One journey I took on over the two years I was gone from A Space Story was SpaceKind. And through SpaceKind I learned to stand in a Moment of Awe, a term that absolutely revolutionized my life and allowed me to feel something bigger than myself.
So what exactly do we mean when we say "awe"? Well, awe is the emotion of being overwhelmed in response to your normal, everyday views of the world being challenged. When we step into a new perspective outside of ourselves and our world, it is easy to be filled with feelings such as wonder, amazement, and inspiration. In addition to that, awe can help us feel as if we are part of something larger than ourselves. It gets us out of our own heads and focused on making connections to the world around us.
Think back to some time in your life when you were filled with awe. There is a long list of things that can give us that feeling. Many of us find awe and inspiration in nature, in sunrises and sunsets, in hiking through the mountains, or in watching the waves on the beach. You can find awe and wonder in the things you learn, the books you read, the music you listen to, or the art you create. You can find awe in events like the birth of a child or a rush of adrenaline. Awe is deep in locations like the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, or any of the other Seven Wonders of the World.
But awe doesn't necessarily mean a positive and amazing experience. You can be overwhelmed in a negative way that challenges your views too. This can look like fear or dread, a sense of powerlessness, or a lack of certainty. After all, we tend to say "awful" when these things happen. Just as nature can leave us in awe, natural disasters can also leave us in awe. It is important to also recognize these moments as profoundly deep experiences that change your view of the world, to the point where you are moved to awe. Hold these experiences simply as another form of a moment of awe and you will find you can use them as a source of inspiration and power as well.
Significant research has been done on the power of awe that I recommend investigating, including one of my favorites, The Science of Awe.
First images back from JWST. Credit: NASA
Space is "awesome." If you are here on this blog, that is probably something we agree on. Some of the best ways to live in a moment of awe are to stare up at the night sky, bask in the glory of the moonlight, or make theories or stories about the stars you see above you. Our ancestors have been practicing this form of awe for thousands of years, across many different cultures. Even today, space has continued to capture our attention, overwhelming and challenging us. It is big and scary and there are a lot of unknowns. But the Apollo 11 moon landing, black holes, human space flight, the concept of life outside of our own planet...all these space things are keeping humans in awe. So much so that there are many of us who dedicated our lives to chasing this awe. You can even see in my last blog post about how the pictures received back from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) left me in awe - and I know I was not the only one. Almost everything about space challenges the safety and security that we know our home planet to have and helps us see our place in the larger universe. We, as space people, are very familiar with this emotion.
You have felt awe before and you are drawing on that experience. Now I know what you are thinking. You want to know how to get more awe in your life. After all, even if it is a little scary, awe makes us feel alive and connected. You can use the practice of recognizing your Moment of Awe.
Moment of Awe
Now that you can put a word to these emotions when you feel them, it is time to practice standing in your Moment of Awe. Be present. Allow yourself to feel awe. Oftentimes we as a society feel the need to turn away from these awe-filled experiences. We don't want our everyday views to be challenged and we certainly don't want to feel overwhelmed. I am challenging you to lean into those moments. This is one of the secrets to unlocking inspiration and creativity within yourself while at the same time being connected to a larger world.
"But Bailey! There is one flaw in all this! If you are expanding the world you live in with each moment of awe, doesn't it become harder to challenge your world views? Aren't we going to become jaded with awe?" Great question, thank you so much for asking. The first important point to pull from this is you cannot live your entire life in awe. Each second can't be a Moment of Awe, otherwise you would constantly be overwhelmed and challenged. That just sounds exhausting. This leads me to my next point.
The goal here is to train your ability to find awe, just like a muscle. If you feel your life is mundane now, your next Moment of Awe (that you now have a name for) may feel like cool water on your dry throat and may revolutionize your life. And it may take a lot to wake that up inside you. But soon, and with enough repetition, you will be pausing for a Moment of Awe with everyday things. Like how cool is a light switch? Can we just marvel at the fact someone was smart enough to not only understand but control electricity? The people who feel the most awe are those who continuously open themselves up to it. They are the "people who are more open to new experiences. People who are less comfortable with ambiguity, on the other hand, appear to be less likely to experience awe." as Dr. Summer Allen discusses in The Science of Awe. I am not asking you to live in constant awe, only be open to the experience of awe when it finds you.
And in honor of that - I am starting Moment of Awe Monday! I am going to be posting at least one picture that correlates with a Moment of Awe from that week. This is my first step in building the platform I will be proud of as I shake off all the dust and come back to posting. And I am encouraging you all to do the same! It is a simple game every Monday that kicks your week off on an awe-inspired foot, allowing you to reflect on the week and grow your ability to feel awe.
I often feel the world is missing awe and wonder. Talking about it can help all of us open ourselves up to the experience as well as feel awe and connection through sharing. I would love for this to become a typical term where when someone says "Yeah I just had a huge Moment of Awe" everyone in the conversation knows exactly how important what that person is trying to communicate is. Having a term for such a strong emotion can change the accessibility to how we as a society experience it.
And with that, thank you for joining me in this Moment of Awe!
A recent Moment of Awe I had in the Tucson desert during the new moon in May 2022.