Charles Tart (1975), of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California, defined Transpersonal Psychology as dealing with higher human processes that includes spirituality and the development of human potential. Sutich (as cited in Tart, 1975, p. 2) defined the field of Transpersonal Psychology as being “concerned with the empirical, scientific study of, and responsible implementation of the findings relevant to becoming, and individual and spiritual meta-needs, ultimate values, unitive consciousness, peak experiences, B-values, ecstasy, mystical experience, awe, being, [and] self-actualization”.
Theoretical accounts of self-actualization and self-esteem are considered aspects of Transpersonal Psychology. In addition, Transpersonal Psychology expands upon other movements in psychology. The first movement is commonly referred to as psychoanalytic, the second, behaviorist, and the third force is the humanistic movement (Goble, 1976). However, in contrast to these forces, “[t]ranspersonal approaches draw upon the first three forces while going beyond to see humans as intuitive, mystical, psychic and spiritual. Above all, humans are viewed as unifiable, having the potential for harmonious and holistic development of all their potentials” (Hendricks & Weinhold, 1982, p. 8).
Accounting for the personal and transpersonal growth that occurs in nature, Brown (1989) approached outdoor adventure pursuits from the Transpersonal Psychology perspective. In common with those before him, Brown suggested an increased sense of awe, inner calm and other spiritual needs as a process of transformation. In addition, to enhance personal transformation and growth, Brown described specific practices that individuals can employ. These include meditation, relaxation, and the use of myths and symbols. These practices and concepts are custom to eastern religions and indigenous spiritual practices, and are essential aspects of Transpersonal Psychology
Transpersonal experiences, attained through being in nature, have been validated by numerous other studies (Bellotti, 2006; Brown, 1989; Coburn, 2006; Cosgriff, Little, & Wilson, 2010; Cronon, 1995; Davis, 1998; Dowdall, 1998; R. Kaplan & S. Kaplan, 1984; Wuthnow, 1978). Contributing to transpersonal development include factors such as thorough embodiment and integration of one’s body, mind, and spirit; and moving beyond one’s ego to embrace a world beyond and much greater than the self (Goodman, 2008; Scotton, Chinen, & Battista, 1996; Walsh & Vaughan, 1993). Harper (1995) noted that being in wilderness cultivates “a more focused awareness . . . attentiveness . . . on the stream of awareness itself” (p. 189). In addition, Harper indicated, “in wilderness, we begin to develop a sustained continuum of mindfulness” (p. 189), and Tart (1994) implied that mindfulness has been linked to transpersonal development.
McDonald, Wearing, and Ponting (2009) indicated that “wilderness settings provide a mix of aesthetic pleasure and renewal that can lead to a triggering of peak experience that provides a basis for individual spiritual expression” (p. 370). McDonald et al. defined peak experience using Maslow’s (1964, 1968) definition as moments, predominately short in duration, yet of revelation or mystical elucidation. These moments are usually emotional and cognitive, encompass happiness and fulfillment, and frequently contain insights and/or meaning for the recipient. Maslow (1964) determined that particular settings, such as solitude, meditation, prayer, and being in nature (principally water, wild animals, sunsets, and mountains), were more likely to produce peak experience. Laski (1990), through her in-depth examination and research of ecstasy in secular and religious experiences, concluded that “taken as a whole the people . . . responded most frequently to nature” (p. 187). Supporting Maslow’s conclusions, Laski’s participants found water and heights were features of nature most frequently associated with peak experiences. Abraham Maslow was the first president of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology.
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