Way #5: The Power of Awe
In the face of the Grand Canyon or a hurricane, we feel exhilaratingly small. It's the power of awe.
Imagine standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon with a majestic purple-and-orange sunset blazing across the western sky. You stand transfixed for an hour, then look up at the awesome expanse of stars. You are transformed, lifted, in awe.
B'aima literally means "with awe." Awe is an experience so powerful that it's paralyzing. On the other hand, we know awe to be extremely exhilarating. What defines an awesome experience?
When we look at the expanse of stars, we see power, beauty, harmony. We realize that each tiny star is actually a raging sun. And in the face of tremendous force, we feel insignificant by comparison. We realize our own weakness, our smallness, our mortality.
Yet surprisingly, this doesn't depress us. It inspires us. Because we're merged with the greater whole. That realization can be a source of tremendous positive energy. And if you know the secret of awe and use it effectively, you can actively release its power in day-to-day living.
Capture the "Wow"
We've all had awesome moments: Witnessing the sheer power of a hurricane, tornado, avalanche, 50-foot waves. Or experiencing the awesome drama of the Swiss Alps. Or being in the presence of an awesome political or cultural leader.
Yet too often we leave the awesome experience, and slip back into our mundane routine without being affected.
The secret is to capture the experience in a way that you can recall it and harness that energy in the future.
Here's how to do it: The next time that awe strikes – whether it's human achievement, or the raw forces of nature – verbalize what you feel. Say aloud: That's awesome! As a little voice inside affirms, you feel a chill and an instant lift. But more importantly, the moment is concretized. You have a point of reference to draw on in the future.
The next step, of course, is to replay the awesome experience in your mind. Imagine, for example, that you have an idle moment while stuck in traffic. You project yourself back into the awesome experience, and suddenly the world looks different. You are on a different wavelength. This is no regular traffic jam!
Imagine someone calling you an idiot. Or that you're stuck in traffic. Or that the boss is hassling you.
When this happens, you can become angry and caught up in the pettiness of life.
The remedy? Take a moment to go outside and walk under the stars. When you witness the vastness of the universe, it puts things into perspective. When you come back inside, you won't be starry-eyed. You'll be energized. You'll say, I'm sorry. Let's forget it and move on.
Awe helps release you from the limits of the body. You are suddenly in a world of different dimensions, transported into the eternity of beauty, power, majesty. You've got an expanded perspective. It's no longer me versus you. We're all one. So why be aggravated?
Awe carries us beyond ourselves. In times of war and tragedy – as well as prosperity and joy – people get "bigger." They treat each other nicer. Pettiness is forgotten.
Anytime you're in a rut, blast yourself out. Take a walk under the stars. This will unleash the power. You cannot be bored or petty when you are in awe.
The Quiet "Wow"
A quiet wow can be equally awesome.
After a storm, you look out the window to see the glisten of fresh snow blanketing the ground and thin icicles dangling from the trees. A moment, literally, frozen in time.
When we meditate on the simple beauty of life, we are lifted, connected, transported out of ourselves.
We have constant access to this quiet awesomeness. A spring walk through the forest. A babbling brook. Majestic music. A baby laughing. A heartbeat.
So why don't we feel this awe constantly? Because yesterday's novelty is today's boredom. Notice how little children find everything exciting and fascinating. But before long, they get used to what they have constant access to – people, places, ideas. And life just seems mundane.
Yet who says that growing up means becoming numb?
Instead of taking your daily environment for granted, stop and focus. When you look at a human being, appreciate the miracle of it all. Consider, for example, human speech: the coordination of lips, teeth, tongue, larynx – while the brain recalls, formulates, and transmits thoughts into muscle movements, which then somehow produce sound waves. And it's all just a bunch of electrons spinning at nearly the speed of light, connected to protons through the magical power of gravity.
For just a moment, stand in awe. See everything in the dimension that it really is, not the mundane nature that we're used to. Try it one time. This will re-tune you into the awesome power of living.
You don't need to travel around the world for awe-inspiring moments. They are available to us constantly, everywhere. If we just open our eyes they will impact us. Every time you see a locomotive, the ocean, a flower. There is nothing mundane about existence. Nothing. An entire forest can be germinated from a single seed...
It's a mind-boggling world. We just have to pay attention.
