spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
Georges Roualt’s Singer with a White Plume
Overseas Adventure Travel or OAT as travelers like to call it is a relentless organization. It’s the excess of material flooding both my online and home mailboxes rather than the quality of their tours that’s incredibly annoying. Several years ago I did let them take me to Eastern Europe where my only legitimate complaint was gobs of pork on our dinner plates. I couldn’t hold OAT responsible for the heat in Prague or for my packing four jackets.

But such a deluge of mail! Early this week the post office dropped off a packet too hefty for me to manage, so a neighbor carted it upstairs and heaved it into the hallway outside my door. Apparently, Alan & Harriet Lewis like me well enough to send me a 299-page, World of Discovery in 2013. Harriet is personally encouraging me to see Turkey right away. Perhaps, I am a great favorite of hers. So far no tweets,  a good thing.

By way of explaining why I may no longer be the best target for all the mail thrown at me by the Lewises of OAT, I reference the humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow says, “The sacred is in the ordinary.... travel may be a flight from confronting the sacred. To be looking elsewhere for miracles is to me a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.”

I would not have chosen to use the term “ignorance” to characterize people who like going other places. Certainly genuine curiosity to see and know the world motivates me, yet I find the life I am living right now to be a source of great excitement, no matter how mundane its activities.

In Toward a Psychology of Being, Maslow writes about “the most wonderful experience of your life: the happiest moments, ecstatic moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music or suddenly ‘being hit’ by a book or painting, or from some creative moment.”  These miraculous moments can be thought of as “peak experiences.”

I don’t seek miracles or even “peak experiences” – those  blissful moments of discovery that increase awareness and understanding, that cause a loss of self-consciousness and a sense of connection with all – anywhere but where I am. None of my “peaks” took place on foreign mountaintops, nor even on the bullet train whizzing past Mt. Fuji when I lived in Japan.

Maslow said meditating in far off monasteries isn’t necessary nor is travel a requirement if one is to have an encounter that feels like a “peak experience.” And that has certainly been the case for me.

For me those moments of increased awareness and understanding, that loss of self-consciousness came from such disparate sources as a painting by Georges Roualt exhibited in a local gallery, the black outline transfixing me. An athletic contest played with consummate skill by a local team, and exquisite musical moments at the opera, many during the Ring Cycle at the War Memorial Opera House, which is within walking distance. In each peak experiences I was dumbfounded in a good way like I’d experienced an unrepeatable event, and I felt at one with the world, transfixed or transported.

Another of those nowhere-special, standout moments occurred when I was teaching journalism in Los Angeles and stayed late to experiment with page design. I was so in the flow of the activity that time and I disappeared into focus and detail. And another was seeing a short play I co-wrote with Corky, my then girlfriend, being performed in a playwriting workshop by equity actors. It was a peak experience watching two actors recreate Corky and me in a 20-minute snippet of our lives.

These moments are little miracles, “peak experiences,” during which I felt more at one with the world and myself.  I have read that as we age, such peaks are likely to flatten into plateaus. The upside is that conscious diligent effort like meditation makes possible these gentler, more sustained states of serenity. It is my intention to feel happiness, even occasional ecstasy, interconnection and harmony without or despite persistent reminders from OAT to go somewhere else.

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