The Gift of a Peak Experience

By Terri Klein

December 13, 2016

My ultimate concern: People are too “busy” to embrace the gift of an individual moment let alone to discover the gift of a peak experience.

My ultimate prayer: Everyone in his or her lifetime will be granted the gift of at least one peak experience, if not many.Last night I received that gift as I immersed myself in Sheridan College’s theatrical production of Dogfight, a heart wrenching and heart warming story of love, loss, and transformation.

The best way I can describe a peak experience is a combination of inner peace and contentment, a deep sense of complete satisfaction—experienced as pure unadulterated joy.

Maslow describes it as: the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.

During the show I felt a mixture of these feelings wash over me; I felt both fully present and fully engaged at a visceral level. I was consumed by the emotion and energy of each and every moment. I felt pride for my son’s leading role as well as awe and wonder for the music, set, design, and direction. And I was captivated by the talent, passion, drive, and energy of every single brilliant cast member.

Life is filled with friction—with “stuff” that gives us many opportunities to experience negative emotion. Our work is to be with and notice the negative, while not allowing it to consume us. Our work, too, is to find ways to access our customized toolkit and navigate our way through those difficulties.

Peak experiences are not the by-product of work. As a matter of fact, they oftentimes come as an unexpected gift. Yes, you can consciously choose to create them, but they don’t have the same impact as those that surprise you and simply show up!

I consider holding my newborn child a peak experience as much as I do a sacred family hug, the latter being much harder to come by once you’ve empty-nested.

What we define as a peak experience will always be a reflection of our core values. I believe wholeheartedly that artistic genius can move us towards that feeling of awe and wonder—to the brief absence of time and space awareness.

For this reason I support my son’s incredible journey in the arts and I go to theatre in search of those magical moments. We must never underestimate the power of song and of story.

Life can be messy, chaotic, and challenging, but the magical moments—the peak experiences—God-willing, they too are an important part of the journey.

For years now I have sought out experiences rather than things. Experiences can be cherished for a lifetime, but things provide something far more fleeting. (I learned this predominantly from this same son.)

My wish for you in this holiday season and the coming New Year is that you slow down enough to become mindful of the moments, for it is those moments added together that define your experience. And it is those experiences added together that define your aliveness.

May we all discover how to consciously co-create as well unconsciously receive these beautiful moments of grace. When we see life as an invitation, we can actually create the space for peak experiences to unfold.

Wishing you a memorable Holiday Season and a Healthy and Happy New Year!

Coach Terri


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