Sacred Spiritual Growth

Resourcing Our Spiritual Needs: Experiences of Awe and Wonder

For today’s #SacredSpiritualGrowth, I’ll be expanding on my previous post about spiritual needs to discuss how we can meet one of the needs I proposed: awe and wonder. I believe there is something in us that draws us towards experiences that make us marvel. Human creativity is incredible, but I’ve had these desires met more fully in nature, in spontaneous encounters, and through a deeper understanding of biological processes.

1. Spend Time in Nature

Most of my experiences of awe and wonder have occurred outdoors. The most beautiful place I’ve ever been was in the West Virginia mountains, where the lush tree cover, rolling peaks and robin’s egg blue sky moved me to tears. It was more than a pretty place; I felt the presence of the Divine in every direction.

We don’t have to travel far to find these experiences; the ever-changing earth provides a bounty of beauty and inspiration. I’ve grown a bit weary of thunderstorms that seem to come ever more frequently with a threat of tornado damage, but I know as a child I rushed outside at the first hint of wind. The intensity of the smell of rain on the horizon calls up my rawness and earthiness. I’ve been close enough to lightning strikes a few times to feel my hair standing on end; that certainly caused a reaction!

The cycles of nature are also inspirational. Who among us hasn’t savored the sunset or wished to freeze time in the light of a sky full of stars under a full moon? The first blossom of spring or snowflake of winter ushers us in to a spiral of change; we’ve been here before but the experience feels new each circle.

2. Open to Spontaneity

I am not a spontaneous person, but I revel in the unexpected moments of grace. I once traveled through several states on an Amtrak train (highly recommended!). I met a woman upon boarding and we got to talking a bit. We both had to transfer in a major city; once we arrived there, we meandered around taking in the sights. We got caught in a torrential downpour with no umbrellas, and looked like the cat dragged us in as we headed back to the terminal. We laughed at the absurdity of it all. At the end, she asked if she could take my photo and explained she was on a spiritual journey after losing her son, and was collecting memories along the way for a scrapbook. I wish I’d been able to keep in touch with her. There was something in the fleeting nature of our connection that felt divine. The strangers I’ve met in moments like these sometimes feel like time travelers or alternate dimension voyagers who just popped in and out of my life to remind me there are billions of people who I will never speak to or meet, but who are gazing at the same sun and the same moon in my timeline.

3. Detailing the Life-Form

I am fascinated by biological processes, both in individual organisms and ecological systems. The more I’ve explored the nuances of the human brain, or the way in which animals cooperate for survival, the more I’ve been overwhelmed at Gaia’s realm.  Science plays a role here in uncovering natural phenomena that can be mind-blowing in complexity and unexpectedness. Children have a natural curiosity about how things work; for some reason I think many of us this fades with age. Returning to natural phenomena with an adult’s education and understanding allows me to put into perspective how small and short my own existence is, and to see the world around me with a renewed experience of amazement.

How do you cultivate experiences of awe and wonder? What takes your breath away? Where and when do you find yourself swept away in the moment, simultaneously acutely aware of your finite and limited place in the universe, but also settled into a deep awareness of the inner-connectedness of the cosmos?

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