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  • Writer's pictureRae Gateley, LCSW

Awe in the Ordinary

We know that awe-inspiring experiences shift our focus away from ourselves and open us up to new possibilities. They change us in positive and lasting ways. But practically speaking, what can we do with that knowledge? We can't expect to have exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experiences every day, obviously. Fortunately, it is possible to experience and benefit from the magic of awe in ordinary, daily life.

Here are a few suggestions for increasing opportunities for awe:

Step Outside Nature is the most reliable source of healing awe in daily life. Take a walk, ride a bike, sit under a tree, listen to birdsong, wade in a stream, watch squirrels play, smell the flowers. Research shows that the more contact with nature people have, the more awe they experience, and the more daily life satisfaction they report, as well as long-term feelings of well-being.

Be Ready Opportunities for awe are all around if we look for them. Surround yourself with beauty in music and art. Seek out the ideas and experiences that challenge and inspire you in religion, science, and philosophy. Be amazed by the talent, skills, and virtues of exceptional people. You might even find yourself awed by awe: "The potential power of awe, combined with the mystery of its mechanisms, may itself be a source of awe, giving pleasure both to those who study it and to those who cultivate it in their lives." (Keltner and Haidt)

Be Curious Look deeper into things that you might otherwise pass over or take for granted. How do hummingbirds fly backwards? How far do Monarch butterflies travel? Ask questions. If you have a friend who is passionate about something, find out what it is about mushroom hunting (or whatever) that captivates them. You may find, as Henry Miller described, that "The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."

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