Saturday, May 9, 2020

Cultivating The Process of Awe

by Jen Perry, MA, MSEd, LPC

One of the best ways I’ve found to cultivate awe in my life is to bow to the Great Mystery of All. That’s what I started calling it when my kids were little. Instead of giving them answers to their countless questions, I frequently would ask them what they thought or felt about something first. I encouraged them to wonder. As I joined them in the energy of this delicious wondering (why is the sky blue? Do turtles like chocolate ice cream? What’s the highest number anyone has counted to?) I found it so much more enjoyable than knowing a bunch of applicable facts. And the truth is, anytime we study things at a high level, we are left with more questions than answers. It’s the process of wondering that leaves us open to awe, creativity, and discovery.

Bringing a fresh perspective can bring out the process of awe in even the most ordinary things ~ the flowers in your yard, your family member's faces, every night's sky. It is this perspective that I invite into each meeting with each client in my practice. It keeps our work fresh and often, surprising and spontaneous. I encourage clients to meet themselves and their experiences with the process of awe and reverence, and in doing so, magic can happen. Creativity in problem-solving and working through limiting beliefs, while still hard work, becomes joyful. Wondering about problematic behavior and how it may be adaptive (either now or in the past) becomes an exercise in being curious and appreciative of who we are and why we do what we do. Therapy then becomes a process of getting to know yourself better and deepening in love with who you are as you grow instead of a painful endeavor of fixing what was never broken in the first place.

In addition to seeking out awe-inspiring peak experiences, it is possible to live a more awe-filled life. Nurturing curiosity by learning to question (or at least identify) your underlying assumptions about yourself, others, and the world allows a spaciousness that is fertile ground for awe. Allow yourself to wonder actively about everything as an exercise. And lastly, noticing beauty in the ordinary. 

Quiz on Awe
Take this quiz by researcher Paul Piff to see how much awe is a process in your life:

Ask yourself these questions. Score each item from 1 to 5. If your total reaches 30, then you must be pretty enchanted by the world.

I often feel awe.
I see beauty all around me.
I feel wonder almost every day.
I often look for patterns in the objects around me.
I have many opportunities to see the beauty of nature.
I seek our experiences that challenge my understanding of the world.

Source: Paul Piff, clipped from Psychology Today Magazine, and hung on my bulletin board for the last few years.  

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