By Amber R. Balk, Ph.D.
It began as a comical observation. Every single evening, like clockwork, our Boston terrier gets up from her bed where she has been taking a pre-bedtime snooze. She makes her way to the water dish in the kitchen and gulps down A LOT of water. It’s the only time of the day when she gulps down so much. Then, she waits by the front door for the day’s final visit to the grass. She comes back in, heads to her bed, and snores the night away. It’s predictable. It’s her ritual.
I find this endearing and amusing. So, I decided to lie on the floor underneath the kitchen table, waiting for her to show up in her predictable way, and capture it on video. Then, I thought, “Hey, this could make a funny transpersonal video!” Late one night I turned it into a silly social media post on transpersonal thirst, adding playfully mystical effects (watch for the forthcoming sequel…) using some video app that seemed mostly in use by tweeners who should probably have a little more adult regulation in their lives, but I digress… It was whimsical. It entertained me. It made me giggle. But now, it really has me thinking…
What is a transpersonal thirst?!
I can kinda run with it… Transpersonal thirst is an innate knowing that life is more than we think it is. It is ghost stories shared around a campfire. It’s fairy tales and mythical creatures. It’s the quest for the Holy Grail. It’s children sneaking a Ouija board at a slumber party. It’s psi research, praying to the gods, having your palm read, and sending signals into outer space. It’s crying in church. Singing in your car. Hugging your loved ones…
Transpersonal thirst is a craving for The More; it is an urge for that which lies beyond what we typically know and experience. Transpersonalist William Braud (2003) put it this way:
Usually, we operate within a relatively narrow band of functioning. In our research projects, our education, and life in general, we tend to take in experiences using one eye (our conventional sensory systems, but with a special emphasis on words), process our experiences and materials using one brain (rationally and analytically), and express ourselves using one mouth (again, with a nearly exclusive emphasis on words). Given the rich panorama of content and experiences that nature makes available to us, would it not be advantageous to expand the range of our functioning, so that we begin to see with multiple eyes; process, consider, and evaluate using multiple brains, and speak with multiple mouths? (p. 2)
The More is transpersonal because it takes us beyond what we tend to experience in consensus consciousness. The More takes us beyond this particular, unconsciously agreed upon, co-created reality we dwell within.
We buy into a fixed perception of reality. We think we understand the world. We have this sense that reality is solid. But the world is not static and unchanging. All life on Earth is constantly changing, growing, and becoming something else. Perhaps it’s overwhelming, so we have a tendency to narrow ourselves. We constrict our way of perceiving, and this self- imposed restriction comes at a very high price.
We have at our hands the opportunity to create whole new ways of being. We can expand into The More. Yet, there is a seductive comfort in maintaining the status quo. Rocking the boat makes us feel unsteady. Uncomfortable. Maybe even afraid– what if we can’t swim when we fall out of the boat?!
Braud (2003) goes on to describe the value of The More:
One can dismiss the [More] experiences as mere anomalies or curiosities, ignore them, or even suppress them or attempt to explain them away because of their unusual, unfamiliar nature. On the other hand, if one honors such experiences, and begins to work with and attempt to understand them, the experiences can reveal heretofore unrecognized and unacknowledged aspects of oneself– one’s larger nature, identity, and potentials– and transformative changes (profound, pervasive, and persistent changes in one’s being) can occur, allowing one to recognize and express More of oneself than was previously realized or appreciated. (p. 14)
By the way… in referencing the “More,” Braud was actually quoting William James, who is considered the “Father of American Psychology.” Ironically (because transpersonal is considered fringe psychology), James was super transpersonal– he wrote on the concept of God, studied and theorized on mysticism (check out his “Varieties of Religious Experience,” from a series of lectures that took place in the early 1900s), and experimented with expanded states of consciousness, even going so far as trying out several mind-altering substances and then writing about his experiences! But you wouldn’t know any of this from the boring and dry standardized psychology textbooks that are used to dull the minds of countless psychology students out there. You have to actually go digging– dig up his original writings; they’re actually kind of fun to read!
Anyway… The More…
The More is where it’s at, as far as I’m concerned. The More is when I meet a stranger and realize we are connected by commonalities in a way that seems oddly orchestrated…
It’s when I make eye contact with my dog as she sits smiling at me, and I know our connection is something strong, unique, and sacred. Um… that one really did just happen– she’s in her bed at my feet, giving me a look of, “This is so awesome! We’re here together! We’re doing this!” I smile, beaming love back at her. I believe her. I feel companioned and stronger. My life is so much More with my sweet dog…
It’s when I have a dream, and then specific and concrete pieces somehow manifest into the waking world…
It’s that feeling you get when you watch a scene in a movie where the music plucks at your heartstrings as the sun imparts a transcendent feeling even as the wind gently moves through golden grass and reminds you of earthly softness, and then you get this warm and gooey goodness flowing through you as tears well in your eyes…
Yup. Ahh.. The More.
It’s a big deep breath when you make it to the vista point in your hike (after dragging your ass up that big hill). It’s awe and stillness in the redwood forest. It’s the flow of creativity. The beat of your favorite song. The taste of the most delicious food you’ve ever passed before your lips. The buzz of a first kiss.
I could go on forever, but I think you get it. The More is f’in awesome!
It propels us towards greater potential. It stirs us from our daily sleep. It prompts us to create works of art. It compels us to procreate. It makes us smile on a bad day. Sometimes it is the Grace that leads us from depths of despair.
Some call it God. The Universe. Or by other countless names.
The More is also discovery. Listening deeply and realizing that you’ve had it all wrong. Insight. Clarity. Expansion. Growth. Liberation. Seeing things with new eyes. Like when my child describes something in a way that is absolutely novel to me, and I burst into gleeful squeals, feeling renewed and reborn.
We all seek these things, in one way or another. Maybe it’s in church. Maybe it’s in nature. Maybe it’s in thoughts and theories. Maybe it’s in dance. Or family. Or in a billion other ways.
I’m betting that we ALL have a transpersonal thirst. And I am also betting that transpersonal thirst will be humanity’s saving grace… DRINK IT UP, Y’ALL!
Braud, William. (2003). Nonordinary and transcendent experiences: Transpersonal aspects of consciousness. Journal of American Society for Psychical Research, 97(1-2), 1-26, Retrieved from http://inclusivepsychology.com/uploads/Nonordinary.pdf
Amber R. Balk, Ph.D. is a transpersonal educator, writer, researcher, and independent consultant who combines diverse educational and professional backgrounds to provide well-rounded and unique individual and group psychospiritual services. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.