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Experiencing Awe

Has anyone told you ‘Don’t forget to look up?’ Experiencing awe is kind of like that moment when you’re walking along a bustling street, minding your business and doing your thing. Suddenly you remember to look up.

Magic happens. You see the stunning city architecture towering above you. You see the sky; perhaps the sun streaming out from voluminous clouds, bright and mesmerising. You stop. Breathe it in. Slow down for long enough to take a moment.

Awe can often be experienced by simply changing your perspective, or by widening or closing the lens you look through. It can be about feeling the expansiveness of nature or it can be about finding beauty in the details of life. And then, just as important, by giving yourself time to be immersed in the experience, to simply enjoy the moment.

The secret to experiencing awe is that we don’t have to wait to have a Big Experience order to feel it. 

In fact, we can experience awe every day, and find awe in all things, small and large.  Looking for awesome moments in your day is a wonderful mindfulness practice, because

a) it requires you to be intentional about looking for it;

b) in order to look for it you have to slow down, and

c) then, to appreciate what you find, you have to take a moment and drink it in.

Seeking Out Awe in Daily Life

On the subject of experiencing awe on a daily basis, Dacher Keltner at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre says, Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world. Early in human history, awe was reserved for feelings toward divine beings, like the spirits that Greek families believed were guarding over their fates. But in 1757, a revolution in our understanding of awe began thanks to Irish philosopher Edmund Burke. In A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Burke detailed how we feel the sublime (awe) not just during religious ritual or in communion with God, but in everyday perceptual experiences: hearing thunder, being moved by music, seeing repetitive patterns of light and dark. Awe was to be found in daily life.

The Benefits of feeling Awe

Dr Keltner’s research suggests that feeling awe has powerful health benefits that include calming down our nervous system and triggering the release of oxytocin, the “love” hormone that promotes trust and bonding. For an article in the New York Times on awe, Judith T. Moskowitz, also stated that ‘intentional awe experiences, like walks in nature, collective movement, like dance or ceremony, even use of psychedelics improve psychological well-being’.

Being Intentional about Feeling Awe

If you’re ready to start experiencing the health and wellbeing benefits of regular feelings of Awe, let’s get started! I’ve got two things you might like to try. 

Go on an Awe Walk

The idea is to really just set out with the intention of opening yourself up to finding, and experiencing, awe. There’s a trick to it, of course. You have to be open to the experience – so go when you’ve got time (not when you’re on deadline!). Give yourself permission to enjoy it. And perhaps give yourself an allocated amount of time to enjoy your walk, which feels achievable in your day. 

I love how easy this one is! You can do it any time and anywhere. All you really need to take with you is yourself. Isn’t that incredible – we don’t need anything extra to invite more awe into our lives. It doesn’t cost a cent! We don’t need any gear, or any equipment, any special skills or unique abilities.

You may experience a feeling of awe from seeing something unusual that crosses your path. Or, you may get the chance to see the sun set across a beautiful vista, or feel a sense of wonder at seeing things with new eyes. It may literally seeing something new because you’ve taken a route you don’t normally take, or you’ve stopped to appreciate a view that you normally hurry past. Remember, key to an awe walk is drinking it in – absorb the sense of wonder and awe, and take time to feel the sense go all the way through your body, before coming back to your daily tasks.

Start an Awe Journal

The great thing about an Awe Journal is that we get to record our experience of Awe – and then re-live it! It’s a great opportunity to collect a range of meaningful moments and savour them at a later date! Go ahead and take an awe walk, but also be open to feeling awe at other times – when you’re out with family or friends and something wonderful captures your attention. Or you might be listening to something on the radio that strikes you as profound and worth savouring. Collect these moments, and then take time out, over coffee or morning tea, and revisit your awe moments from the week – and enjoy them all over again! There may even be some elements of discovery for you – is there a recurring theme running through your moments? Is there a type of experience that frequently elicits experiences of awe – and can you do them more often? For example, one of the things most likely to instil a sense of awe in me is seeing the sun rise on the beach. So, I know that the more early mornings I can get on the beach, the better! What works best for you?

Download my free workbook on the Awesomeness of Awe!

‘The Awesomeness of Awe is part of my Mindful Creativity Toolkit. It includes:

  • Handy info on the benefits and rewards of cultivating a sense of awe
  • A guide to preparing for, and taking, an ‘Awe Walk’
  • Space for journaling and reflections, including an ‘Awe Journal’.

Download this great resource now, and enrich your creative journey through powerful mindfulness practices.

You’ll also receive my fortnightly Mindful Creativity emails. And, each month, I’m releasing another part of the Mindful Creativity Toolkit – so you’ll also get that delivered to your inbox for free.

Download your Art of Awesomeness of Awe Workbook

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What is Mindful Creativity?

Hello, my name’s Jordan. Mindful Creativity is a great way to relax, unwind and enjoy creativity to enhance our sense of wellness. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your inner voice as you develop your own personal creative practice, it might be just the thing for you. My Mindful Creativity blog, resources and tools provides ways for you to deepen into a more nourishing creative practice!