#Emerging Proud through NOTEs (Non-Ordinary Transcendent Experiences)
A NOTE (non-ordinary transcendent experience) is a rare and unfamiliar event that takes us beyond our regular understanding of ourself and the world. The term was coined by the late transpersonal psychologist William Braud as a way of bringing together the three fields of transpersonal psychology, exceptional human experiences, and psychical experiences.
There are hundreds of experiences that fit under the grand NOTEs umbrella, including spiritual awakening, near-death experience, out-of-body experience, peak experience, and any other extraordinary experience that seems to defy the laws of reality as we knew it until that moment. Even falling in love and big dreams can be considered NOTEs as they tend to alter our sense of time, place, and way of being in the world. These experiences are often forever life-altering.
Today, reports of NOTEs are on the rise. This is due to a potent blend of increased access to spiritual development tools and teachings, better life-saving technologies, planetary crises prompting personal crises, growing interest in hacking human potential, a revival in psychedelics, and the ability as a species to share information globally and instantly in ways we’ve never been able to do.
I first came across the term NOTEs whilst researching for my doctoral dissertation. The term drew me in as it captured the vastness of what I understood these experiences to be in a way that was relatively neutral. I also like the metaphor of notes, like poignant music that punctuates important moments in life, or wine that leaves a lingering and subtle aftertaste.
My first NOTE I recall happened when I was a teenager, whilst white-water rafting in New Zealand. It was a glorious day and a friend and I set out on a river full of rapids with two guides. We had such a great time that we decided to do it again and raced back up the mountain so we could re-enter the river. The second time, however, the skies had turned grey, the atmosphere was somehow heavy, and as we got to the largest waterfall (a 10 meter/ 33 foot drop), our raft flipped over and I fell out. I opened my arms to swim but that only pushed me deeper under the gushing waterfall. In an instant, the water around me was black and I didn’t know which way was up or down. I didn’t know where to swim and there was no point trying. I desperately wanted to breathe and after a moment of sheer panic came absolute calm and stillness.
Deep down in the blackness of the water, a brilliant horizon of light opened before me. If you’ve ever seen the movie Ghost, it was a lot like that moment Sam and Molly are reunited. Walking toward me from the horizon of light was my (then living) grandmother and (then deceased) pet dog. As a young teenager I thought this was a bit curious and wondered what they were doing there. It all felt lovely, very peaceful, and so natural.
Then, a strong and clear male voice from behind my shoulder said “Nicole, don’t forget to breathe”. And just like that, the memory returned of the safety briefing we’d received that morning should we fall out of the raft, and I curled up into a ball as taught so that I’d rise to the surface like a cork. It worked, and soon enough the water changed to dark green, then light green, then white, and I surfaced to breathe. I never thought too much of this experience and the impact it may have had until later in my 20s. For now, I was simply relieved to still be alive.
Within the next 6 months, I lost my father and two other family members, all in separate sudden incidences, in countries far away, and without the chance to say goodbye. I later came to call this chapter of my life “initiation through death”. As recognised in shamanic traditions, once having passed through such a gateway, life is never to be the same.
Indeed, this was my rather brutal introduction to That which is beyond ordinary life.
Throughout my 20s, I continued to be drawn to anything related to personal and spiritual growth and development. I read up on and tasted various traditions and wisdom paths in a quest to understand the core of me and what I am to do on this planet. I was thirsty for experiences that satisfied a sense of meaning and purpose. I travelled widely the outer worlds and inner worlds. I was blessed to have many other NOTEs that helped connect and acquaint me with the non-ordinary. Though not always pleasant experiences, I came to better understand the extraordinariness that we as humans can access and the forces we can work with to bring about healing, change, transformation, and creative genius.
As I turned 30 I was to have another life-changing NOTE, one that gave me a direct experience to the eternal core of my being. As they say, be careful what you ask for! It occurred spontaneously (though one could argue that these kinds of things are never really spontaneous, rather, one is ripe for a NOTE to occur). Over 3 days, a fever took over and I experienced movement between ordinary and altered states of consciousness. I had not taken any substances, though I now had over a decade of conscious practice of opening experiences to help me understand and trust what was happening. Although my family requested I go to the hospital for my ongoing high fever, I knew something important was happening and wanted to ride it through, promising to go to the hospital if really need be.
In a nutshell, those three days were like a peeling of an onion, where every single layer was part of my identity. The peeling continued until, towards the end of the three days, there was nothing left but a pinprick of light. I knew in that moment that incy-wincy pinprick was All that I am. Nothing more, nothing less. Everything beyond that, any layer of the onion, was a construction I could co-create in this grand game of life on planet earth. And so it has been since.
There have been other NOTEs since, which is a common experience for NOTErs. Rather than those profound life experiences that happen and fade over time, NOTEs are a special kind that seem to do the opposite. They often snowball over the years. In any case, their sacredness and specialness rarely leaves the experiencer.
And so, today, this is why I am devoted to working wth other NOTErs to make the most of their experiences. We dive deep to understand the experience(s), their wisdom, process whatever needs processing, integrate the pieces that seek resolution in the magnificent wholeness of our being, and then take practical actions toward creating the life that most deeply calls them. I am of the belief that the more we do this, the more our genius naturally shines through, and the more we can each get on with whatever it is we’re here on planet earth to do.
I hold the vision that one day NOTEs will be a term as common as ‘flow’, ‘peak’, or ‘yoga’. That what we today consider extraordinary will be accepted and celebrated as an important capacity of out natural human beingness. Like Maslow once dreamed, I too dream of a time when we hold “classes in miraculousness”. I look forward to the day when care is truly holistic and those who need the services of professionals will be met with specialists of the body, mind, AND spirit. Then, we may truly start to see what we are capable of as a species and properly address the problems we face on this planet.
Dr. Nicole Gruel is passionate about creating spiritual health and life wealth for all. As an author, speaker, samurai descendent, and transformational coach she helps people craft the life they most deeply desire with warrior focus. She has spent over two decades exploring human potential and how ordinary people make the most of extraordinary experiences to become their best as lovers, leaders, and human BEings. Her newest book The Power of NOTEs: how non-ordinary transcendent experiences transform the way we live, love, and lead will be out late 2018.
Find out more about Nicole’s work here: www.thenotescoach.com