This week, a group of scientists will be meeting at the University of California at Berkeley to talk about their research findings as they have studied “the science of awe.” Through their scientific research, these scientists have determined that spending time in nature is good for human beings; experiencing nature brings us to a sense of awe.
Is that why “awesome” is over-used in the conversation of so many of us these days? For example: “I’ll see you at two o’clock, then.” “Awesome!” That word, “awesome” infects our vocabulary. Listen for it.
Although our ordinary lives may cause us to forget, I think that most of us know the experience of awe when we experience awe! We know – as often as we may be guilty of “over-awe-ing” it – that some moments, some sights, some feelings, some fleeting bit of light brings us to a sense, an experience of awe. For that moment, we are stunned to find ourselves floating in a deep feeling that may over whelm us, with gratitude, with joy, with – awe!
And then, the moment passes.
I am sure that the good people of indigenous cultures knew awe as well as we know awe. While their lives were certainly not easy – one could argue that our lives are not easy, either, although for different reasons – there must have been moments when they were stopped in their tracks by a beautiful sunset, a shining tree, the birth of a baby, the first light of morning on the trees, the sight of their home after a time away. Perhaps they were stunned into awe to witness a healing, to witness a death. And so are we.
Awe = a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder, a noun, according the the dictionary on my Apple computer.
Sometimes, life takes your breath away. Sometimes, with tears running down your cheeks, you must completely stop what you are doing to fully savor the present moment, to see your child’s face light up with joy, to watch a deer leap into the woods, to see the light just-so as day passes into dusk.
I don’t need scientists to teach me about awe. I’m sure you don’t, either. The experience of “awe” seems almost primal, so basic to us that we know it when we receive it. And awe does seem to have the element of gift, of being gifted, attached to it. We receive awe, we receive the gift, we are grateful for the gift.
The practice of “awe” can be a deep spiritual practice. Wait, watch, be present every day for the experience of awe. This practice may take some slowing down! Whatever you have on your list to do today, be mindful, watch!, notice that moment that may come when you must simply witness, you must be in awe, that state of presence/joy that stops you for a moment, a wonderful, rich, complete moment you could not have created yourself. It simply is.
And, BTW – have an “awesome” day!