Steve Taylor is the author of several books on psychology and spirituality, including The Fall: The Insanity of Human History and the Dawning of a New Era and The Calm Center: Reflections & Meditations for Spiritual Awakening. For six years he has been included in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people.’ His must-read new book is The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening, published as an Eckhart Tolle Edition (with a foreword by Eckhart). He is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. You can find him at www.stevenmtaylor.com.
One of the aims of my book The Leap is to clarify exactly what it means to be spiritually awakened. Through my years of research on this topic, I’ve become aware of many common ideas and assumptions about the state—some of which I used to hold myself—that simply aren’t true. A great deal of confusion exists about ‘spiritual awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’ in general. Many people have an impulse to ‘wake up’ but aren’t completely sure of where they’re heading, or how to get there.
Some of this confusion is the result of the countless ways that so many different traditions interpret the concept. If you asked a hundred different spiritual teachers or spiritual authors how they would define ‘wakefulness’ or ‘enlightenment’, you would probably get a hundred different answers. My aim is to clear up some of this confusion by more precisely identifying the characteristics of wakefulness, and by establishing exactly what it means to live in that state.
It’s also important for therapists, doctors, and others in the healing professions to have a clearer understanding of spiritual awakening. When it occurs suddenly and dramatically, awakening can be
Nicole Gruel, PhD, is an author, ACISTE-certified life coach, and holistic counselor specializing in the integration of non-ordinary transcendent experiences and Jungian typology. She’s passionate about sustainable co-creation, the sacred in the ordinary, sacred activism, and helping people engage and act on their deepest wisdom. She is author of the books Dancing With Dragons: A Journey to Wholeness, Women Of The Wise Earth: Celebrating the Rainbow Symphony, and the upcoming title, The Power of NOTEs: Non-Ordinary Transcendent Experiences Transforming The Way We Live, Love, and Lead. She has served as President for a chapter of the Australian Association for Psychological Type and was invited to write Chakradance for children. She lives by the beautiful beaches of Sydney, Australia. For more, go to www.nicolegruel.com or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we journey along the unique and unpredictable roads of spiritual transformation, be it through a one-time event or multiple experiences over many years, it’s common to stumble across the idea that the personal self must be overcome if we’re to grow successfully. Attaining and maintaining transcendent or awakened states require taming the ego, perhaps even quashing it completely, or so many popular teachings seem to profess. Our personality starts to sound like little more than a pothole on the road to embodying expanded ways of being.
Yet as a fellow experiencer of spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) and confidante to other experiencers, I’ve found this message causes confusion. The ego, after all, is the center of one’s field of consciousness and provides a sense of…
Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, is a holistic psychologist, shamanic healer, Depth Hypnosis practitioner, and author. She has guided visionaries, educators, healers, artists, and psychotherapists from the Native American Health Center, the UC Berkeley Counseling Center, and at her private practice, the Sacred Healing Well. She’s the author of Amazon Wisdom Keeper: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Spiritual Awakening. She also designs retreats in Costa Rica for nature wisdom keepers.
Born and raised near the edges of the Amazon rainforest of Suriname, I’ve been listening and dancing to the rhythms of nature for as long as I can remember. Armed with a rusty machete and dressed in old clothes and oversized black boots, I pretended to be Mowgli, Tarzan, or a freedom fighter like the famous rebel slaves Baron, Boni, and Joli Coeur I’d learned about in history class. Thanks to my role models and imaginary friends, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and Joan of Arc, I began to grasp and channel a parenting book around the age of eight, long before I knew what channeling meant and what my heroine’s journey would evolve into and ask of me.
Katrina Michelle is a holistic psychotherapist based in New York City. Informed by her doctoral research on “spiritual resistance” at Sofia University in Palo Alto, California, and her own ineffable experiences, Katrina supports people in embracing and integrating the multifaceted human experience. By practicing conscious engagement in her daily life and relationships, and through academic research and peer education, Katrina strives to evolve mainstream systems so they acknowledge, honor, and include the spiritual component of human development. Katrina fully believes that a mainstream culture that reflects and supports this integrative model will catalyze our collective highest potential. You can learn more about Katrina and her work at The Curious Spirit.
