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<p>Certain highly emotional experiences have the potential to produce long-lasting and meaningful changes in personality. Two such experiences are spiritual transformations and experiences of profound beauty. However, little is known about the cognitive appraisals or narrative elements involved in such experiences, how they are similar, and how they differ. In a study of emotion-related narratives, these experiences were found to share many features but also differ in their valence. Experiences of profound beauty are almost always positive, but spiritual transformations are both positive and negative. Moreover, spiritual transformations seem to produce long-lasting change, but experiences of profound beauty, although evocative, do not seem to produce long-lasting change. An emotion approach helps to elucidate two understudied but important emotional experiences.</p>
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This essay seeks to explore contemplation as it features in Christian theology and philosophy, both ancient and modern. Contemplation, in ancient philosophy, is transformed in Christian theology; nonetheless, it has the structure of what Jean Wahl calls ‘transascendance’, a rising to the heights. Although contemplation remains as a theme in modern Christian theology, it drops out in modern philosophy: that is, post-Renaissance philosophy. And yet it returns, both in analytic and continental philosophy, in the twentieth century. It returns, however, in the mode of ‘transdescendance’: by way of conditions of possibility, and fundamental orientations.

Raised in the tumult of Japan's industrial powerhouse, the eleven men and women profiled in this book have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. They are today artists, philosophers, and farmers who reside deep in the mountains of rural Japan. Their lives may be simple, yet they are surrounded by the luxuries of nature, art, contemplation, delicious food, and an abundance of time. For example: Atsuko Watanabe is an environmentalist and home-schooler who explores Christian mysticism while raising her two daughters in an old farmhouseAkira Ito is an ex-petroleum engineer who has become a painter and children's book illustrator and explores the role of "chi" (life energy) in the universe through art and musicKogan Murata grows rice and crafts elegant bamboo flutes that he plays for alms in the surrounding villagesJinko Kaneko is a fine artist and fabric dyer who runs a Himalayan-style curry restaurant in the Japan AlpsBy presenting the journeys of these ordinary--yet exceptional--people, Andy Couturier shows how we too can travel a meaningful path of living simply, with respect for our communities and our natural resources. When we leave behind the tremendous burdens of wage labor, debt, stress, and daily busyness, we grow rich in a whole new way. These Japanese are pioneers in a sense; drawing on traditional Eastern spiritual wisdom, they have forged a new style of modernity, and in their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters.Andy Couturier is an essayist, poet, and writing teacher. He lived in Japan for four years where he taught, was a journalist, and worked on environmental causes. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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