The Awe of Awesome
I am inspired to talk about Awe, the feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. Perhaps it hits you when feel you are in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world around you. When you think that everything has an explanation or have been become skeptical of the world around you, it becomes easy to overlook the beauty and miracles. The hardened scientist may not feel the need for Awe, the awesome, the aw-ful. However, there are real benefits to feeling awe, not only emotionally, but physically. Take the moment of reverence and lean in.
We need not trek into the mountains or do anything on a grand scale for we can find moments of awe around us. The trick is to recognize the feeling of awe and when we need a dose of it.
Ellen Hendriksen, PhD describes awe as the following: “Awe is a mysterious, can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it emotion. It’s more complex than the peanut butter and jelly of sad, mad, and glad. If awe were a pizza, it would be loaded with a lot of very different toppings including morality, spirituality, and aesthetics. But even if awe is hard to describe, like jazz, you know it when you experience it. When awe is particularly strong, we are humbled by its presence and feel graced or fortunate. Awe is transcendent, shifting your attention away from yourself and making you feel part of something larger—humanity, the earth, the universe, or a higher power.”
What are the benefits of feeling awe? And is awe more effective than other emotions at decreasing inflammation? And what do we need to do to get the benefit of awe?
Awe makes us nicer. In a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, participants were instructed to meet a researcher either at the eucalyptus trees or at an equally tall building on campus. Each participant was asked to spend one minute gazing up at either the canopy of trees or the building. Those who gazed up at the trees and experienced a sense of awe, even if only for a minute, were more helpful, less entitled, and demanded less money, than those who gazed up at the building.
Awe Expands Our Worldview. One group watched a four-minute video designed to elicit awe. Specifically, the video moved downward in scale from the outer edges of the universe, to Earth, and finally to subatomic particles. There were two other groups that watched a either an inspiring video and then a neutral video. All of the groups listened to a story about a couples date.
In this study, those who experienced awe were able to see things as they were, rather than how they expected them to be. Through awe, we are more observant of reality rather than what we think reality should be, it keeps us from sleepwalking through the day.
A study in the journal Emotion examined seven different positive emotions—amusement, compassion, contentment, joy, love, pride, and of course, awe. Out of all seven, only awe went along with lower levels of a marker of inflammation.
This bears repeating: only awe decreased the markers for inflammation. And this make sense, right? When you can see past the mundane things that are inflaming you, bugging you, then you can feel the transcendence that awe inspires.
Study subjects also participated in a guided meditation. Those who received oxytocin reported experiencing more positive emotions during meditation, including awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, love and serenity.
Those who received oxytocin were more likely to say afterwards that spirituality was important in their lives and that life has meaning and purpose. This was true after taking into account whether the participant reported belonging to an organized religion or not.
Awe increases your connection to the world.
The “Overview Effect” described by astronauts is that when you see the earth from space, it is a truly transformative experience including senses of wonder and awe, unity with nature, transcendence and universal brotherhood. Feeling awe helps you feel connected to others and transcends the mundane.
Where do you feel awe? In things that are beautiful? When you see graceful action between humans or between animals? Does the complexity of the systems around you give you an Oooo-moment? Or when you see the very small or the very large. Perhaps when you see a flower growing out of the crack in the sidewalk, defying the odds. Here is the thing, don’t just let it pass you by. Take a moment… breathe and feel gratitude for that thing that has gotten your attention, that improbable, miraculous, complex, graceful or beautiful thing that has gotten your attention.
Whatever inspires awe for you, seek it out. And you may find you inspire the awe in others.
I invite you to share your daily awe as a prescription to the overwhelm, mundane or disconnection you may be feeling. You will benefit emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Please share your thoughts on Awe. I’ll be at Discover your Spiritual Gifts at 5808 S Rapp Street, Littleton, CO 80124 on Tuesdays. Janice Dau.
Written by Janice Dau
Janice is an Abundance Facilitator and Frequency Alchemist. She seeks a life of affluence, ease and joy for all. By accessing the intelligence of the universe you can live the life of your dreams. She values clarity, simplicity and fun. By loving what arises, you can become the change that you seek.
Janice is a certified Usui Reiki & Karuna Reiki Master Teacher, Akashic Record Librarian, Certified Anahata Code Practitioner and student of the world living in Lone Tree, Colorado. She opens her heart on the quest for knowledge that fuels her desire to assist others in living a life of abundance. She is very excited to bring souls together that are desiring to live a life of highest potential. Her passion is building community and teaching others to use crystals, oils, chakras, EFT and other modalities.
Vialet Rayne of Discover Your Spiritual Gifts created an inclusive and welcoming spiritual center and metaphysical store in historical downtown Littleton, Colorado. Discover Your Spiritual Gifts is a haven for those seeking and teaching spirituality. This sacred sanctuary and loving community exist to heighten our individual and collective consciousness while unearthing and sharing each individual's inner gifts.
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