I got up on my feet, and I did work with that ‘towards’ vision of tidying up and tying up the loose ends of the busy last few weeks. It was very satisfying: not only did I get a lot done, but by being specifically ‘up on my feet’, I processed a lot of stress out of my body. I had a sense of flow and of moving the energies, my own and those in my space.
This morning I’ve been reading about Maslow’s concept of ‘peak experiences’, in Colin Wilson’s foreword to his book Super Consciousness: The Quest for Peak Experience (2009) (SC). Maslow originally contacted Colin Wilson in the mid-1960’s to discuss Wilson’s earlier book , The Age of Defeat (1959) which is about the strong ‘defeat-bias’ in literature of the 20th century (eg Sartre, ‘It is meaningless that we live and meaningless that we die.’). Colin Wilson writes:
“Maslow told me he … also had a deep conviction that human nature had been ‘sold short’ by modern psychology – Freud in particular – and that we ought to take account of what he, Maslow, called ‘higher ceilings of human nature‘. What fascinated me was Maslow’s concept of the ‘peak experience‘ (he called them PE’s) – the experience of sudden overwhelming happiness, the feeling that life is wonderful: this, Maslow discovered, seems to to happen to healthy people on a regular basis.
Here is a typical PE. A young mother was sitting watching her husband and children eating breakfast, when she was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of how much she loved them and how lucky she was: she went into the ‘peak experience’. But note this: she was lucky before she went into the peak experience. The peak experience simply involved becoming aware of how lucky she was.” (SC p3)
Wilson notes how the Romantic poets (and other ‘outsiders’) would have fleeting, profound, blissful access to this ‘other mode of consciousness’ in which one can perceive the transcendence of life, and then, to their despair watch it ebb away. (In my last entry I wrote about the cranky, humdrum everyday; versus the alternative state of awareness, bliss, mirth, and being held in the moment.) Wilson questions the Romantics’ and Maslow’s assertion that these moments of entry to ‘the other mode’, the PE, are outside our control and that we have to wait for them. So do I. The book Super Consciousness apparently outlines what Wilson learnt in his quest to discover how to provoke the Peak Experience. As does this writing. Awesome. There is so much to discover and play with.
I do believe we are in a new era when, thanks to advances in psychology, consciousness and simply the ease of modern life, we have so much more access to choice around our thinking. How could we have had this choice before we understood the amygdala, the autonomic nervous system… Oh, unless we had taken a Buddhist approach… but the West perhaps had to arrive at the notion of peak experience from another angle. Just as Buddhist cultures have had to come at materialism from another angle.
And we can indeed foster the good thought that edges us into Peak Experience. I love this: Maslow talked to his students about peak experiences and got them to recall their own. ‘What was so interesting was that, as the students talked to one another every day about their peak experiences, they began having peak experiences all the time.’ (Wilson, SC, p4) There’s something around the notion of priming our brain for the good-feeling thought. I think that’s where the gratitude practice comes in. It’s about finding ways to keep the plates of ‘awareness of good fortune’ spinning nicely – and to let those plates (or simply even, the activity of spinning those plates) settle at the forefront of our attention. Where our attention goes, energy flows.
So what is my learning here and my practice next in this field of PE’s?
That ‘young mother’ becoming aware of how lucky she was. What is your equivalent?
I guess to look around at my beautiful new home, and the extraordinarily beautiful people in my life, and consider how I am really thriving, particularly in light of my career change of a few years ago…
And what about the quality of your relationships?
Ha! Sometimes, I add an edginess of ‘concern’ with regards to my relationships. I know where you’re going. I often doubt the quality of my relationships – I suspect that people are frustrated, disappointed, worried, angered by my actions or behaviours. And that gives me plumptons. And stress.
Would it be possible to bring that sense of wonder, joy and awe – that awareness of ‘how lucky I am’ – to your perception of your human relationships – all of them?
I see a glimpse of what you mean. On the one hand I can look around my life and confidently say, ‘Wow, beautiful! I am so blessed. Everything is unfolding wonderfully’, but on the other, I tend to bring a certain concern and doubt to my human relationships. Probably a clear byproduct of my Aspergers, and some bruising human experiences. Could I overcome that, I wonder..? I’m not sure.
It is apparent to those of us who love you that you are perplexed by relationships, and that you pour a great deal of energy into keeping them on track. But also we might note that you don’t actually need to assume you are ‘in the the red’ with everyone. It would not be hubris or folly to assume the support of the people in your life.
Ah, like the brilliant public-speaking teacher, John Dawson (Speaking Infront) says: ‘assume support‘. Assume the support of your audience, and enter into a state of relational presence with them.
This is so different to the way I perceive people I might be working for, or selling to, or in friendship with even. I assume their inner rage boiling up at me. I anticipate their disgusted judgment of my failure to meet their expectations. Etc etc… I am incessantly in a spin of ‘vectoring off’ the disappoint of others.
What would it look like to assume that others support you, for you and as you?
I feel this sense of relief, and possibility, and potential creativity…
So, let’s assume that we are lucky enough (nb: awareness of good fortune is the door to peak experience) to have the support of all the wonderful people in our lives. And all the non-wonderful people too! 😉
Well, that scenario turns everything on its head. It up-ends my day! It means that my inbox is not menacing me with an angered tut-tut-tut. It could mean that my inbox becomes a clustered corral of friends, supporters, helpers and allies. Wow…
How lucky! How very lucky you are indeed, to have so many friends, supporters, helpers and allies in your life.
But what about all that guilt? How will I get up and out up bed in my days, if not through the pinching sting of guilt and fear?!
Good question. Well, maybe the warm, attractive pull of all that great friendship and support would be enough to stir you from your bed…?
Imagine if all those people in my inbox were friends…
Important distinction here: not all of them need to be friends. Let them be supporters too. ‘Friends’ says ‘two-way energy’…
‘Everyone is my friend and everyone likes me’ is a complex statement.
‘People are generally willing to be supportive’ is much less complex.
Sometimes we need to let people support us, without our diligently ‘supporting them back’. For example, you really don’t need to spend 10 minutes writing a great review of the call-handler who helped solve your bill problem. It is ok to receive support as given, without needing to pay the balance on some imagined karmic debt to that person. You can pay it forward to the next person instead. Assume support. Receive support. That’s ok. Fill up the batteries. You are not draining another by accepting their support. For many, giving support to you fills their batteries. So relax and receive the support with joy, grace and a keen awareness that this is, dear friend, a supportive, abundant, benevolent universe, and it’s got your back.
Lovely. Thank you. <3
I am assuming the support of others (“How lucky I am!”)