The ecstatic high points in one’s life are known as Peak Experiences. Whether they contribute to one’s spiritual journey or not is up to the seeker. If repeated returns become the destination, then it can lead to a freezing of spiritual progress or addictive behavior. If it is used as a window into an understanding of higher consciousness, it can become a roadmap to enlightenment.
“One day, in between a pair of hurricanes in Florida, I walked into a Buddhist Temple located in a mini strip mall on the edge of the Everglades. I had heard that there was a traveling collection of the relics of the Buddha, which was worth the visit….
In viewing the relics I experienced a glimpse into the potential of human consciousness. The field surrounding the remains of Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha) and his “heart disciples” was profound in its radiance of a total integration of heart, mind and subtle body consciousness.
I discovered the ability to open to a profound state of heart and mind consciousness and facilitate others in this process. The result of all this has been a remarkable journey, one full of challenges and growth.” *
This was an example of a “Peak Experience”. It did not instantly transform me to that state of awareness permanently, but rather gave me a glimpse of what was possible. It was an insight into a higher state of consciousness; an invitation to that potential. In the spiritual arena, the “Near Death Experience” is a prime example.
On the positive side, peak experiences can be the catalyst for a paradigm shift, a healing on such a profound level it can totally alter the course of one’s life. The flip side, it can lead to an addiction to a particular state which then holds one back from any further progress. Drugs and alcohol work by suppressing the lower emotions which allows the user a glimpse into a higher state, the result of which is often a deep craving to return.
Peak experiences have been connected with scientific breakthroughs, music, sports, unique natural settings, and of course religious/ spiritual practices. It has also been observed during breakthroughs in times of war and extreme physical and psychological duress, when a person moves past the barriers of their limitations. These are of such a powerful nature that the experiencer is often driven to return as often as possible. Runners and cyclists come to mind, as they reach a high state of bliss when endorphins are released and can be maintained for fairly long periods. While they are not generally regarded as negative activities they often lead to dependence, and overindulgence can cause long term physical damage. The same effect can be achieved with much less effort through meditation and contemplation. For someone else, my experience would lead to becoming a devout Buddhist. Instead it was an opening to a deeper awareness of the interplay of love and consciousness.
Mother Theresa had a vision of Christ, and while driven by the promise she made to that vision, bemoaned the absence of its return, for the rest of her life. While the drive to fulfill her promise helped thousands if not millions, her feelings of abandonment tormented her, as evidenced by the written material released by the church.
At times we can misinterpret a peak experience and take it to mean something a little different than what it is. Some years ago I experienced a nonverbal field of communion with a woman which was staggering. I had never experienced such a profound level of connection with another, and it eventually led to relationship. Unfortunately, she had suffered childhood trauma, which caused an arrestment in her emotional development. Her resistance to work on releasing her wounds and deep seated anger complicated my own issues and made the relationship too painful to continue. It wasn’t that I made it all up; it’s that I came to a misread the clues. That high level of communion was only present during the peak experiences, not as an everyday reality. My own longing for a partner led to my projecting my desires on her and our experiences.
Many spiritual seekers visit elevated states, some of them quite high, only to crash into everyday reality. For some, the experience is so overwhelmeing that the rest of their lives is dedicated to chasing that experience. So they forge ahead like skipping stones, touching the fabric of the field, experiencing moments of bliss and expanded consciousness, until the moment when they stop trying and no longer bounce off. At that time they can sink into that which has been there all along, kept away only by the intensity of their struggle.
*Excerpted from “The struggle to Surrender: …”