Here’s the question- how do we work and live and be immersed in the vicissitudes of regular working life- with its countless small and large annoyances, difficult people, and regular challenges- while continually improving our thinking?
Last post I described my unusual extended peak experience when I was 22. With no real external causes, my thinking and experience of the world shifted into a different state, where everything was amazing, glowing, and spiritualized, on some level. I’ve only read about other people having this experience. It lasted six months, and I felt like I made a conscious choice to let it go.
Why, why let something like that go?
Having experienced it, from the inside, it feels remarkably attainable. At 22 one is a fairly lucid adult, though still rather innocent. So I have a clear memory of what it was like, and how it prompted certain follow up decisions.
An experience like that gives one momentum to do things. But to maintain it, at least at that young an age, I think would have required a certain type of lifestyle- or removal from the regular world- that perhaps wasn’t what I wanted then (or now).
Because there are still so many exciting things to do in life that are hard to experience from inside that place. It didn’t feel fragile, and it wasn’t, but there were certain requirements to its maintenance. One of which, for me, would have been working as an artist. Which I didn’t want to do at the time (or now).
I am, what I would call very happy in a regular way now. In love, newly married, love my work, love our house and life together. That’s regular happy. The peak experience I’ve been describing is significantly and substantially different from regular happiness, and I wasn’t happy in any sort of ‘regular way’ just prior to when it occurred.
Years later I read something about the Buddhist Eight Fold Path, one of which is Right Livelihood or Right Work. According to this teaching, part of the path to enlightenment requires right work- appropriate work, fulfilling work, noble work. It explicitly prohibits five industries (weapons, poisons, meat, intoxicants, and trade in humans), but perhaps more implicit is the personalized experience of “right work.” It would provide for your needs, provide for your family, and support or integrate with the community.
Here’s what I know: part of existing in, even for part of the time, a peak state is creative thinking. It’s new thinking. It’s fresh thinking. It’s self-directed thinking.
There are certain types of work that support this, and some that don’t. But it’s an individual thing. Through trial and error, I feel like these are the elements I need in work to also have the opportunity for peak thinking:
1. freedom of schedule
2. limited computer use
3. making things
Daniel describes this choice of letting go of that peak experience as “wanting to gain mastery over life.” Inside of a peak experience, regular life looks amazing. It looks like it has some emotional turbulence, but that’s all ok- emotions are really no big deal. Rather than living at a slight remove from the world- which might have been all I could have had in the way that peak experience occurred- I need to mature more, and learn to access it in a way that was consciously, deliberately created. To be able to live in the flow of regular life- doing work and having businesses and making things, having relationships and friendships and regular types of love- while deliberately and persistently improving one’s thinking so that the peak experience is always available- that’s the new goal.