The Awe Factor

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”   – Albert Einstein

It was early evening and I thought I could still get in a few holes of golf.   Arriving at the club, I saw only a few cars in the lot.  Smiling to myself I said, “Perfect, it will be empty out there.”  I picked-up my clubs and went to the range to hit a few balls.  The practice area was quiet and empty.  I spent an uninterrupted 10 minutes hitting assorted shots, and then followed the macadam path that leads to the ninth tee, and the back 9.  Stepping to the tee I went through my pre-shot ritual of selecting a landing area, visioning the shot, taking two practice swings and then hitting my drive.  Satisfied with the outcome, I began my walk.  Our course is hilly, remote and home to an abundance of wildlife, especially the 10th, 11th and 12th holes.  It’s also very quiet and a good place to think things out.  I don’t remember much about the golf I played that evening because of what happened on the 12th tee.

I wonder what he was thinking?  He watched in silence as I went through the ritual and hit my tee shot  Stepping back, I bent down to pick up the dislodged tee and our eyes met.  It would be a stare-down.  Keeping my eyes locked on his, I slowly reached into my pocket, found my phone and turned on the camera; I wanted to capture this moment.  He was a young buck; literally and figuratively. He looked to be maybe one or two years old and his antlers were just reforming.  The quiet was overwhelming but I do remember hearing birds and the faint sound of a car on a far off road.  Our encounter lasted for perhaps a minute or two, but in that short window I experienced something that I need to do more often – a sense of awe!

When was the last time you experienced an awe inspiring moment?  A brief window where you experienced something and said to yourself, “That is so cool!”, or you said nothing at all and just sat in wonderment at the spectacle unfolding before you.  Let me be honest, if it’s been over a day, then it’s been too long.  My trainer, Allie, encourages me to stay hydrated.  Water serves to improve the volume, tone, and strength of your muscles.  It also lubricates the joints, regulates body temperature, and facilitates energy.  No less is true of awe.  While it might not enhance the musculoskeletal system, research shows that the direct experience of awe creates more positive connections between people, deepens their empathy, expands their minds, and enhances their creativity.  And here’s the best part, opportunities to experience awe are all around us!  I happened to find it one evening on a golf course, but it can be just as easily found in your backyard; I guess it just depends on how you define backyard.  Here are five ideas:

  1. Take a Walk – Perhaps one of the simplest things you can do is simply take a walk in your neighborhood.  Linger, observe and listen to your surroundings with intention.

  2. Visit the Stars – The beauty and majesty of a starry sky is awe-inspiring, and all one must do is look up to see and wonder at its splendor; there is nothing more vast, nor humbling or connecting (“But it wasn’t until my eyes drew upward into the darkness and took in the billion distant points of light that I felt the world turn upside down.” – Florence Williams).

  3. Embrace Nature–  Be it a sunrise or sunset, the smell of a summer rain, the colors of fall, the saltiness of an ocean breeze or a butterfly coming to rest on your shoulder.  Linger and let it fill you with wonder.

  4. Spend Time With Children – Children learn and grow quickly, so everyday can be an awe-inspiring experience for them.  What we often take for granted are things they look at with awe and wonder.  Spend some time with them and it might rub off on you.

  5. Awe Journaling – Take time to reflect and document your most awe-inspiring events and moments.  Where were you?  Who was there?  How did you feel?  The journaling experience will serve to help you understand the experience and possibly even relive it.

Seeking awe is a unique way to reduce stress while simultaneously finding happiness and connection.  When we feel awe, we feel connected to something much, much larger than ourselves, and when we come to understand that connection, we better understand how truly beautiful we are.

Embrace Awe !

Embrace the Challenge !