FAST WISDOM™ NEWSLETTER
By Lonner Holden
Awe: Grand Canyon to Lady Bugs
The sound advanced rapidly from deep within the mouth of the Zion National Park canyon, eclipsing my heady lecture about the five elements and nature connection. Anna and Liz turned to look as I continued to speak, then called to me with a choral, “Lonner, look!” Only then did I acknowledge the clatter of the Big Horn ram’s hooves hammering rhythmically upon the slope of the red rock mesa as it passed above us, alert to our presence. We all became silent, our full attention fixed on the magnificence of this animal who commanded perfect dominion of the rugged landscape. He trotted on for a few hundred feet, moving with remarkable ease over terrain which we had struggled to keep our balance, stopped and faced his entire body down the steep slope. His taupe coat, silhouetted against the early dusk steel blue sky was positioned on the mesa slope’s horizon line. He turned his head, twin curls of his horns facing us like trumpets, to look at us as if to make sure we were fully aware, all our senses gathered and focused on his sovereignty. Then he disappeared over the ridge line. We were captured, speechless, in a moment of awe.
A few days later, Anna stopped frequently during the first day of entering the Grand Canyon on the North Kaibab Trail. Asking me to go ahead, she wanted to fully take in the power of the Roaring Springs Canyon vertical and broken chasm alone, and without distraction. Terrain she had never before been to or even imagined. The rest of the journey, she repeated many times over many days how she wanted to return to those early miles of trail to fully absorb it, commune with its mystery and inexplicable scale.
Recall an experience which awakened your senses and curiosity in a way you had never known before. Maybe the catalyst was immense, like a monster wave at Maverick’s at Half-Moon Bay, impressive and frightening and beautiful. Maybe it was a lady bug landing on your sleeve, innocently wandering up your arm, black dots on red shell fully captivating your sense of delight and wonder. Though you may have uttered some sound, was it actually a sentence, a thought or clear description?
When we feel deeply quiet, something inside us relaxes concern for the verbal or conceptual. Moments of true awe seem to almost instantly bypass our language and reasoning, sending us out into a space occupied by a presence we cannot articulate, which requires our full sensory engagement, beyond the precipice of common thoughts and memory. A place which may feel unsafe, but persists, irresistible. The cognitive familiar is bypassed, and we lose ourselves into a state of openness where words may feel not only irrelevant, but to speak may even feel irreverent. When those moments have occurred for you, did you feel connected to something much greater than yourself of which you felt part?
As we hiked out of the Grand Canyon on our last day, something dangling from the brim of my sunhat was distracting and annoying me. I stopped to pick it off, but when I discovered it was a tiny spider swinging from its thread, I was filled with mirth and felt grateful to be the chosen vehicle for this little hitch hiker. So we continued on together, the lazy arachnid cheering me on as I lugged my heavy backpack up the last few steep miles.
I don’t know what happened to it. Maybe its destination was one of the water stops where we took a break. But just remembering my little friend quiets my mind, transcends the chatter in my skull, awakens my senses and curiosity, perhaps preparing me to notice a messenger of awe awaiting me, right here at my keyboard, calling me to attention beyond the precipice of the familiar where the mysterious dwells, ever-present, at the intersection of inter-relatedness of all things.
Jin Shin Jyutsu:
- Close your eyes.
- Recall a moment in your life when you experienced awe. A time which is still vivid.
- Be still with this memory for a minute or two.
- Open your eyes. Observe the position your hands have assumed on your body, spontaneously and involuntarily.
- Every external spontaneous and involuntary gesture is an expression of an internal state.
- This gesture of yours is a symbol of that experience for you.
- Memorize this gesture and assume it whenever you desire to be reminded of that positive experience.
- This practice will reinforce your sensitivity to new, positive experiences of awe.
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Restorative Nature Practice:
- Closing your eyes, recall the same experience of awe.
- Now recall the colors and shapes that were present.
- What textures to your sense of touch do you recall?
- Was there an outstanding scent?
- A memorable taste?
- How did the terrain there affect how you moved your body?
- Now open your eyes.
- How does your relationship with your immediate surroundings feel?
- Next recall the salient sounds.
- Do you feel more awake to it, more sensitive to the possibility of imminent awe?
- Priming your nervous system through sensory recall of a magical experience in the past can attune you to the magic which is present in the here-and-now.
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PICK OF THE MONTH: Live Your Wild Soul Story with Mary Reynolds Thompson, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, San Rafael, November 3rd
- Try some new foods.
- Recognize what is habitual.
- Replace one habitual food with a new food that is a nutritional equivalent or a nutritional improvement (which you believe you do not have an allergy for).
- How do you experience the new food?
- What is the sensation in your body and your mind?
- Share with someone you trust what the experience was like.
- Awe can be as simple as tasting something new for the first time, like "Wow! That tastes good - and I've never had it before.
NEXT MONTH: Instinct: Primitive Wisdom in Modern Times