to [feel] wonder, v.
1. to experience feeling of awe +/or surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable
2. to desire or be curious to know something
3. to marvel at
as i spent this week dwelling in + researching + seeking out the ways in which “spirituality” appears the world, i’ve been staggered + dazzled + astonished + awed + surprised + all kind of wonder-filled by its omnipresence (basically, its essential everywhere-ness), by its accessibility, + also by its incredible POWER. there’s a reason that the MARVELous heroine who’s currently dominating the box-office is associated with this word. WONDER, clearly, is all kinds of potent.
+ the implications of wonder extend far beyond entertainment, or even on the urgent cultural work of gender equality + women’s empowerment. spirituality + its verb-state of “wonder” hold a crucial + often under-appreciated place in the Duke IM model for the wheel of health; finally, study upon study confirms that this elusive, invisible, + mysterious force (+ its absence) has a tremendous impact on human well-being.
most of us think about feeling “awe” as an extraordinary, rare, + conditional experience; it’s not accessible to the super-busy, average hard-working modern person who’s just trying to keep it together, to make ends meet, to survive in the throes of life’s demands + challenges. but dr. michelle “lani” shiota from the university of arizona studies awe + its impact on human behavior + psychology; she urges us all to reshape the way we think about wonder as being merely an “emotional luxury item.” researchers are discovering something that faith-driven circles have always known at a gut + heart level: that feeling awe + being in a state of WOW-worthy wonderment correlate positively with a range of social, emotional, mental, + physical health benefits.
WONDER, + more specifically feeling such inspired astonishment, has been found to encourage collaboration, to slow down our perception of the passage of time, to promote a greater sense of connection, satisfaction, + purpose, + to lower stress-- on even a hormonal level. “to speak to this last claim specifically, study, published recently in the journal emotion, suggests that feeling awe may promote good health people who reported feeling awe on a regular basis tended to have lower markers of inflammation, which has been correlated with ailments like heart disease + cancer.”
so wonderment, while often associated with youth + a certain flavor of nostalgia for naive simplicity, is absolutely not child’s play; in fact, it’s possible that this condition has the potential to transform our real adult lives in very concrete + measurable ways.
so what is wonder, + how do we get more of it?
wonder is the seed of spirituality. it’s an act of faith, + it’s a powerful force with which to provoke the awakening of potential;
in order to experience it, we need to be not just okay with, but also curious about, MYSTERY.
+ this is a bold risk. it means being vulnerable enough to not know, not control, not understand.
SURPRISE is a gift that we can receive only if we don’t have to know everything. if we already know everything (about ourselves, about other people, about ‘how the world works’) we’re going to see only what we feel we already know to be true. there’s no room for astonishment.
that’s what faith is all about. it’s about letting go of a need for knowing, for control; but then, too, about not turning our backs on or dismissing, or judging that mystery, on the inexplicable, on the unfamiliar-- + embracing + holding space for it.
ONLY THEN can we SEE the illuminating beauty of HUMAN SPIRIT, of human divinity walking around on planet earth.
+ the benefit? no wonder stress levels drop when people experience awe. it’s an exhalation; it’s a liberation from this absurd sense that we don’t have to have it all figured out; we don’t have to have all the answers; there’s so much power + beauty in the mystery.
THAT is spiritual.
to wonder is to have faith, the lightest, most comforting, most alive way.
so how about we try this as a regular practice: a call to action for us all to
+ put ourselves in the way of the wonder
1. heighten your senses: open your eyes + prick up your ears, follow your nose + tantalize your tastebuds, tap into textures touch + tune into your intuition
2. play!: practice with the experts- kids + animals might just be your best teachers
3. shift your perspective: shake up your routines, reroute your patterns (from how you brush your teeth to how you interact with a colleague to how you eat your lunch)
4. ask questions: be inquisitive; be curious from a heart-driven place
5. be in your body: dance, tumble, run, swim, MOVE, breathe….
6. get out in the world: explore human + natural landscapes
7. open your mind + let it be blown
looking for more?
this AWEsome quiz, designed by the whip-smart folks at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, can
provide a pretty you-tailored measure of how + whether your wonder-muscle is already working
give you some fun + practical pointers for infusing your life with inspiration on the daily.
for nearly a decade, greta nelson has worked with women + girls in myriad capacities; she brings this kaleidoscope of skill, experience, + energy to active voice. she is a graduate of duke university's integrative health coaching program + holds a master's degree in english education from columbia university teachers college. in addition, she is a practicing educator, writing clinician, + e~ryt 500 certified yoga instructor. greta synchronizes expertise with passion to be a guide, an advocate, + a sister in support to each every one of her clients.