The fight for life is to be sensitive and aware. Walk through life constantly keeping your eyes open with toothpicks, never bored, never mundane, never into a simple existence. Always wondering what is life, who are we, what are we doing.
If you pay attention and think about everything that is going on, it is a different lifestyle, a different power for existence, a different way of dealing with your family, friends, the environment. You will never be petty. You will never give up. You are lifted out of it. You are grown up. Everything is mind-boggling. This will transform you for the rest of your life.
Exalted Human Potential
A cheetah is awesome, and a super-computer is awesome.
But humans are much more. There is spiritual potential. Every human being is created in the image of God. We have divine powers. We can become great by emulating God. That alone makes every human awesome.
King David wrote:
When I look up at the heavens, and I see the work of Your fingers, I think of man. And I say: 'What is man, that You remember him? What is all humanity that You take notice of it?' And yet, You made him just a bit less than God Himself.
Treat yourself with the same awesomeness that you would a volcano. There is tremendous energy available. You just need to tap into it. You are latent power waiting to be actualized. Never lose sight of this fact.
Open yourself up to see your real potential. Be in awe of your human ability to move this universe, to encompass it, to understand it, to reach the stars, and send hunks of steel flying to distant planets.
Don't underestimate yourself. Stop looking at what you are. Look at what you can be. You can solve humanity's problems, instead of just accepting them and suffering. You can destroy or create the entire world. That is what we are dealing with.
Use this power proactively. If you've got an important deadline, or are preparing to speak before a large crowd, take a walk under the stars. It will sober you up, snap you into the right perspective. There's no reason to be nervous. A world of opportunity awaits you. Now is the time to step up to the plate and knock the ball out of the park.
Always be aware of the awesome power within you, and within every human being. Treat everyone with reverence, caution, respect, awe. And treat yourself the same way.
Ultimate Source of Awe
The shortcut to achieve awe is to go straight to the source. The real reason that the hurricane, flower, snow and music are so awesome, is because they reflect the eternal, transcendent force that we call God.
And if creation is this incredibly awesome, just imagine how awesome is the Creator Himself!
Consider what God does for you on a daily basis. God's personal intervention in our lives is awesome. Take time to notice it in your life. If you don't feel His presence, you are not in reality. The reality of this world, there is nothing mundane, dull or routine. We are touching infinity every moment of our lives.
When we know there is a God – a Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor of it all - then we're ahead of the game. It opens us up. It gives us a new perspective. We see new possibilities, new dimensions.
God is a personal God. He is aware of us. We are in His presence. He is paying attention. God is communicating to us through His world of beauty and design. He is here and available. The Almighty Creator of this whole universe is saying: My child, I love you. I created you to give you pleasure. Come, let's explore the world together.
The Creator of the universe loves you? Wake up! That's exciting news!
Torah is the Almighty's personal message to His children. Treat it with awe. Imagine if you received a secret communication from outer space. That's awesome! You'd find out who sent the message, and the depth of its meaning.
Whether we know it or not, every one of us is seeking the transcendent experience. We are truly living for that moment of recognition, of tapping into God.
Awe is the awareness of small insignificant me – and the overwhelming greatness of God. Are you worried about your car, your paycheck, your theater tickets? It's insane to worry about these things when you're standing in the presence of God. That's why you feel lifted, transported, and in touch with eternity.
Prayer is the experience of speaking to God. You are talking to the Master of all creation. So the next time you recite a blessing, know Who you are talking to.
Jewish consciousness is that before doing anything, you should stop and ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Put yourself in focus whenever you start doing anything. It is for the honor of connecting with your Creator. Before eating, when going to work, when watering your garden. Stop and say: This is for the honor of connecting with my Creator.
Walk this way – with your head in the sky and your feet on the ground.
Why is "Awe" a Way to Wisdom?
- Awe can break through laziness and open ruts. It unleashes potential and locked-up energies.
- It's a human tendency to be petty. Awe pulls us up and out.
- The reality of this world is that there is nothing mundane.
- Life has the potential to be one thrill after another, if you understand the power of every moment.
- Concretize awesome experiences so you can recall them at any time.
- Awe is the result of seeing potential actualized.
- Seek the small "wows." The awesomeness of life is without end.
- Use the awesomeness of everyday life to relate to the Creator of it all.
- See the power and the pleasure of understanding truth. You are in touch with the awe of "wisdom."
- Step outside under the stars. It'll put you back on track.