a feeling of reverence and wonder
Awe: A direct and initial feeling when faced with something incomprehensible or sublime. ~ Shaun Gallagher
Awe as a practice is about expansiveness. It’s about creating a larger landscape and widening our perspectives. It’s about seeing beyond ourselves.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~ W.B. Yeats
- New research shows that experiencing awe can actually increase well-being, by giving people the sense that they have more time available.
- Studies have linked “lack of time” feelings with an increased risk of high blood pressure as well as headaches, stomach pains and poor sleep quality.
- Research on feeling pressured by time have also been linked to eating an unhealthy fast-food diet, failing to engage in leisure experiences, and depression.
- Medical instruments can measure our physiological responses to awe-inspiring imagery.
- Awe may be the only positive emotion linked with reduced levels of cytokines. A hyperactive cytokine response has been linked with increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation is at the root of numerous health issues such as, lupus, multiple sclerosis, obesity, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, and arthritis.
- A daily practice of awe was predictive of greater well-being weeks later.
- Awe temporarily reduces our need for certainty which creates spaciousness.
How To Start Practicing
Practice meditation – meditation has the ability to awaken our sense of wonder, awe and to increase our curiosity. It’s an expansive practice that helps us to widen and stretch our perspectives. If you are new to meditation start with 5-10 minutes each day. Create a space in your home where you can sit quietly. You can start by focusing on your breath or doing a body scan. If you prefer a guided meditation you can sample different teachers online.
Read more – stories have an amazing ability to transport us to another space. Reading stories that have expansive and inspiring themes can elicit a sense of awe in us. If you enjoy reading then search for books with themes that cultivate a sense of awe in you. The research on book groups also shows that discussing these themes with others helps us flex our empathy muscle therefore increasing our ability to take on multiple perspectives.
Engage with nature – the research shows that nature has many benefits for our health and well-being, one of which is its ability to generate feelings of awe. How much time do you spend in nature? How do you view nature? Is it something you enjoy or something you resist? Get in touch with how you want to connect with nature and then seek out an opportunity to engage. It can be a brief walk through a neighborhood greenway or a multi-day camping trip. Shorter excursions are a great way to begin.
Life reflection – spend time intentionally reflecting on your life and bringing greater awareness to what it means to be human. Think about the obstacles you have overcome or challenges that have been faced by your ancestors. Notice how your story connects and intertwines with the larger story of the universe.
Be playful – Walk barefoot in the summer grass. Gaze at a sunset, stare at the evening stars or watch the clouds float through the sky. How can you awaken your child-like wonder? Take a trip, explore a new place. Do something fun for no reason at all. Hike to the top of a tall hill just to take in the vista. How can you cultivate awe in your life?