What is Transcendence?
Most of us are familiar with three states of consciousness – waking consciousness, deep sleep and dreaming. There is, however, a fourth state called ‘transcendental consciousness’. In Sanskrit this state is known as ‘turiya’ (the fourth), and the word ‘samadhi’ (settling of the mind) may be familiar to some of us; ‘sama’ means evenness and ‘dhi’ means the intellect; it is a state of total equilibrium and union with the universe. This fourth state of consciousness has been described as ‘perfect stillness’, ‘pure consciousness’, ‘unbounded awareness’, ‘pure divinity’ and many other terms. It is now being studied by science and its signature appears in the brain as Alpha waves.
So how can we experience transcendental consciousness? The easiest way is to start an effortless meditation practice. There are signs when we are meditating that we’re entering, or are in, the fourth state. I have noticed the following in myself and others:
Time distortion: you think you’ve been meditating for 5-10 mins, but it’s been 20!
Breathing becomes slower or stops
Sudden deep breaths
Loss of hearing
Loss of sensation in hands and/or other body parts
Feeling stuck to chair or unable to move
Sweet taste in mouth
Skin glowing after meditation
Soft or silky feelings in the body, especially after meditating
Falling into a blissful sleep after meditating
If we gauged we meditating for 5-10 minutes yet was 20, where are we in those lost minutes? We were not asleep, we were experiencing the totality of existence; we moved beyond the intellect, beyond our identity and even beyond the witness (the part of us that notices or watches the thoughts). When we are noticing a feeling, a thought, a sensation, or even experiencing bliss, we are actually floating a little above that deep transcendental field; we actually dive in-and-out, in-and-out, in-and-out...in loops. The dive or shift into and out-of transcendence has been described in many ways. From personal experience, it’s blissful and I feel as if I’m bathing in an endless ocean of calmness; I feel as if all mental boundaries are dissolving and I’m plugging into the universe and beyond.
So which meditation technique can help us transcend? Effortless meditation can shift us into the fourth state, but not all meditation techniques are as effective. If we simply follow our breath – allowing the mind to wander and return to the breath in its own time – we may eventually or inadvertently transcend. This usually happens when we give trying to control or pay attention to thoughts. When I tried the method of following the breath it was inconsistent; some days I felt waves of stillness and transcended, and other days I did not. No matter how I felt during breath awareness meditation I usually felt better afterwards. When I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) my mind settled more easily and for me it was very powerful; I felt as if I was bathing in an ocean of stillness; maybe that’s why it’s called ‘transcendental’ meditation. I recommend TM as the fastest and easiest way to enter the fourth state; you get a high dose of transcendence! Although different people like different methods so it’s up to you to find one that resonates with you.
It’s important to note that we do not meditate to have a specific experience as there is NO GOAL. We do not want to make our spiritual practice into a race or an effort to attain something. It’s a process of letting go of baggage not attaining anything. Sometimes we may feel blissful and other times not. We never judge our meditations; some days we need to release stress in the form of thoughts. The body knows exactly what to do and what to release. We may feel great after a very active meditation where we were releasing lots of thoughts. We also don’t need to judge whether or not we transcended. Just meditate and allow what happens to happen.
When we see reality as it is – without believing the chatter of the mind – we may experience transcendence. We may have a wave of transcendence in moments of awe or presence: reaching the summit of a mountain and looking out at the view; holding a newborn child for the first time; skydiving; walking down the aisle; making love and so on. I remember a moment where I looked into the eyes of a snake – and it was so alive, so wild and so present, tears started to roll down my face. Some of us may have subtle moments of transcendence, but not fully recognize them. Some people have flashes while performing everyday activities like eating an apple or sitting in the park. Some of us have peak experiences and try to recreate them over and over again. The beauty about finding an effortless meditation practice is you don’t have to jump out of an aeroplane, give birth to a child or gaze into the eyes of a snake to transcend! You can do it automatically, easily and daily.
It is important to know that we all come from the transcendental field – at our core that is what we are. Transcendence is not something foreign or something that we gain, it is innate. In this post I attempt to explain what transcendence is – but you really need to have a direct experience of it – hopefully before you pass away. When we leave our physical bodies, well…that is the ultimate transcendence.