integration of these experiences is a dynamic process which is continually negotiated, evaluated and managed by the individual within a variety of situations. The process of integrating the experience may last for many years, if not for the duration of one’s life.