When was the last time that you peaked? Felt the exaltation of true bliss, the innocent delirium of fulfilling pleasure uplifting your consciousness to a reality shift? A peak experience is the kind of long lasting joy which is available to all of us, when we have our minds right, our goals aligned, and our peace on high priority. It goes something like this, set off for a late spring trek in the forest, you spent weeks researching the best trails in your area, and when the day happens that you experience it the whole day is soberingly magical. From the sunlit sky which illuminates all of the most ethereal mountains you contemplate the echo of time which has carved out these vistas, each vivid magenta blossom unfolding in the balmy breeze surrounding you is subject to your endless curiosity. A part of you falls in love with the panorama around you, you feel your heart rate increase and the energy coursing through your blood in a way that inspires excitement, enthusiasm, and wonder. You have arrived my friend, you are peaking, and even sustaining your life, rewinding your biological clock, and serving yourself for years to come with the newly created memory of this amazing experience. Answer this question, what was your last peak experience?
Having peak experiences are important for longevity, vitality, and bliss. Science backs this up, the field of positive psychology looks at how peak experiences serve us. Originally discussed by Abraham Maslow, he defined peak experiences to be the off shoot of a self-actualized persons capacity for enrichment and joy. Now, science take this a step further to study how they high-jack the layers of our cortex’s capacity for embedding memories and serving as the anchors upon which the healthiest of us define our lifelines. According to research featured in Time Magazine by Beirut neuroscientist Arne Dietrich when experiencing a peak moment, there is a change in the way our brains operate, we gain greater attention and even wonder in exchange for the usually flow of optimal energy.
The very pathway to desiring to go on the exotic trip to Tokyo, getting the MBA, reconnect with the long lost friend begins to create greater joy at the onset of imagining the experience. Unless of course you suffer from myopic thinking as associated with depression, or the motivation dampening effects of anxiety which are illustrated when imagining what it feels like when your imagination wanders to some new experience and you can see only the possible perils or failures, in which case your first step toward bliss might be reaching out to a therapist near you.
When we are peaking, we are as the great spiritual leaders like Buddha encourage us to be, we are not thinking of yesterday or fearing tomorrow, we are in the now, fully within the moment, completely submerged in our attention to what is around us. It is not just an individual journey either, within healthy relationships we notice the tendency for couples to recount the narratives of the last best novel joy that they have experienced together, instead of the counter tendency to rehash the last unprocessed argument.
What are peak experiences but those moments that earmark the years, they define the decades of our one earthly life. It’s the wind whipping in your hair while sailing the boat on the Chesapeake, it’s boldly dashing through the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon, its deepening your meditation practice and the upturned moment of full arm suspension in a yoga headstand. While nature is a great ‘one upper’ when it comes to peaking, let’s face it the grandeur of the great outdoors is seldom matched by man made creations, including the benefits of forest bathing, but there are still other ways to get to the top of our emotional climate. Falling in love is often cited as a powerful interpersonal peak experience. The experiences that will lead to a peak are different for everyone. You can find it by asking yourself this, ‘what really makes you feel tuned in?’ Whatever path you take to get to your peak, research recommends that creating more opportunities for peak experiences in our lives leads to enhanced happiness, enthusiasm, and even motivation. Thinking that you do not have time for peak, you have deadlines and day care to get to, well then you my friend, need a peak experience the most. The fact is that by prioritizing meaningful joy, we enhance our energy and motivation to achieve other tasks, remember in the words of Stephen King, ‘All work and no play makes jack a dull, dull, boy.’ The act of striving toward bliss accumulates and accelerates our good vibes as we gear up to approach our experience, then the great act of doing what makes us happy will later become memories which can be relived at leisure. We, as living breathing animals aware of our well-being, require the opportunity to define ourselves by wonder, to celebrate our capacity for joy by honoring our awe over the humdrum monotony of routine, fear, and disappointment.