“I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.”
― W.B. Yeats, The Winding Stair and Other Poems
Yeats’ poem above describes a moments of intense meaning (or what Abraham Maslow referred to as a ‘peak experience’). Positive psychology researcher Paul Wong describes a ‘meaningful moment’ as having four components:
- It is deeply felt – We may associate meaning more with the cognitive faculty but actually meaning is also based on emotion. We experience meaning when we feel something deeply, when an experience touches us, when we are moved by something. This is more than a fleeting feeling but something that reaches the inner recesses of our being.
- It is deeply processed – this means that it goes beyond facts and superficial or shallow levels of processing and experience. In the same way that a meaningful experience touches us deeply, it is also processed at deeper levels of our being.
- It is enlightening – this refers to the fact that the experience is educative. Through the experience we see, discover, or realise something new. Or perhaps the experience helps us solve a problem or overcome some challenge.
- It is transforming – the experience changes you in some way; it is enriching, restorative, or alters the course or direction of your life by perhaps igniting a sense of purpose and passion.
Can you think of examples of meaningful moments from your own life? What domains of your life do they show up in? Work, relationships, education, achievements, interests and hobbies etc.? Either write, draw, recall, or share with someone a meaningful moment from your life. Describe:
- What was the experience like? How were you affected by it emotionally?
- How did you process it? Did you keep returning to it through memory to integrate it? How did you process the experience? (Through thinking, feeling, imagination, felt sense etc.?)
- In what way was this experience enlightening? What did you learn?
- How did it change or transform you?