Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Words for Peak Experiences

I like to make lists.

For a long time, I've been working on a list of words that represent peak experiences.

Peak experiences is a term first coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow uses this term to mean "moments of highest happiness and fulfillment." Peak experiences usually occur "during athletic, artistic, religious, or nature experiences, or during intimate moments with a friend or family member."

Epiphany is a word author James Joyce uses to mean the "sudden revelation of the whatness of a thing," or "when the soul of the commonest object seems to us radiant."

Psychologist William James talks about mystical states of consciousness, the underlying roots of religious experience. James goes on to further define the mystical states of consciousness as being defined by four characteristics: (1) defying expression in words, (2) direct insight into depths of truth unplumbed by mere intellect, (3) transient, and (4) self-transcendent.

Aldous Huxley, in hopes of entering a different state of consciousness, tried the drug mescaline, and describes the experiences as "the moment the doors of perception open."

Satori is a Buddhist term meaning enlightenment. A short exchange leading to satori is a koanKensho means seeing into one's own true nature. Satori is often used interchangeably with the word kensho. Kensho is generally considered a brief experience while satori is a longer-lasting experience.

Wu wei is action without effort, creative quietude, oneness of spirit.


Athletes often use the term in the zone. Others call it being in the moment or being engaged.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses the word flow to describe a peak experience. Flow is characterized by being fully involved in what one is doing.

Author Vladimir Nabokov uses the word upsilamba to describe the joy, a tingle in the spine one feels while reading.

Play is thought of by many to be a peak experience.

Poet Jane Hirshfield speaks of the enchantment of rhythmic regularity.

An optimal experience is to experience deep enjoyment, creativity, with total involvement in life.

Zhuang Zhou found that the greatest of human happiness comes when one sees deeply into the nature of things, when one has what he calls great knowledge.

Author Maira Kalman suggests walks to allow one's brain to empty.


Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky at Bermuda Onion!

For more wordless photos, go to Wordless Wednesday.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy ReadsTo participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at West Metro Mommy Reads.


  1. fascinating post - wishing you a peak experience!

  2. Marvelous post and photos! Thanks so much for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2020/05/a-surprise-visitor.html

  3. Lovely post, the photos and the words. A moment of peace. Thank you for that!

  4. Marvellous post, Deb! Such a fascinating peek into a 'peak' experience that we often might encounter without even realising it is one! I've had a couple of them too am sure but perhaps not consciously, as you describe it here.

    Wonderful food for thought this #wordlesswednesday! Thank you for sharing and for joining us this week. Happy #ww Deb and wish you a blessed week ahead.

    Best wishes,

  5. Beautiful words and beautiful photographs.

    Thank you for joining the Happy Tuesday Blog Hop.

    I hope you had a fabulous Happy Tuesday. ♥

  6. I love this post! Like Sandee, I enjoyed the words as well as the photos.

  7. Love the beautiful words and fabulous photos!

    Happy Wednesday!

  8. I am embracing upsilamba, but will never remember how to spell it much less say it. I love reading YOU!

  9. Such lovely words. Thanks for the reminder Deb.

    I hope you experience Satori and bliss.

    Thanks for this interesting post and lovely images to go with them.

    Have a wonderful week!

  10. Very nice post in words and pictures !

  11. Your post is great! Such a neat idea to put all these terms and authors together, especially epiphany and satori.

    be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  12. Now this is an interesting post ...... learnt something new Deb

    Have an Elysian week ahead (blissful, paradise like)

  13. I think too much even when I'm walking.

  14. This is a very special post. Congratulations on such a meditative combination of pictures and definitions.


Please share your thoughts.