Every year during this time, I write about apple-picking, scrunchy leaves, blazing oranges and fiery reds, pumpkin-spiced beverages and the thrill of spooky decorations. At some point it all becomes part of the same old routine – a mere backdrop for lists and errands. And soon enough, the sense of awe surrounding Autumn starts to slip away.
According to a new study by researchers at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center (MAC) and the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), a regular dose of awe boosts healthy emotions such as compassion and gratitude. It’s a reminder to shift our energy outward and be aware of the expanse of life around us, be it in an urban setting or amidst nature. A rather vague emotion, although on the happier side, awe is that feeling that something is larger or more consequential than us, something unfathomable preferably. Awe is everywhere – we just need to feel it and hold on to it. Like a child exploring the world for the first time.
Children are more used to being in awe. Everything is new and wonderful to them. We went for a drive this weekend and my two year old picked up random leaves, sticks and stones until his pockets burst. It was all so precious to him. Most grown ups I know, including myself, would much sooner mull over all the chores that needed to be done before the week starts than walk around marveling at rocks.
What if, for a moment, we let go all of that and look at the world around us with fresh, childlike eyes? Pay attention to the dinosaur roaring from the clouds overhead, note the evergreen standing tall and unyielding amidst the fury of the changing colors, and once in a while, glance down to follow the bug trundling along a tall blade of grass. In short, cultivate awe. And yes, novelty helps but with the pandemic around us, we have to be content with playing tourist in our backyard.
The study and the subsequent findings are subjective as you really can’t measure a “sense of awe.” If only happiness and a sense of well-being could be prescribed so easily, and ever so simply, then we would have solved half the world’s problems. All misgivings aside, I would rather practice awe-walk instead of letting a tangle of mundane thoughts cloud my brain. With that in mind, here are some more pictures from my recent awe-walk, where I tried to focus on the here, and the now.