Have a Direct Experience of Transcending Mystery and Wonder

Practice of the Week
Have a Direct Experience of Transcending Mystery and Wonder

Category: WORTH A TRY, or OCCASIONAL, or MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices are "worth a try" at least once, or, say, for one week. Beyond that, different people will relate in different ways to the practices in this category. Some of these practices you will find great for "every once in a while" -- either because they are responses to a particular need that may arise or because they are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice.

Actually, you cannot make yourself have a direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder. This week's practice is, rather, to intentionally prepare for, open yourself to, and invite such an experience. Direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder might or might not then happen. If it does, it’s an accident. Your practice is to try to make yourself a little more “accident prone.”
“A principal characteristic of this experience involves transcendence of one’s personal identity and dissolution of a primary conscious focus on or grounding in one’s ego. Another frequently described element of this experience is the perception of merging or identification with the source of being." (Jeff Levin and Lea Steele, describing transcendent experience)
Unitarian Universalists share a living tradition that draws on many sources. Of the six “official” sources listed in the “Principles and Purposes” section of the UUA By-laws, the first one is:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder affirmed in all cultures which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.
Neuroscientist Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) writes that having such transcendent experiences teaches us that:
1. It is possible to feel much better (in every sense of “better”) than one tends to feel. It is, in fact, possible to be utterly at ease in the world—and such ease is synonymous with relaxing, or fully transcending, the apparent boundaries of the “self.”...Such states of well-being are there to be discovered.

2. There is a connection between feeling transcendently good and being good. Not all good feelings have an ethical valence, of course. And there are surely pathological forms of ecstasy.... But there are forms of mental pleasure that seem intrinsically ethical. There are states of consciousness for which phrases like “boundless love and compassion” do not seem overblown.

3. Certain patterns of thought and attention prevent us from accessing deeper (and wiser) states of well-being. Transcendent experiences, in so far as they are usually temporary, are often surrounded by a penumbra of other states and insights. Just as one can glimpse deeper strata of well-being, and briefly see the world by their logic, one can notice the impediments to feeling this way in each subsequent moment.
Suppose that you took 30 minutes to try to directly experience transcending mystery and wonder. What would you do?

1. Set aside 30 minutes to make yourself as welcoming and inviting for a direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder as you can. You’ll have to decide on a strategy for doing this – then carry out the strategy.

2. In 1-3 days after doing #1, try it again. Set aside another 30 minutes. Adopt a different strategy, or follow the same one.

3. In 1-3 days after doing #2, try it a third time – utilizing either a new strategy or the same one.

For Journaling

Write an entry after each of the three 30-minute ventures. Describe what you did and what seemed to come of it.

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