Your thoughts are very similar every time you work. Who your employer is, the type of work, and how much you’re paid are all irrelevant details if you can settle into your rhythm. The working version of you arises after you start working and it subsides after you stop.
Most store trips, movies, and meals are just variations of your themes. Each theme is a particular version of your mind typified by specific types of thoughts.
When you unconsciously boot into a theme, you’ve got a habit. Addictions and the dreaded rut are the bigger, uglier cousins of habits. Pretty much any focus or activity can get bigger and uglier.
The irrelevant details are the scenery – things like the season, the distractions in our minds, and the specific states of physical being we bring into it. A walk outside in the winter can be identical to a walk outside in summer. A preoccupied walk to work can be just a variation of a casual Sunday morning exploration. It just depends where your head’s at.
Peak Experiences of Doing
We all continuously arise into and subside out of mind themes. The only exceptions are the times of being “in the zone” at the top of the curve and the times when your mind is utterly still at the bottom of it. Both are highly prized and rare experiences. These are the peak experiences.
When you become them, time stops and your activity becomes effortless. You become single-minded.
Peak experiences don’t happen just because you do new things. You probably have an established theme that arises every time you do something new and another that arises every time you do something for the last time. In all the great variety of your doing, there aren’t very many variations of how you do things.
Your chosen approaches to the world heave like your breath. You arise to work and subside from work. You arise to shopping and subside from it. Your mind breathes work, shopping, watching movies, eating, walking, and pretty much everything else. The peak experiences are pauses after inhaling or exhaling.
Peak Experiences of Being
Just as most of your activities carry your basic rhythms, most everything you perceive carries your basic emotions. The trees, the rocks, the toys, and the books are almost never neutral. When you’re angry, everything irritates you. When you’re sad, everything seems lifeless and without any relevance. You flavor this dream you wander, although it might seem like the dream is flavoring you.
Emotions are cyclical and curved just like the mind’s themes. They’re actually the same thing viewed in a different way. Particular mind themes correspond to anger, sadness, or wholeness in you. As the themes arise, so do the emotions. As they subside, you return to your base emotional state.
At the top and bottom of the curves, during the peak experiences, there is single-mindedness. It’s wholeness of focus, which is wholeness of mind and holiness of perception. The world becomes a cathedral. The sky, stars, or just the ceiling in your house become exalted and spacious. Everything seems poised and thriving. Each leaf and rock participates in holy observance with you. The peak experiences of being are the treasures of mindfulness and the jewels of inspired creativity.
Choosing Peak Experiences
Recovered (and recovering) addicts know about mental and emotional cycles, although they might not think about them in quite those terms. There are certain triggers (mental or physical cues) we have programmed into ourselves that start us arising into particular mind themes. Whether we enjoy those states, or call them positive or negative, is a different question. They’re learned behaviors without moral qualification. For addicts, of course, the focus is avoiding destructive themes. It works and it’s damned hard.
When you begin arising into a theme or feeling you don’t want, you can change course if you know what’s happening. You can catch your arising and subsiding. You can monitor and encourage your arising into particular mind themes and emotions. It starts by knowing your triggers and states, then becomes choosing triggers. Any activity can arch into peak experience if you give yourself wholly to it. The type of activity is far less important than your mindset and your emotion.
Work doesn’t have to be about anxiety and productivity. Exercise and diets don’t have to be about willpower. Nothing in life needs to be the way that it’s advertised. All your work can be about compassion or service. All your exercise can be about connection with the earth and all your diet can be about purity. And you can give all your attention and mind into any activity with such a positive theme.
You can choose that any activity be spiritual, holy, or peaceful. You can choose that any experience be happy.