Peak Experiences in Self-Actualization: Gifts That Transcend Your Head

Decisions, frustrations, squirrel energy and caffeinated thoughts. I’ve been in my head too much lately. Check-lists and ringing phones have left my spirit mechanical and my soul longing for poetry, beauty and prose that flows. I wish for living that transcends the business end of it. Please Universe extend some humanity, some oneness, a sprinkle of stillness and a sense of awe.

Self-Actualization and Peak Experiences: What We Live For

Abraham Maslow included peak experiences in his list of characteristics of the self-actualized individual.  Self – actualization is the tippy top level of being on Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.*  A self-actualized person has all their basic needs for food, shelter, protection, belongingness and esteem satisfied and rises to an existence that includes the desire to self-fulfill or become everything that one is capable of becoming. Self-actualized individuals have a propensity for peak experiences; intense moments of joy, awe, wonder, oneness and ecstasy. Following such experiences the being is strengthened, renewed, inspired.

Have You Ever Had Your Breath Taken Away By…

Music: The purity of one note sung into the sun that originates in the earth rises through  bodies and rests in tears that spring from jaded eyes. Songs reminiscent of long ago scents, settings and the sideways smile of an old lover. Space between lyrics where souls wedge in and expand. Singing without thinking because you are in a good place.

Kindness: Love when there could be bitterness. A hand that reaches for yours when you are mired and distant in your own sadness. An offer of listening with no expectation of repayment. Selflessness that makes you want to be a better person.

Resonance: Stories that powerfully echo your own. To be known. Kinship based on common joy and suffering. Meeting the eyes of others and seeing yourself in them. A connection that makes you a little more brave, less alone.  Message received. I feel you. I am you.

The Humanities: Art, music, theater, philosophy, literature, history, religion. Clarity from the ether of imagination manifested into words, melodies, dialogue, prayers. Bold art that whispers to your heart. Literature that befriends and awakens. Weeping from beauty and catharsis. The human condition defined and transcended.

Empathy: A child sobs when he learns of the tormented life of another. Witnessing the belittling of another and never being the same again. An ache felt deeply for another. Raw compassion. What moves us to help.

Stillness: The hours in the morning before the house is up. God, the Universe, your inner voice or your imagination speaking through silence. The moments after you ask for help and the ones after it is received. The pause and quiet beneath the veneer of noise. Where peace and metaphors come from. A calm to be found within and without.

Nature: Retreating to the woods to feel small and infinite at the same time.  A non-judgmental sanctuary of light and silence. Hearing morning doves outside your bedroom window the day after your lover moved out. Feeling less alone. Watching with your children as a hawk circles and pierces the edgeless sky.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in flow and awe.  To attempt to put into words the ineffable. To escape my clockwork mind.

I feel much more connected to myself and you.

Do you think introverts have more peak experiences than extroverts? What do you need to reconnect with yourself?  Tell me of a peak experience that changed you.   

*At least on the most commonly referred to versions of the pyramid.  Maslow later added a level about Self-Actualization he called Transcendence.

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