Edie Weinstein, shares insights on peak experiences and how to integrate them into everyday life.
Abraham Maslow described peak experiences as, “An almost overwhelming sense of pleasure, euphoria or joy, a deep sense of wonder or awe, feeling in harmony or at one with the universe, altered percepts of time and/or space, a deep feeling of love, greater awareness of beauty or appreciation, and a sense that it would be difficult or impossible to describe adequately in words.” In the midst of such events, there is a sense of transcendence that takes us beyond what we would consider our normal state of being. I have had many in my 60+ years on the planet. They have taken the form of achieving a long-held goal, such as completing grad school, becoming an interfaith minister, and interviewing the Dalai Lama. It happened when communing with intimate others in a variety of ways; some sexual, some platonic. They have arrived when I have been in nature, gazing at mountains while on Outward Bound, or tubing on the Delaware River. They have shown up in those aha moments that seem serendipitous, that had me asking, “Who thought this one up?”
When having what I call God-versations (discussions with the Divine), I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of sorts. I endeavor to maintain that lofty perspective each day. For some, it could be confused with manic mindset, this sense of being ‘on,’ high energy and forward propelling. I consider it my new normal since it is easy to live on autopilot and let life lead me, rather than taking charge of my perceptions of the experiences that occur daily.
I think of the children’s game called Shoots and Ladders. Sometimes you are at the top of the slide and sometimes plummet to the bottom. In the game and sometimes in life, a ladder is right in front of you, onto which you can climb from the abyss. No matter how deeply you plunge, a hand, a rope, or some other piece of equipment is often offered. You get to decide whether you accept the assistance or remain in gloom and doom mode.
Over the years, I have heard a particular question rendered by participants in a workshop I teach that is centered around relationships, communication and nurturing. The inquiry sounds like this:
I am all opened up here, have let myself be vulnerable and feel safe revealing my feelings. How do I merge back into my life after the workshop when I don’t have the type of support in my daily interactions that I have experienced here?
For many who attend, it is a revelation that they can experience a close connection with others, which meets needs, that in some cases, they weren’t aware that they had. Imagine feeling as if you were thirsty and that newfound bond with seeming strangers quenched your thirst. You drink your fill as you wonder where and when you will sip it again.
I reminded them:
Self-care is essential. For 3 1/2 hours, you were immersed in what I call, ‘love soup’. For some, it is an unaccustomed feeling that seems weird at first. It can leave you wanting more or pushing it away. Either is okay. Just listen to your needs and do what is healing. If you need to be with people, be with people. If you need some solo time, do that too. Other ideas include time in nature, time with animals, music, movement, healthy eating, swimming, baths, meditation, yoga, naps, drumming, massage, more cuddling.
Another phenomenon is what I have heard referred to as ‘con-drop’. It is what occurs after people attend conventions with those who are of like mind and heart. There are activities, parties, seminars, networking, sharing meals, sometimes deep exploration into what makes us tick. In such situations, all of those feel-good hormones, like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin start flowing. For a few days, our ‘normal’ lives at home are on hold. It may feel like an alternate reality.
I recall making a comment many years ago, when at a personal growth conference in New Mexico. It was my first time in the Land of Enchantment (it really is the nickname) and as I was driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, I noted that it seemed as if I was on another planet, since the arid and mountainous landscape was quite a departure from my gloriously green home on the East Coast. I said that once I returned to the ‘real world,’ it might be hard to integrate. The man I was speaking with, smiled and said that this was the real world too, just a bit different than what I was accustomed to and he encouraged me to, “Surround yourself with kindred spirits. Find your tribe.”