Peak experiences are the most valuable deposits in our memory bank. It is described in psychology as transcendent moments of pure joy and elation. In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is located at the very top of the pyramid, representing the need to fulfill one’s individual potential. According to Maslow, peak experiences play an important role in self-actualization.
Other experts describe peak experiences as “a heightened sense of wonder, awe, or ecstasy over an experience, or a highly valued experience which is characterized by such intensity of perception, depth of feeling”, or it can be a “sense of profound significance as to cause it to stand out, in the subject’s mind, in more or less permanent contrast to the experiences that surround it in time and space.”
There are many other descriptions of what a peak experience really is. For me, it is a heightened spiritual experience. The best description of it though, would be based on actual experience. I will use the words of Russell E. Dicarlo in describing one.
“Blanketed by an azure sky, the orange-yellow rays of the setting sun can, at special times, gift us with a moment of such considerable beauty, we find ourselves momentarily stunned, with frozen gaze. The splendor of the moment so dazzles us, our compulsively chattering minds give pause, so as not to mentally whisk us away to a place other than the here-and-now. Bathed in luminescence, a door seems to open to another reality, always present, yet rarely witnessed.”
Above is a common experience, if one were to witness it during sunrise or sunset with an open heart and mind.
Now let me pull out one of my rarest experiences of it. It happened merely a decade ago. It was just an ordinary sunny Saturday morning inside the campus. No students are present except for those taking the Masteral classes. While waiting for the professor to arrive, we were standing outside of the gymnasium talking leisurely. Fronting the gymnasium was a small yard covered with grasses and of mixed plants and flowers planted along the wall of the fence. There was a tree with birds busy chirping and hopping under it. It was just an ordinary sight of busy birds looking for food and playing. However, suddenly a bird with a straw, around fifteen inches long, hanging down its beak flew swiftly in front of us. In the fleeting moment the most magical thing happened. Five feet above the ground, as the golden rays of the sun hit the bird and the straw floated ever so softly in the air, the bird and the straw turned gold before my eyes as if a golden spotlight from somewhere illumined upon it and made it glow. It glowed so luminously I was stunned. I seemed to be looking at a photograph. The bird froze and the time suspended. Everything was quiet as my eyes grew big in amazement and awe. I felt I was in another place and time away from everything. My spirit was ecstatic I forgot my physical body. Everything stopped. But reality immediately pulled me back as fast as it had let me go. Sensing that I was not alone in my ecstasy, I turned around and saw one of my classmates with a mesmerized expression on her face. Full of awe and in high spirits she asked me, “Have you seen it? Have you seen it?”All I could mutter was, “Yes, yes”. “It was so beautiful!” ”Yes it was.”And we both fell silent still asking ourselves if it was just an illusion while feeling the remaining taste of ecstasy that just entered in our memories.
Was I lucky? Was I blessed? I do not know.
They say that self-actualization is considered quite rare, which means that peak experiences can be equally elusive. In one study, researchers found that only about two-percent of individuals surveyed had ever had a peak experience. If this is true, does this mean that God plays favorites? I do not think so. In my experience, I will have one when my soul and spirit are in peace with God; when I commune with God regularly; when my mind is quiet; when I allowed God to take me wholly. And when I allow my mind to live in turmoil and give my full attention to the cares of this material world, these experiences are alien and yes, elusive.
In everything, God is still in command when He would give out or when He would hold back. We just have to do our part. Jesus told us that in order for us to enter the kingdom of heaven we should be like little children. Amazement and awe are inherent characteristics of children. We just have to open our spirit and our soul to every blessing that God is about to shower upon us. Most importantly, we should not put God in a box as if we already know completely who He is. He created the universe and us, and also of wonders, of things that are still undiscovered and unexplained by science. As long as our minds are open, He is willing to bring us to our ultimate peak experience.