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Pure Experience

leafsomov“I suddenly realize that at last after more than seventy years of looking I see things as they are – what a phrase, “as they are” – and not, as in all past years, wrapped in concepts, e.g. man, woman, flowers, trees.  I see them now as islands of black and white that move, or spots of color making a herbaceous border or a garden of flowers. […] If the adult gives oneself over to the pure sensation, then he [she] experiences a fusion of pleasure and sensory quality which probably approximates the infantile experience… The emphasis [of my looking] is not on any object but entirely on feeling and sensation.”

Joseph Lyons wrote this in 1974, in his book “Experience: an Introduction to a Personal Psychology.”

We don’t have to wait until we are seventy or older to suddenly discover this capacity in ourselves.  This non-conceptual way of seeing reality “as it is” is available more or less on demand, with a bit of practice.

What’s the formula?  What’s the method?  The process of getting there is not an easy one to describe.  To put it simply (and, thus, to run the risk of great oversimplification), you have to practice flowing with sensation and knowing how to disengage from the interpretive, labeling eddies of your mindstream.

Let me give you an example of how this works.  Last Friday I was waiting on my wife to finish her Pilates training session in the Market Square of Pittsburgh.  I had about an hour to kill so I walked over to Amazing Books (a hole-in-the-wall bookstore with high ceilings and visibly low over-head) and picked up a book of poetry by Indian sages of the past.  I went back to the Market Square – it was close enough to a lunch hour, a hundred or so people milling around, eating lunch, enjoying the autumn sun, someone was doing Johnny Cash songs.  I squatted down by a wall and flipped to a random page.  It was songs of Nanak.  I saw this verse: “from listening sin and sorrow disappear.”  I picked up a leaf and snapped the picture you see in this post.  Put the leaf back on the sidewalk (where it belonged) and closed my eyes to listen to the busy din of the market place.  Almost immediately I vanished.  Now and then, the sense of “I” would reappear – always on the heels of some kind of interpretive fragment.  My mind – out of its labeling habit – would try to identify something and I’d brush it off, dismiss it… and, in so doing, dismiss myself… and once again vanish into Reality “as is.”

This is not a description of a peak experience.  Peak experiences are hard to orchestrate.  This is a description of what Lyons would have probably called a “pure experience” – an experience that you can have on demand with just a bit of practice, an experience that I sometimes refer to as “interpretive silence.”

Nanak says: “Those who hear flower forever.”  I don’t know about forever… But definitely those who hear flower now. 

Pure Experience

Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. Several of his books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the Mindfulness Project (London, UK). Somov has conducted numerous workshops on mindfulness-related topics and appeared on a number of radio programs. Somov's book website is and his practice website is

Marla Somova, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the co-author of "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011).

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APA Reference
Somov, P. (2014). Pure Experience. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Oct 2014
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