Cultivating Awe

By Robin Bush, ISR Communications

The phone rang.  “I’m taking you on an awe-walk,” Sal told Frankie.  Sal knew that Frankie had been struggling with some tough challenges. Sal added, “Awe-walking is not a regular walk; it’s taking a fresh look at the small things as you walk to shift your perspective away from day-to-day life.”  Sal had read about a study from the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, that taught older walkers to cultivate awe.  They asked half their study group to take a weekly 15-minute walk outside.  The other half was asked to walk somewhere new each time, pay attention to details, and look at everything with fresh eyes.  Both were asked to take a few selfie photos on their walks.  After eight weeks, the two groups were compared.  The awe-walkers focused on colors and natural changes. The control group focused on all the things they needed to do next week.  The awe-walkers were happier.  Their photos changed over the eight weeks too.  The awe-walkers became smaller in their selfies, emphasizing the world around them.  The control group photos didn’t change. 

Sal and Frankie arrived at a park they’d never visited, one with a path that was easy on Frankie’s unstable feet.  They stopped along their walk to look and listen.  Sal noticed Frankie was standing more upright and was more alert, calmer, even smiling.  “Let’s do this again,” Frankie said.  It had chased away health issue challenges, even for a short while.  Sal smiled.  The awe-walk and the companionship had made a difference.   

Awe does not come only to those who can walk outside.  We can use any of our senses to cultivate awe.  Have a friend collect a basket of things from nature.  Blindfolded, take each item from the basket and feel them. Or open the window for 15 minutes at the same time each day and listen.  Nature has a chorus of different voices, some as soft as the wind or as loud as the woodpecker.  Each day, even smells differ from the day before.  The wind brings scents of frost, rain, or blue sky and sunshine.  Breathe deeply of the tonic.   

Plant a seed of nature into your day.  Challenges may become a little easier to manage when you cultivate awe of the world around you.