Peak experiences, perfect moments and the extra-ordinary

Story highlights

  • A psychologist defined peak-experiences as accompanied by wonder, awe and reverence
  • Peakers tend more often than nonpeakers to say their lives are very meaningful

This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. The series is on applying to one's life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. You can follow David at @davidgallan. Don't miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.

(CNN)The closest I've come to a profound religious experience happened at a Zen Buddhist monastery in the mountains. I was a sophomore in college, and my mom invited me to join her for a long weekend group retreat at the Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a collection of Japanese-style buildings surrounded by woods in the Catskills of New York state.

The retreat was rigorous and invigorating. The teaching was formal. We meditated for long stretches at a time, longer than I ever had. We enjoyed meals in collective silence while following an ancient three-bowl ritual taught to us in advance. And we performed ordinary chores that were opportunities for more meditative focus. I treasured the nature, quiet, rules and pushing myself, though at one point, I nearly passed out at the conclusion of an extended pre-dawn sitting.