Last month in a coach-training program, I learned about the power of awe. Awe is a feeling of wonder and reverence. We can experience awe when we look into a newborn baby's face or are surrounded by nature in all its splendor. From the most archaic definitions awe even includes the sensation of dread because it connects us to our mortality. Awe helps us tap into the feeling of being part of something greater than just the body, the personality or one's individual story. So in my view, it's mostly the ego (and not the authentic self) that experiences dread when it realizes that there is something bigger at play in life than just the mind's interpretations.
The benefits of awe are, well...awesome (sorry, I couldn't resist). Experts say that regularly experiencing a state of awe can lead to increased clarity of thought, specifically making it easier for us to think critically. Clinical psychologist David Elkins says: "Awe is like a lightning bolt that marks in memory those moments when the doors of perception are cleansed and we see with startling clarity what is truly important in life." Being connected to something greater than oneself can have a "right-sizing" effect on our egos, thus making it easier for us to let others just be themselves and to accept life as it is. Evolutionary biologists really lean into the evidence that awe promotes pro-social behavior and action for the common good. Awe also promotes better health by strengthening our immune system and supports us to have better relationships. Finally, awe can shift our experience of time from feeling like we don't have enough (scarcity) to spaciousness (abundance).
After I learned about awe, later that afternoon in fact, I noticed an image on my wall created by the sunlight, the breeze and the tree branches in my backyard. As I watched the shapes dance, I was able to tap into the feeling of awe in my body. It was like an effervescent spaciousness opened inside of me. I stayed with the sensation, and continued to gaze softly at the image for a few minutes, allowing my mind the opportunity to memorize the feeling. When I was done, I took this video, inspired to share the power of awe with you:
Curious about what awe feels like in the body? Here's a practice for you to try: Using the image that inspired this post or your own experience of wonder, reverence, amazement, marvel, transcendence, notice what happens inside your body as your mind settles on the image or memory. Spend a few minutes basking in the feeling. Invite your mind to memorize the feeling and where it is located in your physical body.
Awe is one of 12 factors that promote resilience according to Alta Starr , the teacher of that coach-training course I took last month. Alta defines resilience as a feeling of and connection to our inner aliveness. This is something I think we can all use a healthy dose of this year. With the hope that in 2022 we can stay connected to our natural resilience, here's the full list for you to consider:
Creativity/Art (making and enjoying)
Knowing that we can learn
Skills and competencies
Deep connections with others
And here are few other photos and videos I took over the holidays that inspire awe in me: