All You Need Is Awe
On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first mountaineers to scale Mount Everest. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon. These awe-inspiring feats, like many others before and after them, are forever etched in human mind and history. We can only imagine what the first glimpse of infinite space or the first breath on earth’s highest mountain must have felt like for Armstrong or the climbers, respectively.
We don’t need to replicate these astounding feats to experience a feeling of awe in our daily life. We all have our “aha” moments that take our breath away with their sheer beauty — it could be a scenic sunset; a constellation of stars studded in the night sky; the winking morning sunlight peeking through a canopy of trees as you take a walk in nature; or watching a fistful of sand slip through your fingers as a sea breeze caresses your skin on the beach. The natural world invokes this feeling of awe in us. It makes you feel your presence in the cosmos more deeply — a humbling realization that there is an entire world outside of you and yours.
The moments of awe also expose us to the true meaning of life. Renowned author Paul Pearsall wrote of awe in his book, "Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion": “It’s an overwhelming and life-altering blend of fright and fascination that leaves us in a state of puzzled apprehension and appreciative perplexed wonder … It may not cause us to come to believe in something, but it can cause us to believe that there is something more beyond the grasp of our limited human consciousness.”
Awe is necessary when you want to truly live in the moment. It is about looking at the world with fresh eyes, like those of a child. You will be amazed at the benefits of these awe-filled moments for your wholistic wellbeing. You do not have to move mountains — just getting curious about nature, people, and own wellbeing can do the trick.
Awe Is Good for You, and Us
The sense of apprehension or frisson you feel in the moment of being in the presence of something larger than yourself — the gaping depth of the Grand Canyon, the might of the Niagara Falls, or the gargantuan stature of an old sequoia tree — this excitement or wonder can turn into inspiration for personal growth as they stimulate curiosity. It can also benefit your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Researchers found experiences of awe are physically rewarding. A study published in the journal "Emotion" found that experiencing awe had a positive impact on the body’s immunity and life expectancy. Awe was also found to build a sense of community — a sense of awe diminishes the sense of self and shifts attention away from individual interests and concerns to collective engagement; the sense of something greater than you encourages you to be more cooperative. Researchers found that when participants stood in a grove of towering trees, their “prosocial” behaviors were enhanced and sense of “entitlement” decreased, encouraging a sense of philanthropy and compassion.
Find Awe Through Wellbeing
When you are in awe, you are truly present in the moment. You can invoke this state of awe with short mindfulness meditation that improves your mood, supports creative thinking, and helps you feel more connected with yourself and the world around you.
Becoming truly aware and present you can also help focus on your own body: Tune into your heart beat; feel the energy that flows through your body; try to untangle the knots in your shoulders and back; be grateful for your physical self. You can also try breathwork and feel the energy of the cosmos flow through you. Notice the effervescence of life that bubbles inside you.
Music can also help you find a sense of awe. The gurgling of a brook, the tintinnabulation of distant wind chimes, or the rustling of leaves on a tree are auditory cues for you to listen closely to your surroundings.
Awe Also Lies Within You
When we find ourselves in new circumstances, we make a primary, intuitive emotional connection with the world around us. In an episode of "Living with Sunny" podcast, professor, author, and inventor David Edwards shared how unfamiliarity with a subject can unknowingly beget innovation. He said, “With ignorance comes a certain vulnerability and innocence that opens our minds to new possibilities and creative solutions. When pioneers and scientists have spent a large period inventing, they place themselves in circumstances where they are innocent again.”
Being on new turf, exploring a new landscape or technological problem requires us to be open to possibilities. Being unaware of the possibilities can lead to a surprising solution, a new perspective, or creative insight you never imagined. This awe lies within you.
So the next time you want to look at the world differently, make time for travel, share a laugh with a child, be thankful for your family, friends, home, and social tribe. Make peace with yourself and you may find yourself taking small steps into a world of wonderment and tranquillity.