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Moments of Awe

Are you aware of ‘moments of awe’ in your life, those moments when you become emotional, get goosebumps or tear up? Moments of awe are often associated with big events like the birth of a baby, admiring the Grand Canyon or experiencing the vastness of the Victoria Falls in Africa. There are many ways to be in awe; they can also be found in ordinary life. Deliberately seeking moments of awe is beneficial as they have a positive impact on your emotional and physical health!

You are connected to something larger than yourself.

Many of us know when we are in awe, but we don’t find it easy to describe. Some say “It is beyond words”. Dacher Keltner, professor of Psychology from University of California, Berkeley, has spent 20 years studying the emotion of awe. To him “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world”. He defines the emotion of awe as our response to powerful things that are obscure, vast, and mysterious. They are beyond our frame of reference, making us feel small and filling us with wonder.

Our deep instinctive connection to Nature may create awe.

Spending time in Nature is a simple and effective way to get in touch with ourselves and the wonders of life. Most people can relate to it. Taking time to slow down and to stop on our walks, taking in the beauty of Nature and paying attention to details such as the opening of a flower or a bird feeding their young can be important. Now in the spring, it is inviting to pause and admire the change of Nature in front our eyes. As you open your senses, you may experience a sense of wonder and an appreciation for the beauty of Nature.

There are many different ways to experience awe.

Awe can also be experienced when listening to a favourite piece of classical music (or rock music for that matter) or when looking at a beautiful or inspiring piece of art. You may be in awe when doing something you are passionate about such as dancing tango, when being moved by ‘acts of kindness’ around you, or when being involved in a collective event such as a concert or a ceremony that touches you deeply. The feeling of energy and harmony when people are engaged in a shared purpose called ‘collective effervescence’, e.g. in a choir or a running event is a common way to experience awe. Moreover, awe can be part of life transitions: Being present with a delivery of a baby, or with a loved one dying may be hugely transformative.

Awe has a powerful effect on emotional and physical health and well-being.

Awe helps you boost healthy emotions such as compassion and gratitude, expand your perception of time (making you feel less rushed or impatient), decreases your focus on materialistic possessions, and enhances feelings of generosity and cooperativeness. Moreover, it improves your mood and overall satisfaction with life. These outcomes have all been well described in studies conducted by Keltner. It is striking that the positive outcomes also include physical benefits: Awe helps to boost your immune system, reduce inflammation and lower cortisol (our stress hormone). It helps to deactivate our brain’s stress centre and reduce pain perception.

Alexander Technique and Reflexology helps open our senses.

Both modalities may be supportive in cultivating awe in your life. The sessions help you to slow down and to become more aware, more present and more open. To experience awe, we need to open our senses. We have five basic ones: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. We have another sense, called proprioception which is the sense of movement and action of our body parts as well as spatial awareness. In Alexander Technique, we particularly work towards refining proprioception. Each of the senses send information to the brain to help us understand and perceive the world. Each of them is involved in the experience of awe.

Experiencing awe is highly connected to our senses and our ability to use them.

Opening our senses and being fully present, may help us see the extraordinary in the ordinary of our own lives. You may be taken by the glistening sunlight streaming through a window, the intricate architecture of a spider’s web, or the rhythmic sound of a sleeping baby. Be creative in finding moments of awe. Use your senses. Listen differently to the leaves rustling in the tree or the sound of happy children playing on the play ground. Smell the roses. Awe is an emotion all around us waiting to be discovered. Regular practices, like meditation, breathwork or Alexander work, can open us up to easily notice and benefit from everyday awe.

You can cultivate ‘moments of awe’.

Some of you may be lucky: You may naturally be connected to the mysteries of life, and you are naturally in awe in different daily situations. In our stressful lives, this connection is often buried; we often feel disconnected, and therefore need some practice to cultivate awe in our lives. We may feel drawn to Nature and go on an ‘awe walks’, slowing down and looking for ‘awesome moments’. Others may find awe more easily in music or dance. We are all different and individual, and we get deeply touched by a variety of things. What brings tears to your eyes? What gives you goosebumps? Where do you feel deeply touched? Can you deliberately seek out more of these moments in your life?

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