What is a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE)?
An experience is spiritually transformative when it causes people to perceive themselves and the world profoundly differently: by expanding the individual’s identity, augmenting their sensitivities, and thereby altering their values, priorities and appreciation of the purpose of life. This may be triggered by surviving clinical death, or by otherwise sensing an enlarged reality.
There are many types and many names for experiences that can share common features and be catalysts for spiritual transformation: near-death experiences (NDEs), near-death-like experiences (NDLEs), out-of-body experiences (OBEs), visions, spiritual emergencies, awakenings, kundalini, enlightenment, exceptional human experiences (EHEs), pre-birth memories, past-life experiences, nearing death awareness (NDAs), after-death communications (ADCs), empathic or shared near-death experiences, peak experiences, etc. STEs include or may be called numinous, noetic, transcendent, transpersonal, mystical, anomalous, religious, paranormal, parapsychological or ecstatic experiences.
Some experiences are sought after through meditation, yoga, drugs, religious practices, dance, drumming, sensory deprivation or prayer. Other experiences can happen spontaneously without expectation, as with near-death situations, personal trauma, illness, distress or crisis. They can also occur during emotionally intense periods, such as during childbirth or while experiencing deep relaxation, ecstasy or grief. They are may also occur during dreams or sexual activity.
Many such experiences involve being out of one’s body and/or and immersion into a different or more lucid reality. Features may include visions or communications with deceased loved ones, religious figures, God, the light, angels, beings of light, or other nonphysical beings. Many contain a profound feeling of peace, love, compassion or forgiveness. Many of these experiences contain messages, guidance, premonitions, or reviews of one’s life. Some experiences can be frightening or distressing. STEs can be catalysts for permanent and dramatic changes and positive transformations. Many also involve difficult challenges for the experiencer before integration of the experience into one’s life is complete.