Awe Inspires Wellness

I stared out across the vast lake while gently rocking in the canoe. It was a quiet morning without much traffic. Just the sky, the trees and water for miles. The air was still. The sun reflected off the water and danced around in a pattern that was hypnotizing. The swirls in the water from the paddle continued on long after it was removed. Small drips off the paddle plummeted back into the water as I feathered it through the air to dip again. Silence. Slow. Smooth.

I got lost in nature and felt it- awe. A sense that there is something bigger, something more meaningful than just myself. I escaped my own world for a split second and felt refreshed. It only took a few paddles to feel this humbling power but when it happens, I soak it up. 

Paddling in lakes takes me back to my childhood, especially summers spent traversing northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Great Lakes. I felt it often then- awe. It was at least an hourly feeling. A sense of fulfillment, gratitude, belonging. And what followed those feelings was inspiration. A need to be more. Do more. Love more. Embrace the world around you and make it better. 

My present day trance ended quickly when I heard, “Mom!” A request for snack time in the canoe. Who wants to miss snack time? Not me! I started to explain where I went and what a sense of awe is to my kids but I’m not sure they understood me. They’re still young and told me that they know they are little and everything else is bigger. When you spend your day looking up at everything, I can see why you would conclude this point.

When do you first notice awe? And once you do, when does the power humble you? I can only answer this question for myself. My earliest memory of awe was in nature. The power it held. The vastness. It was humbling and I appreciated feeling small and being part of something larger.

What really is awe? How do you define it? It can be hard to explain. One version depicts awe as a feeling of immense respect mixed with wonder. It lessens selfishness and creates a desire to connect with other people and form communities. Evolutionary scientists at UC Berkeley argue that it has promoted survival and reproduction. It has allowed generations to adjust and embrace new information. In essence, it creates adaptability- a critical component of survival.

Awe is mysteriously complex and closely connected to health- both physiologic and psychologic wellness. It can make people be more generous, kind, less materialistic, and decrease symptoms of stress. Something we all need right now and probably one of the reasons why we chose to go canoeing. To escape, to embrace, and to enjoy. 

The next time I stand in nature, I will linger a little in my emotions and hopefully feel a sense of awe. Embracing other viewpoints, being humble, adapting to the new keeps us all moving forward and feeling well.

What makes you feel a sense of awe and are you humbled by it? Cheers to being well- both physically and emotionally with a little help from feeling a sense of awe.

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