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How to Harness Self-Transcendence and Awe for Greater Life-Meaning

What is Awe? describes awe as “The feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world, like looking up at millions of stars in the night sky or marveling at the birth of a child”. Awe occurs in transcendence if the self.

Awe represents a powerful experience that teaches us that we are part of a greater whole. We depend on others (or other parts) and they depend on us. Awe helps us to place importance on a global scale, rather than an individual scale.

Where is Awe?

Natural? Urban? Social?

Awe is often associated with spectacular natural surroundings, or ancient architecture for good reason. However, modern architecture and city-scapes can be equally as awe-inspiring. Awe is not associated only with inanimate objects, however. Indeed people, or even animals can, and often do, trigger awe in others through their actions, or in relationship with other people. Consider the symbiotic relationship between virtuoso musicians and their audiences at concerts, for example. Both performer and fan can be awe-struck by one-another, amplifying the experience for both parties.


A feeling of awe can often bring religious connotations and if you step into a temple, mosque, or church, it is easy to see why, although you do not necessarily need to be religious to appreciate this, of course. Many of these buildings are marvels of design and engineering, built over generations. So in addition to the aesthetic and spiritual experience of awe, you may be awestruck at the capabilities of the architects, engineers and builders working together.

Religions are full to the brim with awe-conducive stories, practices and accoutrements. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when experiences of awe are embedded in religious and spiritual practices they bring with them increased social connection and meaning.

The Mundane?

There is a classic scene in the film American Beauty, where … laments over the beauty of a plastic bag dancing and floating in a vortex. This illustrates nicely how channels of awe need not be expensive, confined to areas of outstanding natural beauty, or generally out of reach to the average person. Awe is available anywhere and everywhere when we choose to seek it out.

In Wealth?

Dacher Keltner even argues that increased wealth can inhibit awe, due to the tendency of wealthy people to see the world more through a lens of transaction and self-interest.


Awe can exist entirely internally of course, through hypnosis, meditation, dreaming, memories, or psychedelic experiences*. Importantly, awe itself only ever exists within us, in our emotion, and is only connected to external phenomena and interactions.

*I recommend that psychedelic experiences are accessed legally and with professional support.

Ok, I’ve Seen a Starry Sky and Had a Baby, am I Done With Awe This Decade?

Awe needn’t be confined to rare and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It can arise in day-to-day life by being present to the flavours of the food you eat, listening to music and taking the time to deeply listen to, see and feel your surroundings, for example.

These day-to-day manifestations of awe may come in relatively smaller, more consistent doses, but that is a good thing. This way you can sustainably build your capacity for experiencing awe. The more you can experience, the more you do experience!

What Does Awe do For Us Anyway?

Awe not only feels awesome, it gives our life more meaning!

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect underpinning a meaningful life is purpose beyond self. When you have something you do that tangibly contributes to the lives of others in a significant way, your life trajectory weaves a web in conjunction with the life trajectories of others. Awe is an emotion that transports (or “transcends”) us into a distinct awareness of this inter-connectivity.

In a study reviewing the recent advances in the field of awe, Monroy and Keltner (2023) indicate the following physical, mental and social benefits of awe:

  • Biologically, experiences of awe increase vagal tone (good for calmness and social engagement), decrease sympathetic arousal and inflammation, increase oxytocin, decrease default mode network activity (associated with self-reflection).
  • Awe diminishes our sense of self, increases our pro-social relationality and social integration, which all contributes to our purpose and life meaning.
  • This decreases stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD and increases emotional, social and psychological wellbeing.
  • The physical benefits include a decrease in manifestations of physical stress, such as headaches, bodyaches and stomach issues, a reduced likelihood of autoimmune diseases occuring, as well as improved sleep, cardiovascular health and longevity.

What doesn’t it do?

Is Awe Always Awesome, or Sometimes Awful?

The propensity for awe to make us more likely to submit to a higher power can humble us to the power and value of nature and the community, reducing our individual ailments and increasing collective wellbeing.

It can also make us more likely to uncritically fall in line with the charisma of a demagogue. If we feel awe in connection with the behaviour of said demagogue, we may be less likely to question the other ideas they espouse.

However, emotions of any kind do not usually last for more than a matter of minutes, until something else comes along. Awe is not the only emotion that Hitler projected. Pride and rage, to name but two more. Indeed the racist beliefs he perpetuated run counter to the reduced polarization and pro-social relationality promoted through awe. Hence racism can only be embedded while awe is suspended, but awe can play a part in the induction of people to a team, or following.

