Daily doses of happiness are important, vital even, for a life worth living. But every once in a while, it’s good to be lifted beyond ordinary happiness into a state of pleasure that’s extra-ordinary.
Because it’s extra good for us.
“We can experience union with something larger than ourselves,” said William James, “and in that union find our greatest peace.”
Is transcendence something you think about? Plan for? What does your regularly scheduled transcendence include?
Maybe your super pleasure happens on a bike, 500 miles on the highest trail in the world – The Friendship Highway in China.
Or skinny dipping at Berneray Beach, Outer Hebrides (part of Scotland and the UK).
On the other hand, maybe your favorite transcendent experience requires less exertion, a sound meditation which activates your higher energy centers. Maybe you slide into a cool lake on a warm evening and find nirvana. Sit on your front porch with your early morning coffee to listen to the birds. Get wheeled outside into a canopy of green trees and soft sunshine from your hospital room. Watch a lightning storm on your front porch. Lose yourself in love.
What’s the point of having a transcendent experience?
To experience unity with everyone and everything.
In one study from 2014, students gazed up at a towering grove of 200 foot tall eucalyptus trees for one full minute. After directly experiencing nature’s grandeur, they felt less self-centered and behaved more generously.
Positive side-effects of transcendence also include feeling more satisfied with life and rating life as more meaningful. Oxytocin levels in our blood rise, which promotes bonding and makes us feel more connected to others.
According to David Yaden, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania:
“The magic of transcendence lies in its “annihilational” aspect, or the way it induces a feeling of self-loss. Neuroscience research shows that during transcendent states, there is decreased activity in the posterior superior parietal lobe, the area of the brain that locates the self in space and distinguishes it from everything else. When the neuronal inputs to this part of the brain decrease, the brain can no longer separate the self from the surrounding environment — which is why people feel their sense of self diminish, while also feeling connected to everyone and everything around them.”
My regularly scheduled transcendent experiences often involve flowers, music, toning, sound, and food.
The other day I picked the very first Russian Heirloom Black Cherry tomato from my garden and ate it right off the vine. Upon tasting it, I swear I entered another dimension, the tomato was that good. I didn’t (couldn’t) move. I stood still on my sidewalk, letting the taste of the tomato tell me everything it wanted to tell me.
If travel is required in order to to create transcendent experiences for yourself, it’s worth it. Spending time on a mountain with a wide open view, for instance, does something for the soul, and lingers long after.
Besides the accidentals, the unplanned bliss experiences, what about deliberately scheduling activities that will most likely lift you up above the daily hum-drum into another realm or reality?
WE RANG THE NIGHTBELL
This past Saturday evening, a girlfriend and I had the great pleasure of eating at Nightbell in Asheville. This restaurant is described as a “vintage-chic destination offering innovative American small plates, craft cocktails & local brews.” Chef Katie Button also owns Curate, another successful Asheville restaurant. Nightbell derives its name from days gone by when a guest rang the nightbell for entrance after 5 pm. The long and the short of it is that this restaurant is clearly dedicated to food that feeds the body, nourishes the soul, and delights the senses.
We entered, walked upstairs and were seated near a lovely window, looking down on the street below. Our first server was a dark haired young woman wearing thick eyeliner, an up-do, and a simple, perfect, floral shift, revealing elaborate tattoos — flowers on her right arm and more art across her back.
She was calm, kind and present as she introduced us to the Nightbell dining experience and poured our tall glasses of cool, pure, delicious, water with no ice. That’s how they do it. (It made me wonder how they create something as simple as blissful water.)
As she spoke to us, at one point her gaze wandered out the window, to a young man passing by on the street below, who had looked up to see her as he strolled by. She waved (ever so gently) and he nodded back. Their sweet-as-can-be practically secret public moment only added to the softness of her communication with us.
Since my friend is a wine expert, we thought it logical to order wine. But we opted for a craft cocktail instead, which Nightbell is famous for, one involving Altos Reposado Tequila, Benedictine, fresh peaches, lemon and salt.
Benedictine, the French liqueur, was created in 1510, by the Benedictine monk Don Bernardo Vincelli. The recipe calls for 27 plants and spices, mainly Angelica, Hyssop and Lemon Balm. It is said that there are only three people on earth who know the complete recipe for making Benedictine.
The drink was beyond divine, perfectly balanced in every way. The very first sip caused a “rising up” of my view on life. In fact, it was transcendent.
Along came cold cucumber, fennel, and buttermilk soup. It was bright green with a center aisle sprinkled with corn relish and sour gherkins. It was also divine.
(I rose a little higher.)
Then came summer squash, roasted lemon, pickled coriander, goat milk ricotta, and puffed farro. It was interesting, with very contrasting tastes, not a wild favorite of mine. However, I loved the presentation — tiny rolls of shaved summer squash filled with lemon and coriander, with tastes of ricotta dropped invitingly here and there.
Then there were gaining ground fingerling potatoes, sour pickles, celery, dill, crème fraîche. Perfect.
(Up I went, a little higher.)
Then red drum fish, ham hock broth, peanuts, pea tendrils, farro. Again, a wildly masterful combination of taste and texture.
(My heart, mind and soul, everything rose up, up, up.)
We wondered if we could handle the bliss of dessert. Waiter Dan said his favorite was the roasted berry tart, watermelon ice cream, basil, oats, and watermelon rind jam. We ordered it, along with the best espresso I’ve ever tasted, in Bodum double-walled thermal tumblers. Smooth as can be.
(Without question, I levitated.)
At the conclusion of the meal, it’s possible we stepped out of the 2nd floor window into a vehicle designed by magic-man Elon Musk, which teleported us safely and happily home.
Either that, or we walked around Asheville, enjoying the sights and sounds on a Saturday evening.
p.s. What will you do this week that connects you to All-That-Is?