Even if we didn’t name it at the time, we have all experienced awe. It’s that feeling of being amazed, inspired, or transported by what we’re experiencing. Because the experience is incredible, we can expand our vision of what is possible, and who we are in relationship to it. Awe on a big scale happened for me when I rode an elephant through the jungles of Thailand. It also happened when I stood in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and personally experienced that magnificent art work. However, awe is also available nearer to home in everyday life.
In his book Awestruck, Psychologist Jonah Paquette reveals scientific studies that show experiencing awe improves relationships, decreases stress, and actually makes us happier by improving our wellbeing. He writes, “Awe blurs the line between the self and the world around us, diminishes the ego, and links us to the greater forces that surround us in the world and the larger universe.” So, awe brings us closer together by blurring our separateness, and enhancing our oneness. This is about more than feeling good.
Wherever our awe comes from, Paquette points to a number of benefits. Experiencing awe will reduce stress which can last a number of weeks. The evidence of a link between being outdoors, experiencing awe, and lowering stress levels, is now so strong that some doctors are actually prescribing time at a park, beach, or any green space. If illness eliminates being active, a carefully nurtured indoor plant can produce awe.
Awe experiences can increase our generosity and kindness. When we have an inspiring experience, we lose our sense of entitlement, which enhances ethical decision-making. Awe makes us feel more connected, so we’re willing to help people in need and act for the greater good. Paquette writes, “By enabling us to feel connected to each other, form alliances, act generously, and explore new possibilities, it stands to reason that the story of humans would not be possible without awe.” We can preserve what lifts us up by taking time to journal our awesome experiences, keeping them available for further enjoyment.
Awe impacts our mood and makes us more satisfied with life. The more awe we experience, the better we feel. This means finding awe in everyday life has benefits worth pursuing. Here are a few suggestions from Paquette for enjoying every day awe. Anytime we feel ourself amazed by something, we can enhance the experience by lingering with it as long as possible. When we loose ourself in music we can choose to stay there a while, or if we experience art that takes us out of ourself, we can spend time with it instead of hurrying on to the next activity. A meaningful photo can transport us into an inspired state. Watching a colorful sunrise or sunset can fill us with awe. When we slow down, we create a space for awe to emerge.
The beauty of people working together can also create awe. Recently we took a simple flight from Sanford, Florida to Appleton, Wisconsin. My husband, the aviation expert, told me that it took 120 professionals working together perfectly, to get our plane full of people safely between those two destinations. That’s awesome.
I have an African Violet that has developed two new baby plants. I’m inspired by every new leaf, and by the fact that the mother plant is now growing its new leaves moving away from the new plants, so they get more nurturing light. I’m amazed by the way this plant is taking care of the new life it started.
We invite awe when we appreciate our senses. Let’s take time to fully listen to the bird song, the wind in the trees, the laughter of children having fun. We can pause to fully appreciate the scent of food cooking on the stove, and savor the taste of our meals by eating slowly enough to identify all the different flavors and textures mingling together. Walking outdoors we may become inspired by natures colorful palette, or we can choose to spend time with an indoor plant that’s blooming.
Starting our day with the intention of being awed by our surroundings will enhance our focus, improve mental and physical health, aid our relationships, and make us kinder, more generous people. That’s an impressive list of advantages. After the last year it seems like awe is needed more than ever. Since it can be found in our homes, front porches, and back yards, as well as beyond, let’s take time to experience this. Let’s choose to find every day awe.
Until Next Time – Sylvia