Let Spirit Move
Developing Awe as a Path to Peace
  by Rev. SierraLynne White, MFT

One of the spiritual and psychological tragedies of adult life is the loss of the sense of awe.  In modern useage, the word 'awesome' is commonly applied to any experience that is exciting, novel or "cool".  The true meaning of the word is lost.  Every experience is new to a young child ( 3 yrs. or less), and a curious toddler is awestruck by almost everything.  When we were children, we saw all of being alive as awesome!

As we grow older this sense of awesome wonder seems to diminish.  We think of ourselves as "cool" when we are surprised by nothing.  Our consciousness begins to drown in everyday struggles and business (busy-ness).  We take things for granted and keep seeking new and more exciting novelties, distractions and possessions even though these things lead us further away from health and wholeness, and certainly far from feeling peaceful.

All of the world's faiths and spiritual traditions recognize the value of seeing life with "beginners mind".  Buddhists value experiencing every single moment of life as "new".  In Christian scripture, Jesus advises us to 'Be ye as little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven'    (Matthew 18:3).  Native Americans and mystics of all persuasions view all aspects of life and of creation as praiseworthy and sacred.  To cultivate a life with more depth, more peace and more happiness for ourselves, we would do well to develop our 'sense of wonder' - to re-develop and increase our capacity for Awe. 

If we recapture our child-like sense of awe, we would not have to seek stimulation in the dramatic - the exciting, the tragic.  We would not be so driven to get more - the best - the huge - the newest.  When we cherish the sacredness of life and living, we find that we also become peaceful.  Appreciating the everyday sacred is the opposite of being stirred up emotionally.  It is the opposite of being lured by the media into a frenzy of fear and lack.  It is the antidote for being caught in our hurt, anger, judgments and self-defeating thoughts.  Developing awe is a practice we can choose to help us on the path to peace, both inner and outer.  As we saturate ourselves with appreciation of the sacred, we are also filled ourselves with peace.  This peacefulness is not only a balm for ourselves, it affects others  - radiating out to our relationships and families, to our communities and our world.  One way to plant peace is to sow the seeds of awe.

To revive a sense of awe, look deeply and appreciate and praise all things!  Praise all places and all activities.  Especially, praise and appreciate all of nature!  Remember that people, creatures and all beings are part of nature.  All people, creatures and beings are inherently sacred simply because they are creations of Life.  The mystery and miracle Life itself - coming into and going out of being - is an ongoing, glorious cycle of existence.  To recover a sense of the sacred, recall moments that have been truly "awe inspiring" - the birth of a baby, an unexpected healing, special moments with a loved one, beautiful places in nature, an event of nature, a 'peak experience', a moment of grace.  Hold the vivid remembrance and energy of these awesome times in your body, mind and heart.  Reflect upon them as often as possible, building a habit of peaceful contemplation.  Here are some other ways to cultivate a daily sense of awe:    

  • Observe Beauty.  Look at the ocean, a river, trees, birds.  Look at a flower.  How did such vibrant color, exquisite form and texture come to be from a tiny seed or bulb?  Be grateful for the force that created such magnificent and graceful designs.  Look at the exquisiteness of light everywhere - playing on water, trees and shimmering leaves, in sunrise and sunset, casting lovely dancing shadows.  Cherish the beauty of sun and light shining on all things.  
  • Before eating, wonder about how the food got to the store and to your plate.  Think of all the people who contributed to nourishing you - farmers, harvesters, manufacturers, cooks, processors, transporters, clerks.  Go further back to the seed, the soil, rain and sun.  Considering all that, say "wow" with each mouthful. 
  • Gaze at the moon and stars.  Contemplate the distances - the eternal time - the swirling galaxies!  Realize that light from some of those stars actually left them eons ago, and you are seeing it now for the first time. 
  • Look upon your child, or into the eyes of your partner, friend or loved one. Look into the face of another human being and become aware that we all have the same birth, death, feelings, hopes and fears.  Praise be for the marvel of sacred human life.
  • Consider your own body and how it works.  What a wondrous and amazing gift it is - how complex and fascinating is our anatomy and function. Give thanks for the miracle of our senses, of movement, of breath! 

You get the idea.  We can decide to revitalize and refresh our lives by teaching ourselves to deliberately look and see through the bright open eyes of childlike wonder.  Appreciating awesomeness is a perspective that we can choose to develop.  We can make it a spiritual practice to remember and revere sacredness everywhere.  With such an attitude, every moment becomes joyful, peaceful . . . . and truly AWESOME

Rev. SierraLynne White, MFT
PATHWORK Integrative Counseling & Interfaith Ministry


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