The Power of Awe

A couple of years ago, there was a spectacular sunrise worth noticing. Anyone who has seen my Instagram feed knows that sunrise posts are one of my staples. But this particular sunrise is memorable because I scooped up my kids who were aged 5 and 1 at the time and took them to the deck upstairs to see it. As soon as took a picture of it, I turned back to my kids and saw the beautiful dawn glow on their faces. That picture of these smiles lit from within and illuminated with the touch of morning color was even more memorable.

I didn’t have a word for that experience until recently when I read the book, The Power of Awe* by Jake Eagle, LPC, and Michael Amster, MD, in which they introduce their technique for “microdosing mindfulness.” A.W.E. stands for Attention, Wait, Exhale and Expand and they describe both the practice and the science for how it can work to induce awe and improve health and wellness in less than 1 minute a day.

Attention means focusing your full and undivided attention on something you value, appreciate, or find amazing. Look around the room you are in. Find that special beautiful something that you value and appreciate. Look at it closely. Really look. If it’s a small object, pick it up and begin to notice everything about it. If it’s a plant, touch the leaves; notice the texture, color, and smell; and notice the life inside it. If it’s a painting, imagine the painter painting it and notice the depth, light, and colors.

Wait means slowing down and pausing. So take a deep breath – inhale deeply while you appreciate this cherished item in your home.

The final step, Exhale and Expand, amplifies whatever sensations you are experiencing. As you exhale – making a slightly deeper exhalation than normal – allow what you are feeling to fill you and grow. What did you notice? Did you smile? Did you relax? Did you feel a warmth in your belly? Did your vision soften, your eyes moisten with gratitude for this precious item you are observing?

The Power of Awe – Jake Eagle, LPC, and Michael Amster, MD with Karen Chernyaev

I recently was introduced to some of the research on specific meditation practices – how a loving-kindness meditation can increase our emotional empathy and a breath practice affects our cognitive perspective taking. So I found The Power of Awe fascinating not only for the method the authors introduce, but also the research and myriad of related information they present about its effect.

“When our sense of self decreases, you might think we would feel that what we’re doing is less important or less significant. But there’s a paradox: as our sense of self diminishes, we feel more significant in other ways. It’s counterintuitive, but when we connect to something larger – whether it’s nature, our place of work, a political movement, or God or universal energy – our orientation in the world shifts.”

The Power of Awe – Jake Eagle, LPC, and Michael Amster, MD with Karen Chernyaev

And as they walk through the A.W.E. method in their book, they also include stories about how microdosing mindfulness has made a difference for people suffering from anxiety, depression, loneliness, chronic pain, burnout, and stress.

“Awe takes away the sense of urgency many of us carry through the day by keeping us in the present moment, which calms the sympathetic nervous system.”

The Power of Awe – Jake Eagle, LPC, and Michael Amster, MD with Karen Chernyaev

As someone who makes a point of getting up early in the morning in order to have my “sacred time” before the kids get up, I understand how hard it is to make time to meditate. This book dovetails with something that my meditation teacher emphasizes regularly – that we can be mindful at any point in the day, not just when we are sitting on the meditation cushion.

When we do that, The Power of Awe tells us why that works to reduce inflammation and improve our vagal tone. More than that, it helps us to extend the goodness of those precious moments like that sunrise with my kids.

When we microdose mindfulness, we practice capturing the goodness of being bathed in morning sunlight surrounded by the laughter and love our children, and holding that note just a little bit longer in order to feel the awe in the life we live as it currently is.  

Here’s a link to The Power of Awe website for anyone interested in further delving into this method.

*Wise & Shine was given an advanced reader copy of this book in order to provide an independent review.

You can find me on my personal blog and also on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo is from Pexels)

20 thoughts on “The Power of Awe

  1. Mindfulness in any moment and macrodosing mindfulness—what wonderful thoughts to keep in mind at any moment! Thank you for the reminders that I can be mindful anywhere, anytime, in any situation. What a gift to be able to do that—certainly one worth practicing.

  2. Mindful in the moment and microdosing mindfulness. What a wonderful way to go through the day. Thank you for reminder that these mini-moments of mindfulness are within reach and worth practicing.

  3. Good old WordPress—disappears a comment in one moment and reappears it in the next (albeit in a somewhat different form). Maybe WordPress needs to practice a bit of mindfulness! lol

  4. I just realized that this is exactly what I do when I read one of your pieces! Your method of writing, your thoughtful interweaving of useful information and the deeply reverent view of our world, all combine to provide a thoughtful and relaxing reading time. I was outwardly aware of my feelings as I was reading your words. Delightful!

  5. This is a wonderful post, I’m going to look that book up. I understand Mindful in the moment it’s similar to how I am.

  6. I like this possibility of being mindful at any point in the day, not just when we are sitting on the meditation cushion. I cannot agree more on that. Actually my meditation teacher used to say that we can be mindful also, and above all, while doing the dishes.

  7. “when we connect to something larger — our orientation in the world shifts” – beautiful and something to remind ourselves of throughout the day.. Thank you for pointing me in this direction!

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