Stand in awe.

awe

When was the last time you stood in awe of the universe and felt your own smallness within the world’s immensity? It turns out experiencing that smallness, that awe and wonder, is good for what ails you. It could also be part of the glue that holds society together. Scientists believe awe has an important impact on well-being:

One important distinction between awe and other emotions (like inspiration or surprise) is that awe makes us feel small — or feel a sense of “self-diminishment” in science-speak. And that’s good for us, Stellar explains.

We spend a lot of our time thinking about what’s going on in our world and what’s affecting us directly. “Awe changes that, making us see ourselves as a small piece of something larger.”

Feeling small makes us feel humbled (thereby lessening selfish tendencies like entitlement, arrogance, and narcissism). And feeling small and humbled makes us want to engage with others and feel more connected to others, Gordon adds.

“All of that is important for wellbeing,” she says.

Data from a 2018 study that both Stellar and Gordon worked on found that individuals who reported experiencing awe more often in their daily lives were rated more humble by their friends. And after participants experienced awe as part of the study (by watching awe-inspiring videos), they acknowledged strengths and weaknesses in a more balanced way and they were more likely to recognize the role of outside forces (such as luck, a greater being, or others) in their personal accomplishments (such as getting accepted into a university), compared with individuals who had not watched awe-inspiring videos.

These effects of feeling small, feeling humbled, and the desire to connect with others, according to evolutionary scientists, is thought to be part of the reason over the course of human history mankind has formed groups, societies, and lived collectively.

As identified in the article, to experience more awe in your life try these four things: Go out more in nature, get out of your comfort zone, look up, and have an open mind. Or, as Dr. Beau Lotto puts it, “engage with the world with a more open mind, see possibilities, ask questions, and look for the impossible.” It can only be good for us to move our own selves out of the center of the universe in our sensibilities.

A peek behind the veil.

earth's music

 

Often life doesn’t make sense. So many petty squabbles, too much injustice, difficulties, disagreements, struggle. Why? What for? What’s the point? And then something remarkable happens, and we can see behind the veil to the beauty of things, the mystery. For a moment we feel a communion with each other and with all living things. We can stand in awe of creation.

For just such a moment, take time to watch this surfer communing with dolphins. It’s beautiful.

 

Why is everything so beautiful?

attention

Have you ever wondered why everything is so beautiful? Have you stood rapt in the brilliant colors of a sunset, or listening to birdsong in the morning, or watching the way a caterpillar humps along with all its little feet working together? Perhaps there are logical, book smart reasons, like flowers are beautiful to attract bees, or animals are beautiful to attract mates or to warn predators they’re toxic, or some such thing, but don’t those answers beg the question really? Why is beauty? Could the answer be that it is to inspire awe in us? And our job is to notice.

A master violinist can play Bach on a precious instrument, and most people will just walk by:

 

We are living in a place filled with beauty if we only stop to notice. For inspiration, consider Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What a gift we have been given to have the chance to notice the beauty all around us today!

 

 

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How do we pray.

preciouslife

What does it mean to pray anyway?

Is it a prayer when we breathe in the scent of the baby in our arms as we close our eyes against the press of tears and think, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”?

Is it a prayer when we groan with the weight of hopes and dreams unrealized and unclear and seemingly out of reach?

Is it a prayer when we crumble to the ground, broken, and whisper, “Help. Please help me.”

Is it a prayer when we stand in awe of creation as Mary Oliver does of this grasshopper:

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Yes, all of it. It is a prayer every time you are grateful. It is a prayer when you reach out in hope. It is a prayer when you glimpse something more, deeper, wider than the here and now. Paying attention to whomever or whatever is right in front of you and to the longings of your own heart puts you in the middle of the miraculous unfolding all around us.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Take a walk.

morningblessing

There is something magical about walking at sunrise. The world is waking up, the day is brand new, the possibilities seem endless. When that sky begins to light up, it’s like you are present for a secret fireworks display or an unveiling of a masterpiece. It is hard not to gape in awe, frankly. And that experience– awe– is powerful.

Awe can make us at once feel very small in the enormity of the universe,

calvin

but also as if we are very special and uniquely privileged to be let in on a secret. We are part of something beautiful and mysterious and far greater than our own worries and concerns.

In fact, experiencing awe changes us, making us more generous and, maybe, even, more, ethical. That sense of being part of something far larger than ourselves is therapeutic:

Participants consistently reported that awe produced “a reduced sense of self importance relative to something larger and more powerful that they felt connected to,” says Piff. And subsequent analysis confirmed that this feeling of the “small self” was responsible for their ethical behavior. This seems to suggest that experiencing awe prompts people to help others.

And there is something pretty magical about walking, too, especially in nature. Undoubtedly, the physical benefits of walking are many. But the psychological benefits can’t be denied either.

And then there are the benefits to our creative lives. Beethoven was known for his long walks, often incorporating the sounds he heard in the woods into his compositions. In fact, many musicians, artists and philosophers swore by the benefits of walking to their creative lives.

So maybe today, the answer to the stresses facing you, the tumult of disagreement, the anxiety over the future, is to open the front door and hit the pavement or, better yet, the open trail.