Emotions are rarely isolated in life. It makes no sense to demonise awe, just as it makes no sense to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’. While it can be beneficial to temporarily defer critical thought, abandonment is never a good idea. Fear of possible enchantment with a demagogue should not deter us from awe.


“Self-transcendence” may be seen as referring to what we are not focused on, rather than what we are. It can be seen as a contrast to “self-examination“. However, as Courtney E. Ackerman explains, self-transcendence does not negate the self in favour of the other. Rather it involves “the realization that you are one small part of a greater whole”, and importantly, requires that we “act accordingly”.

In a state of awe you transcend the self (or perhaps the illusion of self). To become focused on the self alone would necessarily remove you from the “awe”some experience.

Viktor Frankl, by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Viktor Frankl’s central concept to flourishing in Logotherapy is to choose the pursuit of a meaningnful life, and in so doing, transcend the mire of suffering and death (1988). He sees suffering as a necessary ingredient in flourishing, along with meaning. Suffering is a reason to choose a meaningful life. One cannot exist without the other.

Paul T. P. Wong reflects on transcendence, according to Frankyl as:

“a spiritual awakening that moves one’s heart and soul so deeply that leads to the reorientation of one’s life purpose”. It is a determination that arises in humans “characterized by (a) a shift in focus from the self to others, (b) a shift in values from extrinsic motivation, such as materialism, to intrinsic motivation (the activity itself is the reward), (c) an increase in moral concern of doing what is right, and (d) the emotion of awe that contributes to life transformation and which inspires others”.

Wong indicates that, while awe is a fundamentally important emotion, a shift in life values and focus is the main driver in self-transcendence. Without this, awe may be fleeting and temporal and therefore limited in it’s benefit in our lives. With this, awe can be ignited from within a structure that you can implement!

In summary, Wong suggests the following as a structure for self-transcendence and sustainable awe:

  • Focus from self to other
  • From extrinsic to intrinsic motivation
  • Prioritising what is morally right
  • Awe that inspires others and changes life

Why did we Evolve the Emotion of Awe?

Self-transcendence is fundamental to the development and progress of humanity and awe is the emotional hallmark of self-transcendence. We are only here because our ancestors placed an equally high (or higher) value on the collective versus the individual. We depend on this cooperation and coordination, our habitat depends on it.

The Role of Awe and Self-Transcendence in Overcoming Anxiety and Depression

The emotion of awe substantially contributes to “shifts in neurophysiology, a diminished focus on the self, increased prosocial relationality, greater social integration, and a heightened sense of meaning”.

Awe and Depression

Expanding on the points indicated above (“What Does Awe do For Us Anyway?”), the benefits of awe overlap with indicators of reduced depression in the following ways:

Neuro-electrical indicators:

  • Decreased default mode network activity
  • Reduced amygdala activity
  • Increased vagal control

Immediate psychological changes:

  • Lower self-focus

Endochrinal (hormonal) – psychological changes

  • Flexible expectations
  • Decreased rumination

Existential changes:

  • Decreased hopelessness

Awe, Anxiety and Stress

It is well known that sustained (chronic) stress can increase anxiety, among other physical and mental ailments.

Monroy et al. (2023) found that “on days when community adults and healthcare professionals reported experiencing more awe than typical, they also felt less stressed, experienced less body pains and problems sleeping, and felt greater well-being”.

Bai et al. (2021) discovered that the experience of awe gives perspective to day-to-day stressors, making them seem less significant.

The perception of stress has also been shown to have a significant effect on awe and vice-versa. Those who perceive stress in their lives experience less awe and those who experience more awe perceive less stress.

How I Work With Awe as a Hypnotherapist and Coach?

I work to help you to scan mindfully for and access the awe available to you in your life, habitually and sustainably, without (necessarily) getting on a plane and flying to a wilderness, or a psychedelic retreat in Mexico.

I help you to consciously forge a path of self-transcendence, consistently embedding meaning into your life.

This all starts with our therapeutic alliance, my unconditional positive regard for you, that there is nothing to fix and plenty of opportunities to grow and flourish. The presupposition that you have everything you need to grow in the ways that resonate with you and helping you to discover how for yourself. Your transformation manifests through conversation and well-placed hypnotic reflection and suggestion, gaining new perspectives and new possibilities. Lastly, I help you to put into practice new beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours at the rate and speed for them to take hold.

