In everyday language, “transcendence” means “going beyond,” and “self-transcendence” means going beyond (or higher than) everyday thinking, or beyond one’s everyday self.

Contemplation is a type of meditation.  You find an object — say, a tree — and look at it. Just look at it, but really, really look at it, without mental words.  If you are close enough, you should also touch and smell the tree, and listen to the rustle of its leaves. 

If you become adept at contemplation, closely looking at a tree will make you feel things.  You may feel the sway of the tree’s branches is the breeze.  You may feel the powerful grip of its roots in the ground, or the feel of the bark as if it were your skin.  If the tree has dying or gnarled branches, you may feel the process of aging. (Especially if you are over the age of 60.)

All these feelings, these emotions, are implied by the tree, but they are not the tree. They transcend the tree.  

Notice that the more you know about the tree, the more you are able to feel about it.  If you know things about the biology of the tree, the bright yellow-green of the sun’s light shining through its leaves can make you feel the amazing creative power of photosynthesis.  If you know about the tree’s ecological niche, you may wonder if the tree communicates with its sister-trees (as recent science shows some species do), or you may look for the tree’s sidekicks — the birds, squirrels, and insects. 

Finally, you may feel the interconnections between the tree and all these other things and processes. You then feel ecological Whole of the tree-in-its-ecology. Your appreciation of this Whole transcends (is greater than) the sum of its parts.

(For more about Contemplation and how to do it, see “The Meditation of Contemplation,” Chapter 8, of Lawrence LeShan’s superb book, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery, (1974), Little Brown & Company.  J.X. Mason believes this to be the best book about meditation ever written.)

    — J.X. Mason, 8/2/22 — “Look for Me on the Web!”