“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”

Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher, writer, and founder of Taoism 

Think about it — when was the last time you felt ALIVE (like “out-of-your-body” and all mind-and-soul style)? 

It’s easy to get lost in the “daily grind” autopilot routines. But try to remember when you experienced something or someone who stirred you to the core. Did time freeze in place…and electricity-like tingles trace down your back, arms, legs? Or did your eyes start misting at the sheer beauty of the experience before you? Perhaps your heart dropped, flip-flopped…or pooled up with overflowing love…or existential fear.

The sublime cannot be defined, but we try to by describing it as “a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation”It’s an incredible feeling (often even feels “out of this world”) and can be evoked by:

  • Nature
  • Music (the inspiration behind this post–keep reading!)
  • The Act of Creating (writing, painting, etc.)
  • Meditation (or meditative/mind-body activities like yoga or running)
  • A Bonding Moment (chemistry/physical or emotional intimacy, an authentic/compelling conversation, holding a baby, etc.)
  • Whatever brings you personally there

And you don’t have to be on top of the (literal) mountains to feel this transcendent awe!  Sure, those amazing scenes or moments that hit you at the rarest unforeseen times are breathtaking. But we can SEEK the sublime in our everyday lives, too.

How so? By sinking inwards–exploring what peaceful/powerful stimuli we need or crave at that moment—and making that CONNECTION between your internal desires and whatever person, place or activity calls to you–right then and there.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher

Try “pressing the pause button” on your usual rat race of work or household duties—working overtime, cooking, cleaning, endless errand shopping, social media scrolling—so you can slow down and actually savor whatever experience or sight you want. . .and need.

Maybe that means watching a heartstring-pulling film (or show like This Is Us –expect all the feels). . .doing a meditation and full relaxation. . .finding a “secret nook” outside to read or journal by waterside (river, lake, ocean). . .or going out to an open meadow/hill/beach at night and simply staring at the infinite stars and whatever phase moon is in the sky.  You may not always (or even frequently) find the sublime by doing these things necessarily.  .but all too often the sublime will eventually “find” us. Just stay open!

Powerful music, for me personally, is a sensory experience that easily brings me to that sublime state of mind—often unexpectedly.  I haven’t seen an emotion-evoking concert since last winter watching The Staves (see in the 2nd video below).

That’s why I was thrilled that I got to attend a Bon Iver show this past weekend, which focused on his 10-year anniversary tribute to his Grammy award-winning album, For Emma, Forever. The band’s vocalist, Justin Vernon, created these desolate songs in complete isolation in his father’s northwestern Wisconsin cabin in 2007.

Let’s just say the haunting falsetto voice (and acoustic/electronic instrumentals) did not disappoint. No wonder I felt tears rolling down my cheeks during their Re: Stacks song–powerful stuff.  I knew I wasn’t the only one experiencing that intimate sublime moment…as I heard quite a few sniffles in the crowd. . .including my older brother(!).  The entire audience was 100% engrossed. Note that these videos do not do justice to the range and musical depth felt in the crowd/live.

While Re: Stacks is a love-lost song, it can touch anyone who is or has been in a dark place. The metaphor of gambling/the stacks of chips in maybe could express how we all make choice/”plays” in life…that either add immense value/wins in our life….and yet all can be taken away in an instant. The act of losing that special someone or something, for some, can turn into an endless spiral of self-destruction behaviors. Everything compiled for me in that 4-5 minutes of this song — thinking of my medical uncertainties, my brother’s depression, everyone affected this past and current year with gun violence deaths, you name it. Justin Vernon did an impeccable job of stringing out the sorrow in every note.


And if you like Bon Iver, you’ll also love The Staves (who have played directly with Bon Iver often in the past). This isn’t the exact show I went to, but this three-sister-band had one of the cleanest and chilling harmonies I’ve ever seen.

Whether music, nature or everything in between, never stop seeking for those things that leave you in awe. While it’s important to appreciate the simple pleasures, don’t forget to add some sublime moments, too. ?

Whether recent or past, what sort of pivotal sublime experience(s) have you had? Were you anywhere special? And what ways will you maybe try to invite more “everyday sublime” experiences to your schedule? Feel free to share some inspo below ?

Hannah Fredenberg

I'm Hannah - happy to meet you! I live in the (frequently chilly) Midwest city of Milwaukee, yet keep a sunny disposition year-round. I’m a corporate copywriter by day, creative blog writer by night (or morning). I light up my life with writing, reading, running, yoga & soaking in the Great Outdoors as often as possible. I'm here to help YOU dig deep and uncover your real roots (who you authentically are) so you can start to align your inner & outer worlds -- one step at a time.

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