The Power of Awe
The Hidden Life of Trees' author claims that scientists in the 1970s made an intriguing discovery when giraffes were munching on acacia trees in the African savannah.
Naturally, the trees wanted the giraffes to cease eating their leaves, so they released a noxious irritant that made the leaves unpleasant for them to chew.
In addition to avoiding other trees of the same type until they were approximately one hundred yards away, the giraffes left ALL of the tree alone. Why? The trees sent out a warning gaseous signal to other trees to let them know that an ecological catastrophe was occurring.
These nearby trees injected contaminates into their leaves to deter giraffes from consuming them.
When I read this, I was astonished.
In spite of the fact that I am always around trees, it made me realize how little I actually understand about them and what they are fully capable of. I've been pondering this idea of wonder and awe ever since I read Julia Baird's memoir, Phosphorescence.
In Phosphorescence, Baird describes how she remains immersed in awe and wonder as she swims with cuttlefish, sea turtles, and whaler sharks each morning. She suggests that one of the ways we might become fully present in our lives is through feeling in awe.
It got me thinking about how awe manifests in my own life, even though I don't have any intentions to go swimming in open ocean every morning. I couldn't help but think, in a Carrie Bradshaw kind of way: Is astonishment something we should be striving for in every aspect of our lives? My answer each time - yes, yes, yes!
“I think this is how we’re supposed to be in
the world – present and in awe.” – Anne Lamott
Awe is a paradoxical emotion because it can both make us feel little and teach us to value things that make us feel so inconsequential. At the same time, you become aware of the importance that what you do actually matters. Every one of us has a vital duty to perform during our human lifetimes. In that sense, being in awe is one of the finest methods to re-center yourself, particularly when you're distracted with life's other details In our fast-paced and often chaotic world.
Below are a few how-to steps that I put together for you to try yourself.
Image caption: The Tree Amigos
Cultivating Mindfulness through Wonder and Amazement
Heightened Awareness of the Present Moment
Awe has the unique ability to transport us into the present moment, suspending our worries and preoccupations. When we encounter something truly awe-inspiring, whether it be a majestic natural landscape, a stunning piece of art, or an extraordinary human achievement, our attention becomes fully absorbed in the experience. In these moments, our awareness expands, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the present and savor the richness of the here and now.
Cultivating a Sense of Wonder and Curiosity
Awe triggers a profound sense of wonder and curiosity within us. When we witness something that exceeds our expectations or challenges our understanding of the world, we are compelled to explore further and deepen our understanding. This innate curiosity encourages us to approach life with a fresh beginner's mind, a childish mind, embracing new magical perspectives and possibilities. By cultivating this sense of wonder, we become more attuned to the intricate details and beauty that surround us daily.
Connection and Empathy
Awe has the remarkable ability to transcend our individual perspectives and connect us with something larger than ourselves. Whether we find ourselves gazing at a starlit sky or witnessing an act of kindness, awe elicits a sense of interconnectedness and unity. This feeling of connection can extend beyond the immediate experience, fostering empathy and compassion towards others. By recognizing our shared humanity, awe motivates us to engage in acts of kindness and contribute positively to the world around us.
Gratitude and Appreciation
Experiencing awe reminds us of the incredible wonders and blessings in our lives. It helps us shift our focus from what is lacking to what is present, fostering a sense of gratitude and appreciation. When we are mindful of the awe-inspiring moments, big and small, we develop a greater appreciation for life's simple pleasures and the beauty that surrounds us. Gratitude cultivates a positive mindset and fuels a cycle of mindfulness, as we seek out and acknowledge the awe-inspiring aspects of our daily lives.
Inspiring Growth and Personal Transformation
Awe has the potential to spark personal growth and transformation. When faced with something awe-inspiring, we are reminded of the vastness of the world and our place within it. This humbling experience encourages us to reflect on our values, beliefs, and aspirations. Awe can inspire us to challenge self-imposed limitations, embrace new experiences, and pursue personal and spiritual growth. By integrating the lessons of awe into our lives, we become more open, adaptable, and resilient individuals.
Awe acts as a gateway to mindfulness, inviting us to engage with the world in a more profound and conscious manner. As we become more mindful, we unlock the potential of gratitude to live more fulfilling, compassionate, and purpose-driven lives, both for ourselves and for the world we inhabit. Be well, be love, be in awe!