Spiritually Transformative Experiences? What the heck are they?
There is an organization that birthed itself about 10 years ago, called The American Center fro the Integration for Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE.org). Their mission is to train therapists, psychiatrists, spiritual guides, ministers, and life coaches to support individuals who have experiences beyond our 3D reality, and who need assistance to integrate these experiences into their lives.
What are Spiritually Transformative Experiences?
I suspect that more people than not have had a spiritually transformative experience. You may have a different name for the experience, such as: out of body experience, mystical experience, or near death experience. Maybe you’ve had an experience of talking with angels, to God, to Jesus, or to people you know who have passed away. Maybe you’ve seen apparitions or been in a profound altered state of consciousness. Maybe you’ve had visions, energy experiences sometimes called Kundalini awakenenings, or something else that was outside normal 3D reality. Exceptional human experiences can also be included in the STE categories. The experience of synchronicities, of wonder, of awe, of beauty, of oneness can all be spiritually transformative experiences.
People of all ages, genders, religions, spiritual traditions and cultures have experienced phenomena that have been other-worldly and extraordinary. They can include preverbal experiences, predeath of the aged and everything in between.
These experiences can happen at any time to anyone: in the dentist’s chair, during sleep, walking in nature, during an illness, pre-death, near-death, making love, reading a book, and just about any moment – mostly when least expected.
Spiritually transformative experiences (STE’s) can be induced by medications and other self-inducing medicines such as psilocybin or LSD. Individuals who practice meditation and other meditative process can induce these states as well. But the majority of experiences are naturally occurring and spontaneous.
As children, some of us experienced the presence of an invisible friend whom we could see but other people couldn’t. Children often have non-ordinary experiences, and have learned that it isn’t always safe to talk about such things.
There is a continuum of experiences from low impact on our psyches, our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realities, to high impact, which may require a whole new orientation to the way one perceives the world. The integration and reorganization of one’s reality may take just a small readjustment. For others, it may take a lifetime to assimilate, integrate and find compassionate presence with themselves and others, as reality continually reveals its vast potential for expression.
Spiritually Transformative Experiences are Mostly Positive
The spiritually transformative experience itself is most often very positive. Only about 1% of all experiencers report a negative experience. However with support, they are able to realize the positive value of the negative experience, much like a bad dream that when looked at in the light of day provides clarity and understanding.
The negative side effects of STE’s for an experiencer are often the responses they receive from their families and community. When not supported, experiencers feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. These responses can increase the onset of depression, self-deprecation, negative self-talk, anger at God, feelings of powerlessness or helplessness, and suicidal thoughts.
Another side effect for many experiencers is that, after experiencing HOME in whatever way that has occurred to the experiencer, their experience on Earth pales in comparison. Though there may be thoughts of not wanting to be here, suicide rarely occurs. One woman described it like having been to Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, then being plopped back down in the middle of a garbage heap. How do people make sense of this reality once they’ve been given the gift of experiencing "Heaven?"
Kundalini awakenings are quite often accompanied by sensations of bliss and ecstasy. They can be accompanied by krias or energy holdings that can sometimes feel painful. With the support of energy and body workers these painful episodes can be minimized or completely eliminated. However, it takes other forms of support to help integrate these experiences into one’s everyday understanding of life.
Though some people experience one STE only, it is not uncommon for experiencers to have numerous experiences “ some people report having hundreds or thousands. I myself have experienced hundreds over the course of eight years. I’m super glad to have had ACISTE’s presence in supporting me through the integration process.
The phenomenon of the Universe is far more vast than we have any language for. It is estimated that only 5% of our reality is in form; 95% is unseen and unacknowledged in its presence and importance in our reality.
Most individuals speak about the ineffable qualities where there are no words to describe the experience. After going to bed and turning out the lights, one experiencer saw a shimmering, sparkly formless being emerge close to the ceiling above her bed. The sparkles were enchanting. She reached up into the sparkles and her arms were immersed in the "goo," as she called it. She felt Love when her hands were inside the goo. It was an exceptionally delightful experience that she didn’t want to end. However, her need to go to the bathroom necessitated that she remove her hands from the goo and head to the toilet. When she returned, it had disappeared. This happened on a second occasion as well.
Why Do People Need Support?
Even though over 60% of the world’s population experiences some form of STE’s in their lives, so many people poo-poo these experiences. We can discount both our own and others’ experiences. We often pathologize experiencers, and too often they end up under psychiatric care or in hospitals, misdiagnosed and medicated.
Most people who have STE’s do not experience comfort or support from family and friends. They feel isolated from their partners, their community and even their children. Separation or divorce can occur because the experiencers or their partners do not have the capability to accept and validate the experience. Their religious or cultural communities do not allow for acceptance. Getting labeled and ostracized leads to the dismantling of relationships.
Our religious upbringing, especially here in the West, also influences the degree to which we feel comfortable sharing our spiritually transformative experience. Some religions and spiritual traditions believe that they are demonic invasions and that it is a sin to have these experiences or to believe that the experiencer has the capacity to see heaven, God, angels and more.
Experiencers are often cast out of their community with no place to go to feel support and connection. It is interesting to note that many of the Eastern religions and philosophies do support the process of engaging regularly with STE’s.
Though therapeutic assistance can benefit the experiencer, quite often it is not the experience itself that is pathological, but the experiencer’s lack of understanding of the whys and wherefores of such phenomena, as well as being with their communities’ negative response to them. With supportive and educated listeners, like those trained by ACISTE, individuals can develop healthier relationships with themselves and their reality on this Earth.
After attending my first ACISTE Conference in 2014, it was obvious to me that STE’s are normal phenomena within our reality as human beings. Because most of us do not reveal our experiences, for fear of being invalidated and rejected, we keep them to ourselves, sometimes denying that they ever happened in the first place.
The importance of the work of ACISTE cannot be underestimated. Their mission is to train mental health practitioners (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counsellors, spiritual guides and life coaches) to support and empower experiencers in the process of integrating their experiences into their everyday life.
Experiencers report their deep desire to have someone who will listen and hear them without judgment, fear of retribution, or rejection, and without shame or guilt. Practitioners supporting experiencers need to educate themselves on the fundamental challenges experiencers may have. They have to assess their own ability to work with this specific population.
The families of experiencers also need support and education in order to assist their loved ones through this process. Parents need to validate their child’s experience. They need to provide comfort and support to the child, so they do not feel weird, sick or crazy. Seeking support for yourself and your child through counsellors, coaches, spiritual guides can be very helpful.
That 96% of reality is still a mystery to even the most curious and pragmatic scientific thinkers on the planet, allowing an open and acceptance of this is profoundly important. Orienting ourselves to the possibilities of so much wonder to unfolds for us, for our friends and family, will contribute in significant ways to the evolution of consciousness in all of us.
For me, the ACISTE Conferences are one of the most significant events related to educating ourselves about not only the experiences people are having, but the opportunity to train to work with these individuals. If you’d like more information about this training or trainings for therapists, psychiatrists, ministers and spiritual guides, please visit ACISTE.org or email me, Dr. Rosie Kuhn, at firstname.lastname@example.org.