Wilmeod Sissoon was a 37-year-old stay-at-home mother and wife when she decided to bike cross-country to raise money for the National Lung Association.

She didn’t even own a bike.

After training informally for a year and raising nearly $7,000, she set off from Seattle, Wash., to Washington, D.C.

She had plenty of adventures including sleeping in a teepee at a Crow Indian reservation and attending the inauguration of a new chief.

Twelve years later, Sissoon told researchers that the bicycle ride was still one of the most amazing times of her life.

Yet when she returned home, she fell into a long funk. “I’d done this fabulous thing. Now what?” she recalled. “I found it difficult to handle the daily responsibilities of grocery shopping and taking care of the kids.” She watched a few of her fellow riders get divorced and saw a therapist for depression.1

This is not uncommon with so-called “peak experiences.” They are euphoric and utterly thrilling when they happen, but the off-ramp is often steep and perilous.

When reaching for peak experiences, how do we insulate ourselves from the crash landing that inevitably follows?

Between the Shoulders

The final parshah of the Torah, Vezot Haberachah, describes Moses' passing, as well as the beautiful blessings he gave to each of the tribes.

For example:

And of Benjamin he said, “G‑d’s beloved one shall dwell securely beside Him; He protects him all day long, and He dwells between his shoulders.”2

Citing the Talmud, Rashi3 explains that this verse refers to the Holy Temple that was built in the land designated for the tribe of Benjamin. King David, who laid the groundwork for the First Temple, originally intended for it to be constructed on the highest peak in Jerusalem. Yet as he scouted out the area, his advisors reminded him of this verse which states, “and He dwells between his shoulders,” indicating that the Temple shouldn’t be on the highest peak, but just below it—similar to the shoulders which are just below the head.

And that’s exactly what happened. The Temple was indeed on a mountaintop, but it’s hardly the highest peak in the area.

The obvious question is why? Doesn’t it make sense to build the holiest and grandest structure dedicated to G‑d Himself on the highest point? Why not aim for the sky?

Just Below the Peak

The Temple’s unique topographical placement carries a profound lesson for each of us: even at your holiest hour, never be completely aloof.

The Temple was indeed an incredibly holy place, where you could actually see G‑d and experience His presence. Miracles occurred there every day, including mind-blowing feats such as an Ark that somehow took up space and didn’t take up space at the same time!

And yet, all of that holiness was never intended to remain exclusively in the Temple. Its point was to manifest G‑dliness in an earthly structure, and from there, to the entire world. Everything about the Temple was designed with this goal in mind: to introduce sanctity and purity of spirit not just to a hilltop in Jerusalem, but to Colorado, Nepal, and Lucerne as well.

As such, the Temple couldn’t be on the highest peak in town, because it would be just out of reach, too far removed from everyday reality to ever have any sort of earthly impact. A Temple high in the sky is a nice idea, but it’s not a Jewish idea. A Jewish Temple is holy, spiritual, and elevated—but not beyond reach of the common person.

Don’t Situate Your ‘Highs’ too High

You could easily think that it would be beneficial, even advisable, to retreat to some sacred space that is as far away from mundanity as a polar bear is from the Sahara from time to time. Life provides enough banal, mundane, and ordinary time, people, and experiences to keep you busy enough, so if once in a while you decide to escape it all and engage in something so radically pristine that it scares your friends, who’s to say you’re doing anything wrong?

And you may not be doing something wrong per se, but it is a bit misguided. Even the holiest place in the world was placed just a notch below “ecstasy,” to teach us that peaking is never really part of the plan. You must always remain with your feet tethered to the ground, no matter how much you want to escape.

Consider the current month of Tishrei. It’s chock-full of holidays, starting with the somber High Holidays followed by the joyous days of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. It’s a euphoric time, and if you really want, you can let yourself be swept up in the steady march of holy days and spiritual times.

But when you’re dancing in shul on Simchat Torah and feeling like your soul is on fire, recall the ordinary times and try to link the two. Your personal temple shouldn’t be so high that it can’t influence your regular life, because if it is, you run the risk of a major disconnect. A situation in which your high moments scale Mt. Everest and your regular life craters to the Dead Sea, never the twain to meet, is a dangerous setup that leads to discord and dissonance. Just ask the biker from Seattle.

Remember: Even Judaism’s holiest of holies was perched just a rung lower than the very top. And so you should do with your life: situate your high moments a notch below your highest point and let them reach down into the everyday.4