(3 min read) In our house, there are a couple of predictable alarms that sound around 4 a.m: even on the weekends. Dog bladders and cat bellies declare their need with door scratching and urgent whining.
This steamy summer Saturday morning (at 4:04 am), I padded my way down the dark hall, two dogs leading the way. As I opened the sliding glass door, the blanket of humidity hit my face and I decided to go outside on the deck to wait. My sleepy self reminded me, “If you do this, you will not get back to sleep.” As I looked up off the deck, I thought, “there are some things worth staying awake for.”
Up the creek, a light flew between the branches: on-off-on-off. The field was blinking, the orchard was lit with the same rhythmic flash and I realized this is probably how the faeries stories came to be. As if by a magical gravitational pull, I was drawn into a memory of being 6 or 7, canning jar in hand, racing around the church yard with my friends at dusk: all to capture a firefly to light my bedroom. The bugs graciously crawled into the jars, which were furnished with a stick and grasses. They generously lit both the room and the imagination of that little girl. Awe at 6 or at 60 is still memorably sweet.
Over the last month we have looked at the benefits of earth, sun, flowers, and trees. Today we consider the energy of Awe and how it adds to our wellbeing. Whether you have stood at the base of El Capitan in Yosemite, watched the ocean waves move to and fro with the moon, or the first steps of a child, you have, no doubt, experienced awe. It is the emotion you feel when you experience vastness in the stars, marvel at the dancing Northern Lights or catch your breath at a glorious sunset. It is the moment you realize you are small in the midst this amazing world. Research shows this feeling of “small in the midst of greatness” helps us get out of our self-centered tendencies of what-is-happening-in-my-world and encourages us to connect and engage with others. It helps us maintain social connections, which aids in our well-being.
It isn’t all big events that produce this sense of well-being. You can read a heroic story, see a beautiful building or listen to a piece of music. These experiences bolster our well-being with not only social connections, but can lower levels of unhelpful elements that impact diabetes, heart disease and depression (I’ll let you read the link for more info).
The best place to experience awe? Get to nature. During work, go for a walk around the building, stand in the grass, look at a lake. Look up at the sky, down at the flowers, pay attention. Awe is about novelty and vastness. It is the detail or color of a small blossom, the thoughtful comment of a colleague deep with meaning, the life experiences of an elderly person – all of these things, big and small can bring awe.
This week, as we watch fireworks, grill corn on the cob, wipe watermelon from a child’s cheek, remember stories, ours and others, listen to a thunderstorm, consider what brings you to experience awe. Allow awe to come in you, work through you and heal you.
The Revitalizer will take next week off. I am off to the solitude of lake country. Enjoy your break if you are so fortunate to have one. And remember that you are another person’s experience of awe.
There are some things worth staying up for, Andrea