The Real Peak Experiences of Life
My son had a friend to sleep over. At 1am they woke me up saying that the friend was feeling anxious and wanted to go home. They told me this happens often on sleepovers and that he wakes up, feels frightened and the host of the sleepover drives him home or his parents come to collect him. He said, ‘I’m too anxious Clare, will you take me home?’
Sometimes I look at my image in zoom meetings and see a reflection that is so ugly I can barely look at it. The thought of people seeing this is awful. How can I get beautiful enough that I like what I see?
A recent course in our membership programme included a module on shame. A participant emailed me saying, ‘I am ashamed of every aspect of me and my life. I am ashamed of the life I live, my lack of motivation or achievement. I am ashamed of how unfit I am. I am ashamed of having nothing interesting to talk about and no friends to talk to. How can I make myself something I am proud to be?
A listener sent this question into the podcast “My fiancée broke up with me last month because he felt he was too young to settle down. I am devastated. I think of him all the time from the moment I wake up. I would do anything to get back with him. My life is nothing without him. How can I get him back?”
At secondary school I went through a period of time of no friends. My diary from that time is full of pages either strategising about how to get people to like me or proclaiming how much better off I am alone.
We all have versions of these. Maybe ours are more or less extreme. Maybe they relate to other aspects of our life.
What they have in common though is they all involve:
- unwanted emotions that must somehow be got rid of
- a sense of ourselves as vulnerable, unstable, not enough or incomplete
The suffering is intolerable. To get rid of it, it looks like we must do whatever is the only solution given the experience of self and other currently being lived.
I am anxious here so to stop suffering I must leave.
I am ugly so to stop suffering I must be more beautiful.
I am ashamed of what I am so to stop suffering I must be different.
I am nothing without that person so to stop suffering I must get him/her back.
I am lonely and isolated so to stop suffering I must try to make people like me or justify my situation.
When none of this is questioned, life is dictated by two unconscious drives:
1. The on-going attempt to end the suffering
2. Acting on whatever beliefs in self and other indicate is the way to end the suffering
This inevitably results in a life that gets progressively smaller, more vigilant, more defensive, more desperate and more removed from reality. And this can last a lifetime. It can result in real damage to self and other. It is the basis of our every day insanity.
What we don’t realise is that all of these moments of suffering combined with that lived experience of a separate, limited, vulnerable me are not the issue they appear to be.
On the contrary, they contain all the necessary elements for a deeper, truer, more aligned and more expansive sense of existence.
They are a portal through which healing is possible and actual reality can be accessed.
I call such a moment ‘a Real Peak Experience’.
A real peak experience is a moment in which the whole system (physical, psychological, emotional, conscious, subconscious) shifts from unquestioned living and defending of a limited, separate, incomplete self-identify to a sense of our true self as beyond all identification, thought, belief and struggle.
It is a shift in the believed reality of what we are and what reality is. It is a falling away of what is not true. It is the emergence from deep within the subconscious of buried beliefs, patterns, protection rackets that become visible, understood and healed perhaps for the first time in our lives.
All of the examples above have the potential to meet those criteria. They also, when lived unconsciously, have the potential to ‘re-traumatise’ the body mind system, providing more evidence of the belief in ourselves as wrong, lacking and incomplete.
The suffering is a sign to stay still. Stay still and present in the feelings. Allow them to be there. Recognise that these are feelings from the past that need to be felt.
Notice the narrative of mind, self and identity. There is no need to act on it. The narrative of mind is never true.
This is not ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. This is not a building up, through gritted teeth, of an identity of someone who is strong, immune and capable.
It is the dissolving of the identity. It is a presence to and allowing of all sensation, all experience in that moment.
It is the allowing of the wounded inner child to be heard, acknowledged and to - finally - move out of the driving seat. A place they were never equipped to be.
We spend our lives chasing the good stuff - the right emotions, the right experiences, the right people and circumstances.
While all along - in the midst of our greatest discomfort and desperation - the real peak experiences are waiting to be had.