Where and when do you experience wonder? Do you find yourself setting your gaze onto the horizon studying the orange glow as the sun sets and feeling full of light and amazement? Maybe it’s when you read something that ignites a visceral response you were not anticipating and leaves you reeling in unimaginable sensation.
What exactly is wonder?
Wonder – (noun); a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. I just love the thought of mingling surprise and admiration together like swirling the aroma and flavor of a glass of wine. First you inhale through your sense of smell and then slowly tip the glass to accept the liquid and flavor into your mouth. When we experience wonder we connect with a part of our self that intuitively knows that something spectacular and magical is taking place. In order for this to happen we have to be open to the feeling just as one parts their lips to welcome the wine.
Open your eyes and be still
If I go through the seasons of my life without feeling wonder, then I am not fully present to what is around me. Summer is a time that I know without a doubt that I will experience wonder as I spend more time outdoors and in nature. Everything in the natural world is mind blowing to me. Observing birds navigating a wind, watching water lap up against the land or lay flat as glass, or appreciating the vast array of colors present in wildflowers, there is much to marvel at. However, I also experience wonder in large cities where brilliant engineers have constructed masterpiece buildings or landmarks that give me pause. I believe museums were established for this very purpose, to assist us in appreciating wonder. Why else would we spend an entire day or even several hours walking around to look at things, whether they be artifacts of history or art installations, if not to incite wonder in our being? I know for me when I view art, I don’t always understand it, but I do know how it makes me feel and that’s what the body remembers – something that can’t quite be explained.
Habits and routines
I truly seek to experience states of wonder regularly. I know that I’m less likely to achieve this if I am following habits, rote actions, or routines that are practiced down to the minute and guide me swiftly onto the next action. There is definitely a necessity to routine and habits. Without these elements we wouldn’t achieve goals or make progress because too much of our time and energy would be spent on making decisions on what to do next. Habits and routines make us efficient, but do they invalidate wonder?
I am a great proponent of habits and routine seeing as they help us with self-discipline and will power, more on those later, but I know there is a necessity to making space for wonder to organically appear. If I am too structured and too scheduled, wonder gets pushed out. It emerges when I am sitting, often in nature, with no intention of doing anything. I may be able to walk or hike through places and become filled with curiosity and astonishment, but I have to be moving pretty slow. I think there ends up being too much focus put on the action of moving or finding my footing when hiking to really take in my surroundings. However, if I hike to the top of a mountain and then look at the vista and the valleys below and am taken by the phenomenon that is, at that moment, I am flooded with wonder. In this case it took the action to get to that vantage point of appreciation, the moment when I felt the reverberations of awe rush through my veins.
Follow your curiosity
For sure there are other times and ways to feel curious and follow that curiosity into something grander like the moment when your infant child begins to respond to your voice and interact with the world. You may find yourself waving a colorful object or noisy toy in front of the baby to see how her eyes light up, her feet start kicking, as she reaches for this wonderous object. This is witnessing wonder take place in another human being. I would even say wonder happens on the part of the adult that experiments with the baby to see the world through her fresh eyes.
This past week a black hole was photographed. The whole scientific community has been excited about this validation of what they knew to be, and I can’t help but look at that photo and feel a reverence for human kind’s ability to capture evidence of something so very far away.
We are here right now, and our time here is limited. There is much to astonish us each day if we simply keep ourselves open to the possibility. Where will you find wonder today?