Awe-some or Awe-struck: The Benefit of Finding AWE in the Ordinary

Awe-some or Awe-struck: The Benefit of Finding AWE in the Ordinary

By Shari Pearlman

I find myself amazed at the simplest of things sometimes and am curious, upon making new friends, what brings a sense of awe to them. What I knew before reading about some research is that when I feel that sense of awe, that fascination with something right in front of me, in that moment I possess buoyancy, light, and a childlike sense of wonder. I am in the moment, mesmerized and able to concentrate on the object of my awe. This is what is meant by having a perfect mindfulness moment. We know that something as a small as a spider spinning her web in the morning light can capture our attention and make us feel like she is stopping time.

Awe, like so many other subjects, has been studied, but often what is studied is our reactions to things like the ocean’s vastness (something that produces the utmost awe for me) and places like the Grand Canyon. Studies show that positive feelings of awe produce a sense of overall well-being, happy and satisfying feelings about life, and encourages our curiosity on the days we experience awe. In one study, people felt like their lives were rich and that they had more time to live life, and therefore felt generous with their time, were more patient, and had increased levels of volunteering - all important components of a satisfying legal career.

Why not cultivate and experience awe more often? To develop awe, we must, as E.B. White wrote, “Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” Spend time with a child or an adult who is filled with wonder, enjoying a caterpillar wiggling its way across a yard, and you will experience the awe that they are feeling.

We can also cultivate awe for ourselves at home using the letters A-W-E to teach us.

A is for Attention. Focus your attention for a moment on something that catches your eye or appeals to other senses, that gives you pleasure, or that raises your curiosity, for example, a pretty flower, a piece of art, or a picture that highlights the eyes of someone you care about.

W is for Wait. Give your mind a few seconds to quiet down for at least one breath in, and you will become more aware of the object of your attention.

E is for Exhale and Expand. As you deeply exhale, still focused on the object, you will engage the vagus nerve that helps you relax, and you will expand your sense of awe.

Enjoy your moment and feel the sense of wonder grow….

Awe is often associated with the experience of witnessing the majesty or splendor of natural wonders. Yet we don’t have to visit the great outdoors to partake in the sublime. Awe is available to all of us, every day, in ordinary moments – just waiting for us to tune in.

As you watch this video of Cat Stevens’ song, “Morning Has Broken,” allow yourself to be present and feel the beauty. Best of all, you don’t even need to leave home!

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