Thriving Together Well-Being Weekly: Awe

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

Thriving Together Well-Being Weekly: Awe

“Awe is the beginning of wisdom. Awe is the beginning of education.” – Matthew Fox, American theologian and activist

This edition of the Thriving Together Well-Being Weekly was written by Whitney Hopler, our center's communications director, whose "Waking Up to Wonder" blog focuses on awe.

We experience awe when we perceive something greater than ourselves. Awe expands our perspective. As we intentionally seek ways to experience awe, we can lift our minds beyond our challenging circumstances in this pandemic and discover the good that still exists in our world.

Making time to experience moments of awe through transcendent experiences – such as watching a beautiful sunset, listening to a moving song, and exercising faith through prayer or meditation – can powerfully boost our well-being. The “Science of Awe” white paper from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley summarizes the many ways that awe can powerfully strengthen well-being. 

Awe Activity: Wake Up Your Senses with Food

During this pandemic lockdown, we can experience awe at home in diverse ways – including through the food we eat each day. More people are cooking and baking at home since the lockdown started than before. One of the reasons is that food impacts all our physical senses, making us feel alive when we enjoy a delicious meal.

This week, wake up your senses by preparing and eating one of your favorite meals mindfully (giving your full attention to the experience and noticing sensations without judging them). Mindful eating can help pull your attention fully into the present moment. That awareness can strengthen your ability to perceive what is greater than yourself – helping you experience awe as a result.

Mindful eating involves slowing down rather than rushing through meals. But if you experience awe in the process, it can seem as if you’ve actually gained time. Research shows that awe can expand your perception of time.

Notice the colors of fruit and vegetables, such as bright red tomatoes and dark green zucchini. Enjoy the sounds you hear, such as sizzling olive oil in a pan or the crunch of biting into an apple. Savor the scents of your food, from pungent cheese to refreshing lemon. Notice the various textures, such as the bumpy feel of an orange in your hands to the softness of bread as you chew it. Pay attention to the distinct tastes of every single one of your meal’s ingredients and notice how the layers of flavor unfold as you eat.

As your experience inspires you, express gratitude for the food you’re enjoying. You can say a prayer of thanks for your food. You can meditate on how your food is nourishing your well-being. If others in your household joined you to make or eat this meal, you can thank them for sharing this experience with you.

Think about all the people whose work contributed to the food’s presence on your table: farmers who grew and harvested the food, factory employees who processed it, truckers who transported it, and grocery store staff who sold it to you. Research shows that feeling awe can help us feel more connected to the world around us. 

Additional Resources

GGSC videos on the art and science of awe:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/video/series/the_art_science_of_awe

Experiencing awe through virtual experiences of U.S. national parks: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/find-your-virtual-park.htm

Experiencing awe through live videos of Earth from the International Space Station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEIk7gwjgIM