I began 2023 with a near panic attack in a hot yoga class (not my first but one I couldn’t work my way through) and after making a less than graceful premature exit, stumbling over sweaty bodies and into the cold night time air, I heard the most beautiful song on the radio as I drove home, “Oas” by Dina Ögon. I know nothing about her (nor how to link to it for you, but it is on Itunes) other than on that night in early January I was able to slow my heart rate, take deep breaths, and know that I was going to be ok because of her voice. It was truly awesome how quickly listening to a piece of music and feeling the cold air were able to shift my insides from fear and anxiety to awe.
noun) a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.
If ever there was a word to sum up life on earth, this is it. Reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder. That is why I started this blog ten years ago this month (ten years?!) and what has kept me writing since then. I needed and need a place to put that fear and wonder, somewhere to note beauty otherwise overlooked and anxiety that can run amuck if left unexamined. And, have you noticed? Awe is having a moment.
Within the past month I read about its benefits in the New York Times Wellness section and listened to that NYT article’s author Dacher Keltner discuss it on the On Being podcast. (I highly recommend both). In his interview in the On Being podcast, Keltner lists the eight types of awe which he and fellow researchers discovered while interviewing people about their experiences with awe; moral beauty, collective effervescence, nature, music, visual design, spirituality and religion, life and death, and epiphany. What stood out to me in listening to him speak, was the communal aspect of awe. It is about being part of something bigger than us, something that reminds us of our humanity and of the human web we are naturally a part of because we just are. I have not read his book yet, “Awe- The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life,” but look forward to reading it!
The morning after my hot yoga class meltdown, on the advice of the friend I had been with, whose mental and physical health regimen I admire, I joined a cheap gym and began going daily. It has been a game changer. 30 minutes. That’s it; enough to get blood, sweat, and energy to move and flow. I have joined gyms in the past and made myself go, but I never looked forward to it like I do now. And bonus! There are so many podcasts! I am late to the game with podcasts, but they have become part of my morning routine. In addition to the On Being podcast, I am enamored with We Can Do Hard Things, Dressed, All There Is, and several others. Stories, Growth, History, Grief, Fashion, all things that remind me how much we have in common.
One of the funny things about awe is how easy it actually becomes to feel the more present one is. The reasons are everywhere. We are amazing and though it is easy to get bogged down in an anxious and depressed narrative, it is just as easy to snap out of it by looking around and seeing all that we are capable of and surrounded by; that beautiful building, the first buds of spring, her scarf, the song on the radio, my dog’s wagging tail, that person helping another cross the street, your neighbor’s strange yard art, the epiphany that finally comes, and the movie that makes you laugh and then cry.