In this article I'm going to give you a very simple answer to a very complex question: "What is an experience?"
The answer: Everything is an experience.
Was that underwhelming? Too simple? Let's unpack this a little. Now buckle up because it's going to be a wild ride and we're going to get metaphysical. I will then bring it back to reality about why this is important when you make a cup of coffee in the morning.
The current understanding is that the universe is made of things. Every thing that exists is made of something, is physical, and the thing itself constitutes the building blocks of reality. The current conceit is that the fundamental "thing" is a quantum string (a multidimensional filament of energy vibrating through hyper-dimensional space-time. Dont believe me? Check out more about string theory here.
Now, as a philosopher specialising in the metaphysics of time I have some massive problems with this world-view but for simplicity sake let's say the conceit is true. That the universe is made out of things.
Now, consider this statement:
Every thing is an experience.
I want you to say this sentence and repeat every word slowly. Every. Thing. Is. An. Experience. While there may be some truth to the claim that the universe is made of things, it is more true to say that we are only aware of this fact via experience. A thing is defined by the fact that it can be experienced. If it cannot be experienced then it is not a thing.
So experience is a necessary condition to the existence of a thing.
Experiences are not things
While every thing is capable of providing an experience it is not true that every experience is a thing. In fact an experience itself has no ground in a thing. An experience is something that happens. We experience the chair, or the banana, but the experience is not IN the banana per sé.
Consciousness, for example, is not a thing. We cannot hold or touch a piece of consciousness. But we sure as hell experience it. In fact the solipsitic among us could argue (and convincingly) that the only "things" with a claim to existence are in fact experiences, and not things.
Okay But So What?
Coming at reality from the perspective of it being made of experiences can help us to drastically alter our perception of how the world operates. If it is made of experiences, and not things, then experiences become more important than things.
Imagine a world, or a life, where you prioritise the experience of living, rather than the object of it. Imagine thinking of the world in terms of moments, rather than things. It becomes more important to provide people with experiences, a laugh, a hug, a compliment, than things.
You might be able to see the inherent joy in experiental reality when you prioritise the BEING of nature rather than the OBJECT of it.
What do the largest companies, businesses, movements, influencers in the world all have in common? They provide experiences. What does the highest quality material like food, wine, toys, technology, art all have in common; that's right the quality of the experience they inspire.
What is an experience? Every single waking (and sleeping) moment of your existence is grounded not in matter, things, objects, space or time, but in experience. Prioritise the importance of experience and you will be prioritising the ground of reality, and not the junk sitting on top of it.