I have always been excited about meteor showers; I am willing to get up in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold, to see a faint splash of meteor across the night sky. I noticed how powerful this was for me.
So I recently developed a new habit, even as the weather turns colder by the day. I go outside at night, after I have closed up my computer, and meditate on the night sky, meteor shower or not.
I admire the pure beauty of bright stars piercing the night sky, and the brightness and the rough texture of the moon. Luckily, I live in a rural area, so the night sky is tremendously full of stars.
Performing this ritual, I am reminded of my place in the world. How I have so much going on within me, my emotions and thoughts, the microorganisms that live within me, and yet, I am just a tiny part of this past universes (in a vast sea of universes). That all the wars, the triumphs, the tribulations, the vast movements towards freedom and truth, have all happened on this one planet we all live on. And while in some ways, this planet is large, when you compare it to the entire universe, it is also small.
There is sense of being small and being connected to this largeness, and a bit of mystery, all at once. That I am being held by the planet as we whirl around in space. That we are supported and nourished by the sun- the sun is just the right distance and temperature to allow the abundance of life on this this planet.
Awe makes you kinder… and healthier!
Awe gets you out of your head and into the world at large in a way that makes you feel connected. When you feel connected to others, you value their welfare, making you more like to help others in need. A study showed that research participants were more helpful to someone who had dropped a box of pens (they picked up more pens) after they experienced awe.
Research has shown that feelings of awe make our immune system more efficient. It does so by reducing cytokines, a chemical that our immune system releases to help with short-term issues such as healing wounds. However, when we feel under constant stress, these cytokines continue to flood the body, causing inflammation.
How to Experience Awe
First off, awe requires attention. We must pay attention to an object in order to allow awe to be cultivated. So stop checking your Facebook notifications and look around.
Awe also requires patience. If you are in a hurry, it’s hard to experience awe. Awe needs time to bloom- we are talking seconds not minutes (though taking minutes on a object of awe can be incredible as well). Awe also slows us down, create a state of calm in our bodies and minds.
When you catch a moment of awe, savor it. Take as much as time as you are able, let the feeling envelop your body and spirit. Breathe it in. Emotions we take the time to savor have a bigger impact on us.
So take a moment, maybe right now, and be open to awe.
What makes you feel awe? Can you incorporate awe into a daily practice, like my evening star-gazing? Or if you have a practice of awe, I’d love to hear about it.