I have great appreciation for the term spiritual emergence, as coined by Stan and Christina Grof, because it is so inclusive. This term embraces the sudden, discrete episodes of awakening that we refer to as spiritually transformative experiences, or STEs, and yet is still broad enough to hold those awakenings that gradually unfold over time. In his 1902 book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, psychologist and philosopher, William James distinguished between these two categories of experience, calling them “the sudden type” and “the “educational type”.
Trying its best not to be labeled as pseudoscience, mainstream American psychology is cautious to divorce itself from the term spiritual. This caution creates a deep void in a field that is intended to study and understand the breadth and depth of human behavior. Clinicians, discouraged from consulting their own intuition, are led to favor diagnostic language when framing reports of altered states of consciousness. This risky, though well-intentioned tendency to pathologize spiritual emergence phenomena can create trauma for experiencers who may begin to identify with inaccurate diagnostic labels, leading to years of unnecessary suffering.
Dr. Davis is the author of The Heart of Healing, Monastery without Walls ~ Daily Life in the Silence, My Little Flowers, Simple Peace ~ The Inner Life of St Francis of Assisi, and The Calling of Joy. His latest book is The Love Letters of St. Francis & St. Clare. Bruce is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. A graduate of Saybrook University, Dr. Davis is a spiritual psychologist and teacher of the essence of world religions. He has taught at JFK University in Pleasant Hill, California, and many spiritual centers in the United States, Germany, and Switzerland. To learn more about him and his teaching, visit his website at Silent Stay Retreat Center.
There are many paths to a spiritual awakening. Near death experiences are in the news and on many bookshelves. People are finding other realms with spiritual teachers, drugs, in nature, with music, drumming, dance, or chanting. Others find an experience of their own divinity in extreme sports, life crises, or in the course of losing a loved one. People can find awakening while gardening, parenting, and caring for the less fortunate. People report experiences of spiritual awakening in dreams, meditation, heart-full prayer, or simply just being very present in the moment. There seem to be many avenues to a spiritual awakening but they all have one thing in common.
Bonnie Greenwell is a transpersonal psychotherapist and non-dual teacher in the lineage of Adyashanti. She founded Shanti River Center in Ashland, Oregon, and the Kundalini Research Network in 1990. Her books include Energies of Transformation: A Guide to the Kundalini Process based on her dissertation research, and The Kundalini Guide and The Awakening Guide from her 30 years of advising people in a spiritual awakening process. Her new book, When Spirit Leaps; Understanding Spiritual Awakening, will be available through New Harbinger Press in 2018. She has trained people internationally to work with spiritual emergence and kundalini phenomena, and now mentors people through private Internet sessions and webinars. She believes the awakening of consciousness to Truth is a natural state available to all who sincerely long for Self-Realization, and that kundalini is fundamentally a clearing and transformative energetic support for this process. You can meet her at the SAND conference in October where she will be a featured presenter.
While a spiritually transformative experience, or STE, can invite you temporarily into a transcendent and blissful space, it is also often disruptive of your previous way of being. It may strip away old habits and assumptions, and cause the mind to become frightened of the changes that are happening. Because both energy and consciousness are reorganizing and transforming within you, confusion often arises or you may feel out-of-control.
Spiritually transformative experiences are invitations to let go of unconscious patterns and remember your vast, collective, and unitive connection with all. Of course you are already always connected to your True Nature and to the Source from which we have all emerged. Humans usually do not remember this because the demands of our physical and psychological needs, and the influence of conditioning, block our ability to relax into the pure consciousness and awake presence that underlies all of life.