My Meaningfulness-Based Approach to Hypnotherapy and Coaching

Awe and self-transcendence are intricately linked with life-purpose and life-meaning. Read more about my meaningfulness-based approach to hypnotherapy and coaching here to learn more about how I help people t help themselves.

Activities for Inviting Self-Transcendence and Awe into Your Life Consistently

Here are some practical activities designed to help you:

  1. Change your focus from yourself to others
  2. Shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation
  3. Prioritise what is morally right
  4. Create an experience of awe that can go on to inspire others and change life


1. Engage in active listening:
  • Actively engage in conversations while listening to what the other person is/people are saying, without thinking about what you want to say and how you could respond
  • See how far you can take it
  • Reflect on what you notice and your connection with others
2. Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation:
  • Write down three things you enjoy doing. For each item ask yourself “what do you get from this?”. Keep asking yourself the same question until you get an answer that suggests personal satisfaction
  • Write down three things you struggle to motivate yourself to do. For each item ask yourself “what do you get from this?”. Keep asking yourself the same question until you get an answer that suggests personal satisfaction
  • Reflect on what you discover and any changes you might make in how you approach these tasks
3. Using regret to calibrate your moral compass:
  • Think of a choice you regret having made
  • List the reasons you chose to do what you did
  • List the reasons you regret having made that choice
  • Reflect on which of these reasons resonate morally with you
  • Write down what you would do differently if you could turn back time. If you would do it all the same again, write down why
4. Nurturing the awe available in the everyday:
  • Set aside some time to look at the sky and nothing else – turn your phone off. It doesn’t matter whether at night, in the daytime, in the sunshine, or during cloud-cover
  • Do not expect a feeling of awe to come, just spend some time with the sky and notice what happens
  • Pay close attention to the quality of the light, pay attention to the colours – yes even gray is a colour. Pay close attention to any clouds, stars, birds, planes, trees, or satellites you may see.
  • What do you see that stands out more than the rest? The shape of a cloud? The brightness of a star? The shade of the light?
  • Soften your breath
  • Get comfortable and stay with the sky
  • Set aside time immediately afterwards to reflect on your experience. On a scale of 1 to 10 how much awe did you experience. Whatever you answer, be content with that and expect no more. Make some notes about what you noticed and/or take a picture to illustrate
  • Share your notes and/or your picture with other people in any way you like (social media, messaging, conversation etc.)
  • Repeat this process listening to the qualities present in some music you appreciate, or feeling the sensation of the water against your skin in the shower, or bath, instead of looking at the sky

Let me know how you get on with these.

Get Started With Affirmations for Manifestation Work

It is important to start out with effective affirmations, so they support and charge your manifestation work, rather than inhibit it.

What Are Affirmations?

Affirmations are declarations. We are stating observations about ourselves, others and the world. They do not describe how we would choose for ourselves and the world to be, they describe ourselves and the world as already being how we would choose them to be!

This is a subtle, yet important distinction.

Two, or More, ‘Already Trues’

We may need to hold two paradoxical observations in our consciousness simultaneously.

For example, we may at first need to hold the following two truths and open our minds enough to see them both as simultaneously true:

  • “I feel insecure, anxious and frightened by social situations”
  • “I feel secure, confident and delighted in social situations”

If we deny the negative truth and pretend only the positive truth is true, the one we deny (or resist) can become more persistent.

We do not always consider the possibility of having two (or more) selves. Two or more realities and truths

Even for someone who has objectively high social anxiety, it is very rare to be anxious in every single social situation, with all people. There are nearly always exceptions, where we feel secure and confident. So for most people, there are already two, or more already trues. The difference is that these exceptions may not have been part of the story we tell others and ourselves.

Learn more about how hypnotherapy can help with anxiety.

When Crafting Your Affirmation

A notebook with an orange pen on top. In orange writing it says "I am the author of my story". The notebook is set against a background of a white knitted woollen blanket
  1. Create your affirmations intuitively. Ask yourself what would really bring you fulfilment.
  2. Design it to help you feel something you want to feel (“acceptance”, “fulfilment”, “gratitude”, “love”, for example). If the affirmations are what you enter into the satnav, the emotions are the fuel that gets you there.
  3. Design it so that it sparks your emotion and imagination to see, hear and feel yourself having accomplished it
  4. Design it so that what you affirm can be seen as true every day that you affirm it, as well as the day that you have accomplished it. Are you already a millionaire? If not, would you affirm, that: “you are a millionaire”, or “you have the abundant mindset of a millionaire”?
  5. Speak in the present tense (“you accept”, rather than “you will accept”). You are creating the conditions of your desired outcome here and now.
  6. Refer to yourself in the second person, as “you”, not “I” (“you joyfully help others live fulfilled lives”, rather than “I joyfully help others live fulfilled lives”). Imagine telling yourself “I love me” and see how it feels. Now imagine someone else telling you “I love you”. Which is likely to have more impact? We tend to believe and take seriously positive messages from others over ourselves.
  7. Keep it simple. Aim for somewhere between 1 and 25 words. As you become more adept at the manifesting process you can try adding more complexity and see how it works for you.
  8. Imperfect affirmations are perfect! Just get going with something that is good enough. If there are improvements to make they will come to you as you progress.

