In the wake of some recent tragic deaths I have been doing some soul searching about my place here on this beautiful planet we inhabit. I am also about to turn 50 and realize that I have been blessed to live an abundant life thus far and plan on experiencing and participating in so much more! I am struck by how, during these times of contemplation, we can feel small and understand how precious life really is. I learned recently that this feeling is actually associated with the emotion of Awe and that experiencing Awe can make us feel more connected to one another and the natural world.
Awe experiences are self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others.Dacher Keltner
What exactly is Awe? It is a complex emotion that gives you a feeling of vastness and connection at the same time. I spent a week at the Modern Elder academy, a mid-life wisdom school, to find out what Awe is and how it can help us to connect with a source greater then ourselves to find harmony. Our guest facilitators, Dacher Keltner and Molly McNeil are Awe experts. Dacher conducts research on Awe, Wonder, and other positive emotional states at UC Berkeley. He has shown that awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggest that the things we do to experience these emotions—a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art—has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.
Dacher is a UC Berkeley Psychologist and the founder of the Greater Good Science Center and Molly is a creative writing teacher who lead us through some profound Awe writing exercises to cultivate the connection to our story. They taught us some practical tools on creating more everyday Awe and I would love to share them with you, because who doesn’t need a little more everyday Awe!
- Spend more time in nature which can give you little burst of Awe.
- Connect with others through ritual or ceremony
- Take in the night sky
- Listen to live music
- Witness the good deeds of others
- Write about your personal experiences of Awe
- Watch an Awe-inspiring documentary like Alex Honnold’s Fee Solo of El Capitan
I have been practicing everyday awe for a month now and would love to share some of the moments I have found: Perfect crystal snowflakes, graciousness of children, a deer swimming, the sounds of violins in concert, the joyous “whoops” of a powder day, a sunburst in a cloudy sky, the night sky in the mountains, an unfolding crocus flower, the undying love of a parent and on and on.
Wishing you Joy and Awe Everyday!