The sun came out today, after weeks of wind and rain. My husband and I took a drive in order to intentionally heighten the awesome experience of southeast Alaska in the sunlight. But I realize that the above descriptor does not do the experience justice. The word "awesome" is overused these days. "This is an awesome song, " "Have an awesome weekend", and "My God is an awesome God" don't really capture the unique feelings evoked by each experience.
So let's take a look at the photo above from a different internal perspective. Stop and notice and breathe in the scene. What images, thoughts, memories, or longings does your brain conjure up as you gaze at the light descending upon the water? Can you imagine yourself in this scene right now? Can you feel the cool breeze ruffle your hair, the sunlight warm your skin, the vast wild beauty of the mountains and heaven-like rays draw you into their majesty? Are you reminded of another time when you were immersed in the beauty of nature or another being? Can you feel your chest warming and expanding as you take your next breath?
That is the experience of "awe"- an emotion-evoking, expansive knowing that one is part of something larger and more meaningful than one's individual existence. The range of experiences that can evoke awe are varied and endless in number- from watching the sunrise while drinking a cup of coffee to waking up after surgery, snuggling a puppy, watching a baby sleep, recalling a first kiss, praying in a sacred space, or standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Researchers tell us that we can cultivate the experience of awe by seeking them out and then taking as little as 30 seconds to stop and savor such experiences. Moreover, cultivating the experience of awe actually changes the brain! Over time this simple, enjoyable practice can relieve stress, create hope, instill gratitude, and build resilience. Now that is what I call awesome!