Begin Crafting Your Affirmation

Here is an affirmation that works for me. If you are unsure where to begin, you can take this and make it your own:

“You joyfully help others live fulfilling and satisfying lives”.

“You graciously accept the abundance that, hence, cascades into and flows through your life”.

Put some initial ideas for your affirmation in the chat now.

Do You Want to Start Manifesting?

Check out my free content, a great way to get started with manifesting:

Check out my course, guiding you through each stage of manifestation:

Do You Want Help to Work Through Something That May be Blocking Your Positive Manifesting?

Do you believe you may have acquired negative manifestations that get in the way of the life you would choose? You can learn more about my approach to Hypnotherapy and how it could help you here.

Do You Want to Take the Conversation Further – Ask Questions and Contribute Answers?

Join Believe – Relieve – Conceive, my Insight Timer group.

Steps leading up through woodland into light, symbolising a path to manifestation mastery

What does it take to master manifesting?

Steps leading up through woodland into light, symbolising a path to manifestation mastery

The secret delight in manifesting is not what you get, but what you give

Going all in – manifesting is investing!

This investment involves investing in yourself! Unlike most investments, if your investment is not performing, you can do something about it. What you ultimately get from manifesting can multiply your initial investment. The universe is generous, but you need to make the first moves with integrity and dedication.

Overriding the “sameness” mode of your brain and system

Thoughts are words and words conjure images and emotions. Thinking is like breathing – it happens automatically, but when you think about breathing you can shape your breathing. You can choose to breathe quickly, slowly, shallowly, deeply, through your mouth, or nose. You can even choose to hold your breath for a time. While you may not be able to stop your unhelpful thoughts directly, you can change the way they sound and even think new thoughts in new ways.

One of the things your brain does is to create familiarity. This neural circuit doesn’t really care whether you feel satisfied and fulfilled, or miserable and anxious. It is unconscious. If what you think, feel, do and how you engage with your environment is familiar, your system can function more economically. However, by investing a little more energy you can shift gears. You can change your brain and manifest a new, self-determined way of showing up in the world. When you show up differently in the world, the world shows up differently to you. Once you are firmly on the path of your self-determined reality, once this is familiar, your brain’s passion for familiarity will help you to keep it consistent.

Your consciousness, in contrast, which may not be entirely localised to your brain, is not limited by having been optimised for sameness. Quite the contrary, you can choose thoughts to think and emotions follow based on your core values and intrinsic goals. In time and with familiarity these thoughts are generalised and become beliefs. Beliefs produce behaviours that directly and indirectly change your environment.. The notion that the presence of consciousness indirectly alters the nature of matter is, perhaps, obvious. The notion that it directly alters the nature of matter within the human body may not be so far-fetched either.

Feeding subtlety over intensity

Some word and feeling combinations contain a greater emotional charge than others. When you want to make a change in your life you may need to invest your presence emotions with a lower charge. Emotions that are not so strong right now, but are ultimately better for you. This involves being willing to go beyond a stronger and more detrimental, but temptingly familiar feeling. Giving your attention instead to a more subtle, yet nourishing feeling. You don’t need to get this right every time, but you do need to be prepared to make this sacrifice.

With practice, soon enough, and quicker than you may think, the emotion that serves you well will become more and more familiar and amplify in intensity.

Mental manifestation with or without deliberate action?

Manifesting your deepest desires requires mental and behavioural work. Many manifestation processes focus only on the mental. This can seem, on the surface, to be enough for your desires to simply fall into your lap! There is something deliciously appealing about rubbing a lamp, making a wish, sitting back and waiting for it to come true. Well. However, if you approach manifestation by repeating your affirmations and visualising your future, without walking the talk and changing what you do, things may not work out the way you had anticipated. Personally, even if I were able to manifest in this way, I wouldn’t want to. Ordering take-away occasionally is nice, but something changes if you do it all the time, because the personal investment is low. Alternatively you could buy quality ingredients, invest your time and apply your love and creativity in preparing a meal. Doing this can open up a world of satisfaction and health benefits that you can’t get from ordering-in. True fulfilment is multiplied by your personal contribution.

