I received a boatload of feedback from the post, It’s Your Duty to Have Fun in Life. I guess too many of you have been sidetracked by the American dream of becoming “the best you, you can be.” Man, I HATE that statement. A lot. It makes life feel like a burden or a contest instead of a treasure chest with all sorts of goodies.
AWE or UGH!
What you really need is a lot more AWE and a lot less UGH! I believe “awe” may be one of the most underrated emotions in the arsenal of feelings we enjoy.
Think of awe as inspiration or wonder or surprised beauty. It is such a delightful feeling that causes you to sit back and simply think, “Wow!” I believe we encounter so many opportunities for awe every day. Some are much less spectacular than others, nevertheless they exist.
Personally I find most of my awe in architecture and art, but also in people when they surprise me with love and kindness. I also am in awe of clothing and design in general. As you can tell I’m a city-person, but that doesn’t mean that rivers and mountains and oceans and animals don’t blow me away. I guess I can say I find myself pretty easily in a spirit of awe.
You just never know when it’s going to hit. That’s what’s so cool about it.
Terry Hershey loves to tell the story of a time he was riding the ferry between Vashon Island (where he lives) and Seattle. A woman, whose voice betrayed some kind of impairment, was standing on the side of the ferry shouting to no one in particular, “Look! Look! Look!” Terry explains that nobody paid much attention to this obviously impaired person. How could she possibly say something worthy of their attention?
Well, as Terry tells it, he happened to look over in the direction the woman was pointing. And suddenly he was awestruck by the most magnificent sunrise he had seen in years. The sun was peaking over the tip of Mount Rainier with its rays glimmering triangularly toward the boat. Soon most of the riders were up against the rail of the boat in total awe of a gift, yes a gift of Mother Earth and orchestrated by a divine creator.
Just about every person on that ferry arrived at the port a changed person. A part of them, still touched deeply by the spirit of awe tingling with a new found reminder of the goodness so readily available, if they only paid attention.
This moment I am writing from the dining room table in my son’s apartment in Little Italy, San Diego. I gaze out the wide open door to his balcony. 300 yards away sits a nice contemporary building with palm trees. Pleasant. But in front of it and about 100 yards away stands a giant billboard. I can only see about 25% of the sign. It’s bright white and the only words I can read are 1.49% APR1 with partial lettering “ccu.com.”
Many would find the sight disturbing as if the billboard was obtrusive, but I guess I’ve been exposed to enough contemporary art to think this is very cool. I love the juxtaposition of beauty and obscene marketing. It makes such a statement about our culture, there is none! Haha.
Notice, Pay Attention, Evaluate
Awe itself is an art form that you have to develop to fully grasp its wonder. I think it’s like learning any other discipline, it takes practice.
75% of experiencing awe daily requires that we notice the unusual regularly andpay special attention to it as we evaluate its nature. For example, I recall 2 decades ago making a familiar drive only to discover the 40-year-old landscape outside of Fullerton JC. It was awesome, breathtaking even. How many times had I driven by that scene only to “see it” for the first time? Probably 2-3 years of never seeing it!!! I wasn’t in the habit of “noticing” and “paying attention.”
Of course this is a problem exacerbated by our human nature of not being present-oriented people. Our minds are typically pondering anything other than what we are doing at the present moment. We’re in a hurry, bored or frantic, thinking about kids or spouses or friends or whatever other problem concerns us. We are rarely really “here.” I know it’s true for me. How about you?
The advocates of Meditation and Mindfulness are on to something. The goal of these disciplines is simply to be centered on whatever or wherever you are at the present moment. It’s tough though because your brain is so multi-functional that you are probably thinking of something else even as you read this post. J
I use a Meditation app called Headspace to help me be inordinately present with myself. It’s not easy. No, it is very difficult. So many distracting thoughts habitually flee through my mind keeping me out of that ideal meditative
“headspace.” Yet I still manage to have “moments” in my 20 minute per day exercise. And when I find these moments I am totally relaxed as I pay attention to the present “voices” of my body, the voices of body parts, feelings, and my one-directional imagination.
The goal for this 20 minute practice session is to teach me to be more present for the entire day. It also gives me a wonderful few minutes in the morning to be fully relaxed and ready to move on with the day.
Finding AWE Intentionally
Personally, I’ve discovered inspiring moments by using an “intentional” mindset that is soooo necessary for me to experience awe regularly. Perhaps you’re like me and habitually fail to be really present in the present.
Here are a couple ways of discovering awe:
- When Awe Confronts You: This is when you come upon something so awe-inspiring that you can’t help but notice. Like if you were to suddenly find yourself surrounded by the Northern Lights. Or on the beach or a waterfall, a garden, a mega-magnificent building. Whatever. There are objects and experiences (like new love) that literally jump out at you and say “Look at me!”
- When You Confront Awe: The entire previous section speaks to you confronting awe. It requires Intentionality or you finding awe “on purpose.” You will have to do something like a) Notice, b) Pay Attention, and c) Evaluate the awesomeness. You confront awe when you intentionally look for it by just paying attention to what is going on around you “right now!” Just try it for one day. Try to notice things you have never really seen on your drive to work or in your hometown or in/near the office or a place you regularly visit. Watch. I bet you will find something new and kind of cool. It doesn’t have to be magnificent. It can be just simply nice.
Your Life is a Treasure Chest of Awe.
Open the Lid!
Image Courtesy of istockphoto.com