of the usual or ordinary type; commonplace.
A garden-variety life is the antithesis of the epic moments of summertime travel, love affairs and festivals. In our culture we have a popular narrative that peak experiences are how we really experience being alive but they might be the very experiences that impede our capacity to truly feel alive. Our capacity to truly feel alive is nurtured and expanded by how fully we engage with each moment, especially the seemingly mundane. In our culture we tend to have grandiose ideas about what makes a life worth living, which is often centered around a reprieve from the ordinary day to day. Those grand moments in life are wonderful, there’s no doubt about that, but if you’re hanging onto those rare moments as the pinnacle of your existence then you will no doubt be doomed to suffer depression, apathy and numbness in your everyday life.
Inspirational writers and charismatic speakers will tell us that we need to experience peak experiences through psychedelics, ecstatic dance and community rituals in order to feel the rapture of being alive. However, I would argue that chasing these peak experiences is not only an avoidance strategy to the mundane humdrum of everyday life but actually makes it seem utterly unbearable in comparison. How is one supposed to return to family dynamics, sedentary jobs and maintaining relationships in ordinary life after having peak experiences? Do peak experiences actually change the way you live your everyday garden-variety life or are you just getting through it to have your next peak experience?
In my experience it is the seeking of ecstasy and rapture in the extraordinary events that actually deepen the apathetic hole of depression in everyday life. Peak experiences can reduce our capacity to feel the potential rapture in the seemingly ordinary. It is in cultivating a deep appreciation of commonplace things that I feel imbedded in the actual magical experience of being alive. Such things as making my bed (how amazing that I have a comfy bed!), calling my parents (how lucky am I that they are alive!), pausing to listen to my housemates latest conundrum (how precious little interactions can make us feel connected!), weeding the garden (how miraculous that all these plants grow!), having a shower (how luxurious have my own warm waterfall!), brushing my teeth (how privileged I am to have such good health!). All of these very mundane things do not feel overtly ecstatic but more like a subtle silent blessing that nullifies the drive to seek something more.
If what you seek is peak experiences this summer that is wonderful, soak it all up thoroughly and completely. And yet, be mindful that none of these experiences equate to long lasting happiness and fulfilment in everyday life. Everyone needs an integration period to return to the regular existence of washing the dishes and checking emails without dropping into an existential depression. What gets us through the mundane stuff without falling into depression is an active awareness and appreciation for the small and slow wonders. The domesticated, ordinary and tame state of being need not be felt as mediocre, lacklustre and boring.
While it is very good to feel wild and free, let us remember that the opposite is not mediocrity. Quick fixes, however crazy, sexy, beautifully appealing, do not exist. Peak experiences can actually desensitise us to the crazy, sexy, beautiful mystery in the humdrum all around us. There is a kind of illusion that peak otherworldly experiences reveal the most profound truths. In my experience the ordinary states of being are actually the most profoundly enlightening. So much so that seeking anything else seems to be an obvious impediment to truly feeling alive. Let us resensitise ourselves to truly feel the rapture of a garden-variety life.
Follow the link to our latest EARTHING THE EARTHLING meditation focusing on the feet in intimate contact with the earth to create a felt sense of grounded belonging.