The importance of sacrifice and contribution

To contribute something must necessarily involve sacrificing something else. In this case energy, time and instant gratification were sacrificed for a greater, more complex system of rewards and possibilities. Preparing a meal requires applying your existing skills and acquiring new ones, being creative, solving problems and fulfilling a need for yourself and/or others. It is a multi-sensory, multi-faceted experience.

Sacrifice, in this sense, is not a symptom of scarcity, but a demonstration of your belief in an abundant world. When what you give away, or let go of is seen as part of your manifestation process, what you ultimately receive is sweeter, deeper, more worthwhile and longer-lasting.

The magic of synchronicities

This magic is exciting, beautiful and awe-inspiring! How wonderful to notice when something that happens is just too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. When you are left speechless at how something amazing reveals itself to you, indicating that what you are putting in is making waves! Inspired by ancient Eastern wisdom, Carl Jung recognised the importance of the mystical. He identified “synchronicities” as those moments where your dreams converge with waking life. He framed these events as markers that life is flowing in the direction that was consciously intended.

While engaging in the manifesting process you might notice something unexpected during your day that reminds you of something you had manifested. You then have a choice as to how you interpret it: as your brain making connections and perceiving patterns in the environment; and/or a convergence of forces more universal than your brain alone. Either way the effect can be powerful. Identifying synchronicities can validate your process of manifestation and spur you on, so embrace them and enjoy them!

Reflection question

Which of the following values would you choose to make one of your strongest, to apply to your manifesting process?

  1. Dedicated graft/work
  2. Personal sacrifice
  3. Delayed gratification
  4. Integrity

The Role of Community and Journaling in Manifesting

Feeding your learning forward – Using your own experience to inspire and support others through their own manifestation journey

When you feed your learning forward, you use your own experience to inspire and support others through their own manifestation journey. Not only do you get the delight of helping another soul to learn and grow, you solidify your own learning and growth. You get to master the craft for yourself. If your learning ends with you, you might settle for a somewhat vague understanding, compared to the level of integration you cement when you pass that understanding on to others.

This feeding forward can be done with anyone whom you feel would be responsive and welcoming of your support and encouragement. Loved ones, family members, friends, or colleagues, for example.

In my (premium) Insight Timer course, “Manifestation From The Inside Out”, there is a course classroom, which is an ideal space to feed this kind of learning forward. Additionally, my (free) Insight Timer and Facebook groups of the same name, “Believe – Relieve – Conceive”, are great spots to give and receive assistance.

So start the whole process knowing that you will be inspiring and supporting others to do the same and notice the difference this makes from day 1!

Journaling your manifesting journey

Journaling your experiences, desires, setbacks, successes, fears, courage, struggles and breakthroughs once a day, every day is golden! It can help in so many ways to balance, maintain and develop your mental wellbeing. Furthermore, it works wonders for your manifestation journey, especially if you don’t currently have so many people around you who you feel comfortable opening up to!

Journaling needn’t take up much of your time. Even if you write 3 simple words just before you go to sleep, or when you wake up, there exists a conversation you know you have every day, acknowledging what it is like to be you and tracing a path of your existence and wellbeing.

If you choose to keep a journal of your journey of manifestation, this can serve to:

  • Consolidate the affirmations, visualisations and feelings
  • Work through difficult moments, so they become learning moments
  • Identify areas to work through that you can bring to the classroom for this course
  • Track the development of your skill and habit
  • Identify what works and what doesn’t serve you
  • Remember your synchronicities and tune yourself in to notice more
  • Help to remain consistent in your approach to manifestation
  • Become a record of a meaningful and important journey that you can look back on with fondness

All you need is a pen and notepad, or a notes app on your phone. Just date each entry and write!

Reach out to me here if you are looking for personalised guidance in manifestation.

Reflection question

Much of the manifestation process is internal, at least in the beginning, but the results involve radical differences in the external world. In a sense it is an art of making the internal external. Which method of externalising do you feel resonates most deeply with you?

  • Sharing and guidance in online classroom, or group settings, as mentioned above?
  • Journaling?
  • Sharing and guidance with family, or friends?
  • Other ways?