If we are lucky (or more likely touched by Grace), we will receive at least one peak experience in the course of a lifetime. Sadly this does not happen to many people and if it does, there is a tendency to keep it inside, scared by the reaction of others if we share it with the outside world.
I have been keeping quiet about my peak experience for more than 25 years. Finally I want to share it with anyone who will listen because I realize that this can help others who are grappling with the ordinariness of every day life and asking themselves ‘is this all there is?’
Psychologist Abraham Mallow coined the phrase ‘peak experience’ in 1964 and described it as a euphoric state where one loses all sense of time and space. He also described it as a high point on the path to self-actualization or achieving our full potential. It’s interesting to me that he discusses this during a time when people were experimenting with drugs and their outcomes. These moments I am sure can occur as a result of ingesting illicit drugs, but here I offer a word of caution. These occurrences are life changing and your life can either be changed for the better or the worse. In my naivety, I wanted to reproduce this feeling over and over again because it was so exhilarating. It took me a long time to realize that this is the definition of addiction. I had to come to terms with the fact that my real work required that first I learn to ground myself and live in my body and not live only in this magical, mystery world that I had briefly visited. As a result of this mid-life incident, I realized that the potential for my growth, my feelings, my understanding and my love was limitless and I no longer had to keep myself in a box. The great psychologist Carl Jung said that most people live as if they are walking in shoes many sizes too small (paraphrased). A peak experience will definitely move us out of those old shoes into a search for the right size. If this experience is brought on by drugs and not by more natural means, there is a huge risk that it will cause an immediate drug addiction as you continually seek to reproduce the feelings over and over again.
These are the main aspects of my peak experience: (I remember them as if it were yesterday)
- A feeling of peace and joy that I had never felt before or since and did not want to leave
- A sense of floating in an enormous ocean that was my home, my safety and my comfort.
- Listening to a voice of pure love sharing wisdom that I understood
- A sense of the eternal – there were no time restrictions or worldly thoughts.
- Feeling fully present to the sensations and feelings with no thought of my current reality.
The IMMEDIATE after effects of this important occurrence:
- Complete feeling of euphoria
- Sense that my nerve endings were raw and sensitive
- Driving down the street after the rain and notice the exquisite beauty of the trees and the green leaves after the rain. Seeing and being in awe at the reflection of the moon on the wetness of the road.
- Thinking I was seeing in 3D color as opposed to a previous life of monochrome black and white.
- Feeling as if I were a highly evolved energetic being from a different land.
- Feeling more fully alive and whole than I had ever felt.
THE NEXT DAY
- Thinking that I had lost my ground – it had opened up into another dimension which left me feeling confused, vulnerable and ‘upside down’. These feelings continued for some time and I found a Jungian therapist who was open and non-judgmental and helped me find some new ground in what felt like, a groundless state.
The LONG TERM effects:
- I began a new spiritual journey
- I saw this as a rebirth of sorts into a different life, because my perception had changed radically.
- I began in earnest to ‘make sense’ out of this experience. I continued to do this for many years until I realized that there are some things we cannot make sense out of and have to experience them as a gift of grace.
- Teachers and mentors came into my life to show me signposts along the way.
- The meaning of my life became important to me and I looked for ways to make it more meaningful.
- I changed my career and became more focused and self-directed.
When I look back over my life, this peak experience was definitely the moment that my life took a completely different direction. I can’t say it has always been easy, but it has always felt supported and guided. Over the years I have become wiser and better established on my spiritual journey. My roots have burrowed deeper into the earth as my branches have expanded and are reaching closer to the sun.
My life is now beautiful, rich, exciting and satisfying.
I feel I have skipped over so much in an effort to touch the highlights of this experience. Please send me your comments, questions and own memories of these special happenings.
What If This Road
What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way; around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what’s on the other side; who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story’s end, or where a road will go?
~ Sheenagh Pugh ~
(What If This Road)