Dr. Frank Pasciuti is a licensed clinical psychologist and ASCH certified hypnotherapist practicing privately in Charlottesville, Virginia. As a weekly collaborator with The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia, and an advisory board member at The Monroe Institute, Dr. Pasciuti has had innumerable clients referred to him who’ve undergone exceptional human experiences, like NDEs and various paranormal anomalies. Here he gives us a preview of his therapeutic model for treating spiritual emergencies described in his forthcoming book: Chrysalis Crises. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Is it possible that spiritual emergency can become an opportunity for personal development? How might this time of psychological crisis represent an invitation to deep transformation, no matter if it results from a psychic opening, a near-death experience (NDE), a past life experience, or some form of paranormal encounter? And if it does present us with an opportunity for growth, what key areas of human functioning would likely change for the positive?
As a clinician, I’ve been grappling with these questions for decades. Over time I’ve come to see that the potential for growth from spiritual emergency will be unique to each person because the longer-term impact of the crisis is often predicated on the person’s prior level of functioning.
For 40 years it has been my privilege to treat clients who presented with various …
Elizabeth Sabet, PCC, ACSLC works as a Certified Professional Transformational/Spiritual Coach in private practice, is the Founder and CEO of The Institute of Transformational and Transpersonal Coaching, and the co-founder and former Executive Director of HOPE in Lubbock, Texas. Here she shares her personal story and talks about the upcoming training for ACISTE’s first peer-led spiritual experiencer support group facilitators.
My experiences began in early childhood. At the age of five I remember traveling in wormholes and having past life memories of being a rebel fighter in the American Civil War. I left my body for the first time at the age of nine. At 13, I had a spontaneous mediumship experience that was verified by a family member. Sexual trauma was a part of my childhood experience and no doubt played a part in opening me to non-linear experiences. As a child, I found most of these experiences and encounters confusing and frightening. I had no one to talk to that I could trust.
I married early and devoted myself to being a good parent. I wanted to be a good, stable parent and wife. Even though I had become accustomed to the experiences …
Dear Friends of ACISTE:
It is a pleasure to announce the publication of our first newsletter for 2017. The monthly issue will feature valuable research and critical perspectives true to our mission to better understand, support, and skillfully respond to the needs of experiencers, clients, community members, and perhaps even yourself!
Each issue will feature an in-depth article relevant to working with STEs. Throughout the year, we hope to expand awareness, challenge assumptions, and offer practical suggestions and insights to enhance skills and expertise. As our community grows, the newsletter also serves to foster important dialogue between practitioners and experiencers, as we all strive to further the well-being of those who are integrating powerfully life-changing events like near-death and other spiritually transformative experiences.
This month ACISTE president, Yolaine Stout, reflects on the circumstances and research findings that led her to found the organization in this post. We’re also excited to let you know that ACISTE is a sponsor of the free, online town hall discussion about the new documentary, CrazyWise. We invite you to register for this March 22nd event as soon as possible. When you register, you will be provided with a link to stream the film at your leisure. Recently I had a delightful conversation with filmmaker Phil Borges, whose passion for fostering our understanding of the spiritual dimensions of challenging psychological states is expressed in this important documentary.
Your feedback and participation are welcome here. Let us know how we can improve our monthly offerings by sending us your thoughts. If you have a great idea for an article you’d like to write, an author or researcher whose work you’d like to learn more about, or a clinical vignette or reflection to share, let’s talk!
Yolaine Stout is the founding President of ACISTE, which incorporated in 2009. Since the passing of her husband in 2016, she continues to serve as a volunteer Executive Director, advisor, and life coach. Here she talks about her inspiration for ACISTE, its development, and her ongoing passion to support experiencers.
I was a near-death experiencer as a result of a suicide attempt in 1982. In the aftermath, I struggled with many of the same challenges that others who have had spiritually transformative experiences often face: divorce, a sense of alienation, keeping silent about my new reality. Even after I met my soulmate (an experiencer himself, he readily accepted my NDE), I still grappled with integrating the spiritual shift in my values while trying desperately to find my purpose.
Eventually I opened up to others besides my husband, and my world changed dramatically from that moment on. I discovered a worldwide and growing community of other experiencers! Interacting with them, sharing stories, and forming lifelong friendships blasted open my limited world and …