Soul Sculpting Project: Put Some Awe in Your Day

 

Soul Sculpting Project: Put Some Awe in Your Day

I had taken one step out of my front door into the night when I froze in awe. The Milky Way stretched from from horizon to zenith and beyond. A wing of the Milky Way, that I seldom notice, spread out distinctly. Every light in the heavens was turned on high. I gazed at the sight for several minutes and as I turned to go back inside a brilliant meteor shot across the sky, turning green in the final part of its descent. That night I had an encounter with awe.

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Awe: an overwhelming feeling of amazement for something that is grand, special, or unique. A feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding. A state of being that straddles the boundary of pleasure and fear.

Experiencing Awe is good for us.

Our Health:

Recent research from U.C. Berkeley suggests we can add awe to our list of best anti-inflammatories.

When people experience awe they lower their levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker of inflammation.

Our Social Life

Awe makes us nicer people. Multiple studies have found that after an experience of awe, people increase in pro-social behaviors like kindness, self-sacrifice, co-operation and generosity. Awe encourages our sense of connection with others, giving us social embeddedness.

Our Self-image

Awe creates the “small self” effect.

Consider this study: Researchers asked visitors to Yosemite National Park and Fisherman’s Wharf (a tourist area in San Francisco) about their feelings of awe and their sense of self.

Tourists at Yosemite:

  • Reported experiencing significantly more awe
  • Represented their current self with smaller circles (when given a choice of sizes)
  • Drew self-portraits that were nearly 33 percent smaller

than tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One study found that people who are more prone to experience awe feel more humility and are rated as more humble by their friends. Another study found that after experiencing awe, people will acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses in a more balanced way and will notice how outside forces contribute to their success.

When we combine the “small self” effect, humility and pro-social behaviors we offer an interesting antidote to narcissism.Rome-Papal-Basilica-of-St-Paul-Outside-the-Walls-7-Final

Faith and Awe

Religion has long been a primary source of awe for humans. Job had a ‘small self” experience when he encountered God in the whirlwind. “Behold, I am of small account.” (Job 40:4) Job experienced awe as he learned of things “too wonderful” to understand. (Job 42:3)

Peter, James, and John “were filled with awe” as they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. (Matt. 17: 6) All of the disciples “were filled with awe” when Jesus transformed a wild life-threatening storm into a peaceful, calm evening. (Mark 4:41)

If, however, we are not encountering God in whirlwinds, transfigurations or storm calming, is religious awe available to us?

David experienced awe as he simply meditated on God. When David realized that God was intimately acquainted with all of David’s actions and secret thoughts, he declared “such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 139:6)

Just thinking about the awesome can bring us to an experience of awe. Studies have found that even reading, or writing stories about awe can increase our well-being.

The practice of meditation/thinking about God promotes awe.

Experiencing nature is common method for meditation on God. “God’s invisible nature. . .” can be “clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20)

Johnathan Edwards (1703-1758) found that “God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity, and love seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon, stars; in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water and in all nature.” Edwards, Personal Writings.

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Everyday Awe

Opportunities for awe surround us. From the microscopic to the expanses of our universe. We can find awe in art museums, concerts, new places, and the behavior of other people. Prisms in soap bubbles, complex machines, athletes, skilled workers can create awe for us.

I regularly experience awe in nature and science education. Where do you find awe?

Soul Sculpting Project: Put Some Awe in Your Day

Rather than waiting for awe to drop in our laps this week:

Seek out or create experiences of awe.

Ideas:

  • Think about God
  • Slow read Psalm 136
  • Get into nature, God’s creation.
  • Gaze at the stars, look in a microscope or magnifying glass.
  • Read about the awesome.
  • Look for awe in the ordinary. From soap bubbles to traffic.

I have spent most of my life under urban and suburban lights. The moon and brightest constellations were all I knew well. When we moved to the country I discovered that on any clear and moonless night I could walk out my door and encounter the Milky Way. An encounter with awe.

May your week be filled with awe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One Comment Add yours

  1. Claire says:

    awe some.

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