Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reduce Stress and Improve Well Being with Awe and Amazement

Should You Add Awe and Amazement to Your Mindfulness Practice?

by Kathleen Lisson

I hd the opportunity to go skydiving for the first time last weekend. I felt very scared two days prior to the jump. What was I thinking! I am running a half marathon with Team in Training San Diego, I am starting work as an onology massage therapist, why would I risk all that and potentially sprain my ankle landing wrong in a skydiving accident? It seemed like a good idea at the time when I bought the package as a Christmas present for a friend. 

It was a beautiful, clear day and we drove out to the facility, went through the check in process and were fitted for our harnesses. When I met my instructor I still didn't know what to expect. I was feeling a little nervous energy, which I let out by chattering and making funny jokes. When I felt the relaxed, confident energy of my instructor, I realized that I was going to be safe and taken care of. I could enjoy the experience instead of become overhwelmed by the adrenaline in my body. 

Maybe its because of the meditation and maybe its because of all my long distance running, but as I prepared to exit the plane, I didn't feel any fear, just curiousity. I remember crouching on the edge of the open door and looking at the Earth below and just knowing how beautiful and striking it was. As I fell, I was caught in a stream of a thousand dreams. I had felt awe on a grand scale. 

The other time I felt awe this week was while viewing the sunset at Solana Beach. I am so lucky to live in the Rancho Penasquitos neighborhood of San Diego, with the beaches at Del Mar and Solana Beach so near by. Watching the sun set over the ocean reminds me even the way we keep time can be beautiful and awe inspiring. 

In the Association for Psychological Science article 'All about Awe,' author Anna Milulak states that awe "may have surprisingly meaningful consequences for everyday behavior and even overall well-being." Her article provides a good overview of current research on awe.

Psychologist Rick Hanson has a insightful post on how amazement can replace stress in our lives. The post, titled 'Just One Thing: Be Amazed' includes the advice that amazement "lifted me above the tangled pressures and worries I was stuck to like a bug on flypaper. Amazement is instant stress relief ... Perhaps most deeply, being amazed brings you into the truth of things, into relationship with the inherent mysteries and overwhelming gifts of existence." 

Watch a presentation by GGSC Education Director Vicki Zakrzewski on awe and its applications in the classroom, given July 1, 2014, at the Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators. Zakrzewski focuses on our bodies physical responses to awe and the mental changes our mind makes as a result of an experience of awe. At the 18 minute mark, Zakrzewski shares the types of things that can inspire awe and at the 13 minute mark, she shares a simple exercise you can do with a friend to share stories of awe with one another. Watch the video midway in an article posted here:

Do you run an an awe-inspiring natural environment or learn about inspiring runners as a part of your running practice? 

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