So what is a spiritually transformative experience (STE) anyway? It's often an experience that is so far outside the spectrum of everyday normal life that it can change how you see your self, others, and the world in a profound and lasting way. You may not understand intellectually exactly what happened at the time, but that doesn't seem to matter; you can never go completely back to who you were before, or to the way you saw the world.
There are many different types of STEs, including Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), Out-of-Body experiences (OBEs), and an enormous range of mystical and/or metaphysical experiences that can have a similar effect. These can be brought on in number of ways, either intentionally -- through yoga, meditation, and now more often with psychedelics -- or through trauma and/or depression, the surrender of one's self to the idea of something larger.
These experiences also go by many different names, including a personal favorite: metanoia. By dictionary definition metanoia means "change in one's way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion," but I prefer wikipedia's definition instead:" a transformative change of heart, especially: a spiritual conversion." A transformative change of heart.
Some of my favorite STE stories include:
Eckhart Tolle's story of awakening as told in the Introduction of his book, The Power of Now
Anita Moorjani's near-death experience in her cancer memoir, Dying to Be Me
Dr. Eben Alexander's near-death experience in his memoir, Proof of Heaven
Pretty much anything by Anthony Chene Productions on YouTube
Saint Ignatius of the Catholic tradition, who was apparently kind of a womanizing, jerk before being bedridden with legs broken in battle and eventually having a conversion experience such that, when he could finally get out of bed, he walked to a monastery on his gimpy legs, learned Latin, became a priest, and eventually founded the Society for Jesus, which became the Jesuit arm of the Catholic Church; and of course that Christian favorite:
Paul’s "conversion experience" on the road to Damascus as reported in the New Testament. Paul was a guy who persecuted the followers of Jesus with enthusiasm before having a transformative experience on the roadside that left him blind for three days. When he was healed, when the scales fell from his eyes and he could see, he immediately went to get baptized, and dedicated his life to God and to attempting to teach the lessons of Jesus.
If you have questions about all this or want to share the story of your own STE, feel free to email me at hello at humans for love dot com.
You can also read much more about STEs at the website for the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences, aciste.org.