Awe – One of Life’s Essential Ingredients

How often do you pause to appreciate experiences of awe in your life?

Photo Credit: Skitterphoto via Pixabay

Photo Credit: Skitterphoto via Pixabay

Research is providing evidence for what you probably already know intuitively. Awe is one of the essential ingredients to a fulfilling life.

Studies reveal that experiencing awe engenders a sense of social connection, make us more altruistic, cooperative, able to share resources and even reduces the inflammation response making us healthier individuals. Not to mention the innate joy and expansion of spirit that comes with these experiences.

The word awe conjures images of grand, sweeping vistas and once in a lifetime travels. And certainly these are sources of wonder. So when you have one of these rare experiences, be sure you let the moment really land, bring home memories and mementos and revisit them from time to time. 

And, awe is available every day if we simply notice.

The predicament of a modern human life has most of us balancing countless demands and chronically stressed for time. So if we’re to make a practice of inviting more awe into our lives, it’s equally important that we not make this one more item for our to-do lists.  

Instead let’s take advantage of all the ways we can experience this beneficial emotion in the activities that are already a part of our daily lives. To help you start your own list, here are some of my access points to awe.

Nature – its rhythms, interconnections, beauty and majesty.

  • In the pre-dawn hour, it’s great to notice those final moments of sleep, filled with a myriad of birds singing up the sun.
  • I love to catch the sunrise when I can, as the branches of the ponderosa pines are up-lit in gold.
  • Vacations spent in wilderness, forests, sandstone canyons and seashores offer awe-inspiring moments and a treasure trove of memories.
  • In the mundane, ordinary space of my backyard, bird feeders, water and native plants offer a refuge for a wide variety of birds, squirrels and nocturnal creatures that return the favor by offering countless moments of wonder and curiosity.

Human nature – its generosity, community and tenderness.

  • Notice the melodic sound of laughter – of small children, of a circle of friends, of your loved ones – and the way it breaks through even in the face of grief and pain.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have babies in your family or social circle, notice the flutter of their eyelids, the rhythmic opening and closing of their hands as they sleep, the way everything drops to utter stillness as you hold a sleeping baby against your chest.
  • Are you too amazed by the profound love that transcends and makes sacred the most impossible situations of illness, grief, loss, crisis and heartbreak?

Subtle wonders – available only when we truly attend to the present moment.

  • There is an indescribable wonder in the patterns of light and shadow between the trees.
  • To look closely at the smallest feather, leaf, flower and blade of grass is to witness intricate patterns that can boggle the mind.
  • Slow enough to feel the flow of energy through your own body, the pulse of blood in your veins, the breath bringing nourishment to every cell.
  • The scent of cottonwoods after a rain or the desert before of a rain – so ever-present, so easily unnoticed – our sense of smell can be a direct connection with wonder.

This is a small sampling. Opportunities for awe are all around. But the trick is, they are opportunities, not mandates. Choosing to let them land is a skill to be cultivated.

We can’t force ourselves to feel awe any more than we can force any other emotion. And most of the time, awe won’t force it’s way into our awareness if we let it slip by. But we can make ourselves available. We can be ready to catch it, to let it land when it shows up. We can pay attention, be where our feet are, practice being fully present in the moment.

We can record our moments of awe in our gratitude journal. We can tell our awe-stories to friends and multiply the wonder. We can revisit our treasure chest of memories so the majesty that fills us in those moments can return to us again and again.

I’d love to hear your stories of wonder and the ways you invite it to land in your heart!


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  1. Wilma G Ennenga May 22, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Hi Kelly, the laughter and musical cadence of that young boy we heard last week was a moment of awe for me. Full of delight and innocence and appreciation for that moment… his joy filled my heart…

    • Kelly May 30, 2016 at 11:03 am #

      Me too. The laughter of children always gets me!

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