Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Being Awe-Struck is Awe-Some!

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and all science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."    Albert Einstein

When was the last time that you experienced 'Awe'?  The last moment that you were awe-struck at the overwhelming beauty of something, the majesty of something, the vastness of something?  Still trying to come up with an example?

Think back to when you were a child.  How often did you experience a feeling of awe?  Stepping outside of the house on a Saturday hearing the wind blow and rattle the tree leaves, watching ants scurry to protect their eggs when you turned over that log, laying back in the grass and watching the clouds take shape and reform into others as they drifted past. As a child we found the magical in the every day, we took time to question and experience, such that we experienced awe regularly.

In our time-starved adult lives though we focus so much on getting things done that we fail to recognise or experience the moments of wonder around us, to feel a sense of awe in the every day. Awe is what we feel when we are faced with something sublime, something exceptional, something vast, something that's beyond comprehension.  And it is all around us.  However, as we become fixated on the 'doing' aspect of our lives, Awe-someness begins slipping into the mundane.  Technology and perhaps even Google begin to inure us to its effects.

New research into the effects of feelings of Awe though highlight that this lessening of our ability to experience Awe in the everyday is taking its toll on us.  Awe helps people to be more patient, less materialistic, more open to helping others.  Experiencing awe slows down our subjective experience of time, elongating our time perception.  When we feel that we have more time, we are more willing to help other people out and to partake of experiential opportunities rather than material ones.

Could the epidemic of 'rudeness' be due to our lack or loss of Awe?

Perhaps.  But more so, experiencing Awe stimulates the need for accommodation.  Awe creates a sense of perceptual vastness that can have a transformational effect upon us, opening us to new thoughts or ways of viewing the world around us.  We require new mental maps of understanding to heighten our creativity and openness to new ideas.

Maybe that ennui or boredom or listlessness you are feeling is simply a lack of Awe.  Maybe it's not your job, your boss, or your spouse that is the problem.  Maybe you simply need to learn to cultivate a greater sense of wonder in the world around you, in your life in particular.  If so, here are some tips to get you started in finding more ways to experience Awe...

Travel more.  Travelling can open you to seeing different parts of the world, seeing how others live, experiencing new cultures, new food.  Travel with an open mind though, with the thought of immersing yourself into that new environment. Explore the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the majesty of mountains, the bustle of Shanghai or Bangkok.  Travel for the experiences.  Those feelings of awe will remain with you long after the sights themselves have faded.

Gaze at the Cosmos.  Try getting your head around the vastness and infinite-ness of space. Or the sea. Or of atoms.  Or...

Watch Jason Silva.  He is the host of a YouTube series - Shots of Awe.  He considers these short vignettes "philosophical espresso shots".  If you haven`t yet experienced Jason in action - you`ll be awestruck listening to him, let alone trying to take in his content!

Experience Vastness.  We often experience moments of Awe when we attempt to take in the vastness of something...  acres of tulips in bloom, colourful schools of fish, the prairies before harvest, a bustling market in India, the view from a mountaintop...

Watch a Master at Work.  We can be awestruck at the sight of someone with exceptional talent engaging in their craft whether it is a singer, musician, athlete, artisan.  I remember watching a man operating a Backhoe while very deliberately and delicately tearing down a house.  His manipulation of that machine was masterful and I was awestruck by his skill.

Watch a Sensational Film.  A film that moves you in the heart and/or mind.  A sensational film is one that resonates within you, that shifts something inside and that stays with you long after the final credits have rolled past.

Read the Book of Awesome.  Read one page a day - to discover small moments in everyday life that can give you a lift in your perspective and ability to let awesome enter your life.

Hold a Newborn.  A newborn anything.  I defy you not to feel awe-struck at the wonder of new life. Watch the birthing process.  A chick slowly pecking its way out of an egg, a butterfly slowly emerging from its Chrysalis, baby turtles digging their way out of the sand and making their way to the sea.  The miracle of life is full of wonder.

Awesome events, sights, experiences and people surround us.  Lift yourself from the mundane bustle that your life may likely have become and begin to open yourself to those feelings of Awe.  The more Awe-filled we become the more joy and happiness that we open ourselves to and the less time-driven we feel, which, in turn, makes us more sensitive to experiencing awe and wonder again.

If you think of feelings you have when you are awed by something - for example, knowing that elements in your body trace to exploded stars - I call that a spiritual reaction, speaking of awe and majesty, where words fail you.    Neil deGrasse Tyson

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