1. A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.
Synonyms: wonder, reverence, respect, admiration, dread, fear, esteem
It surprised me to see the antonyms of “wonder” and “fear” used to define awe; same with “admiration” and “dread.” Do we truly dread what we most admire in wonder? Is it a fear of never experiencing a moment of awe again? Or perhaps a dread that we are somehow missing something?
I was recently told, by a stranger no less, that I am a “feeler.” This wasn’t meant as: “you’re so sensitive;” it was a complimentary observation. She said I was so in tune with the energies of people around me (living and dead), because I feel, which is not a trait every one possesses. A friend also recently told me, “you are an engager;” that I actively engage in life and invite others to do the same.
I experience my life with all five (sometimes six!) senses. I am blessed to be someone who is awe-struck at least a half-dozen times a day.
Awe has saved my life. I realize that the ability to feel awe is one of my greatest coping mechanisms. When I was “near-death sick,” I would gain strength through the awe-some acts of kindness from family, friends and strangers to the awe-inspiring views of blazing sunsets and even full rainbows gracing my hospital room windows.
As well, during moments of deep emotional distress; times when the pain was so great I felt like my only option may well be to end my life, moments of awe and the fear of missing out on awe, have kept me around to try one more day at a time.
An unknown poet describes an episode of awe as becoming “wholly dissolved” in the moment. This resonated deeply with me. For when I let myself fully succumb to the experience, it is like the outer world falls away and I am now one with the moment in front of me; experiencing awe with all my senses. And this is where I think “fear” comes in; because it is a true surrender, a letting go of control, to be able to fully engage in the discovery of awe. For me, these reverent episodes fill me up with awe, so that I can experience this sense of wonder everywhere and in everything.
I whole-heartedly embrace awe and invite others to do the same. I will make my husband turn around to watch fawns graze in the morning mist or a blood-red orange full moon rising just above the horizon. I have been known to go back into stores and tell strangers to come outside because there is a double rainbow across the parking lot.
I am now going to do the same for all of you… I implore you to embrace awe in the month ahead. Then let me know how it has changed your life! :
- A great way to begin looking at life through awe-colored lenses is to observe a child or a pet. Children investigate and explore everything in their paths with a sense of awe. And it never fails to make me smile when I observe my cat discover a sun spot on the floor; she will watch it, chase it, sleep on it, and almost breathe in its warming essence. If you don’t have a child or pet in your immediate family; go to a playground and find a bench to relax on; just watch and become inspired!
- Start keeping an “Awe Journal:” document moments and experiences in your day that make you pause and sigh with gratitude.
- Experience a small chunk of your day with all five senses. I like to do this when I first get up: I sit in my favorite chair and listen to the coffee percolating, relishing in its deep aroma; I hear the birds chirp their morning song and watch the sky rapidly change colors as it welcomes the day; I feel the softness of my favorite blanket warm up my muscles and the purr of my cat vibrating on my legs; I savor that first sip of my morning beverage, imagining all the phases it took before reaching my mouth (the coffee bean’s journey from field to pot; or the spring water’s path from waterfall to tap).
- Write a note to someone thanking them for bringing “awe” into your life. Perhaps it was through a loving gesture, or as an inspiration to you, or by being someone who epitomizes awe-someness!! Find someone to emulate and mimic their enthusiasm towards awe. I guarantee it is contagious!
- Intentionally create an environment for awe… usually through an experience that engages the senses, such as a concert, an art exhibit, an art project, dance, theater, etc.
- Go through old photos and pull out ones where you have captured moments of awe: your grandson experiencing bubbles for the first time; a friend graduating from college at 30; the first flowers of spring; a riotous sunset or sunrise; your first time dancing again after knee surgery; a wedding; a birth… once you actively start looking for awe in your life, you’ll be surprised how many moments have happened without you realizing it. Or use your smart phone to document moments of awe as they occur and then see what you’ve collected at the end of the month.
Once you open your eyes to awe, you will begin to see it everywhere.
Please share your awe-thentically awe-some ideas with all of us 🙂
“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
– John Milton