Being In Awe
An article in the New York Times speaks of the health benefits of AWE. The focus is on psychologist Dr. Dacher Keltner and his discoveries of how AWE can help our state of health and well-being. Dr. Keltner says that when we experience AWE it is calming to our nervous system and triggers the release of oxytocin which is the “love” hormone. He also discovered that AWE activates the nerves in the spinal cord that regulate heart rate, improves digestion, and helps us breathe deeper. Further studies show that AWE helps to quiet our inner critic leaving us with a more peaceful mind.
Awe is a feeling of profound respect or wonder, a reverence that can even feel sacred. This may sound as though one has to have an epiphany to feel such a thing as reverence or sacredness. On the contrary, AWE is a state of being that is present in the here and now and when we are in the here and now, there is indeed wonder and reverence and surely a sacredness to the presence of life itself. For all life is now.
Experiencing AWE is not a difficult task, it is simply to be present where you are at any moment. Even the simplest of experiences can bring about a feeling of AWE such as the beauty that abounds around us, a quiet walk in nature, a wedding ceremony, watching inspiring movies, doing kindness for another, or a simple discovery of something new. I once attended a “drumming” with about 40 or so other people. We each chose a drum from a great variety that were available and found a spot on the floor to sit in a circle. The drumming began slowly as each of us joined in. The drumming became faster and faster over time until the sound was like one vibrating drum.
Some of us were experiencing such a deep resonance to what was happening that tears were streaming down our faces. It was so AWE-some. And as intensely AWE-some as this felt, I have also experienced AWE in simpler things such as holding a newborn baby, the surprising wisdom of animals, an unexpected visit from a long-ago friend…. I’m always in AWE of the view as we rise over the hill coming from Santa Fe and see the canyon carved by the Rio Grande.
I remember as a very small girl being in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and looking in all the windows of the many department stores that we passed by. This was during Christmas time and the stores were decorated with colored lights and beautiful ornaments. However, one window was different from the rest. This window was blue. And when I stood on my tip toes and looked through the window, I saw a miniature village with tiny lights like stars with snow and tiny people in sleighs or on skates moving through the scene. There were miniature animals and a myriad of activity. It took my breath away. I was mesmerized, it was as though another world existed that I had never seen. Now many, many years later, I still remember that window and what I felt. It was AWE.
Have you ever taken the leap to do something you thought you couldn’t do and find to your surprise that you can do it? There is a wonderful feeling of AWE. Enjoy each moment as it comes. Slow down, breathe and be present in that moment where all potential and life abound – the place of AWE.