February Wild Writing unedited piece. The prompt was “Have you ever…”
Have you ever just stopped… dead in your tracks… and listened to your heart?
Have you ever seen a really good-looking man across the room, or bar… the one so good looking that you know you’d never approach him to speak, and suddenly he looks and your eyes lock for a millisecond, before you hurriedly turn away. Ha! Gotcha! He never comes over to speak with you either, and then you see him leave with a beautiful woman half his age. You sigh and decide you’re lucky not to have met.
Have you ever traveled to a foreign land alone? Eaten meals alone and made small talk with waiters only to find out that you either have some thing or someone in common… yes, even half a world away? On safari in Tanzania, our jeep pulled up alongside another to gawk at the lion napping in the tree, when a woman from the other jeep shouted, “Hello, it’s been a while, haven’t seen you since Prague, how are you?!”
Have you ever said I love you and immediately regretted it? Not out of fear of not hearing it back, but because you didn’t mean it. What makes us do that? Some weird insecurity, a need to be loved, not loving ourselves, all of the above? And worse, the relationship continues with the hope that love will grow. In six years, it never did.
Have you ever upended your life on a whim, or because a tarot reading said, “a big change is coming?” Or a voice in your head said, “I don’t want to die on a cul-de-sac.” And then things are put in motion, that you feel you can’t stop. The house sells, you begin packing, sell off most of your belongings… some larger energy force is at play, and you just know you have no real option to stop! Or is that just a bi-product of being a triple air-sign: Gemini, Libra, Libra…
Have you ever been “home free” as I call it. Not homeless, but without a home, staying with friends, traveling the world, house sitting, with your most precious belongings all packed up in your car… Not giving yourself a single moment to grieve all the losses brought about by your flight to freedom? And then it catches up with you, the cost of freedom.
Have you ever just stopped dead in your tracks to notice something shimmering out of the corner of your eye? You turn towards it, drawn closer until you’re able to peer deeply into it. Maybe it’s a flower, a green leaf, a snail, or reflections of clouds on glassy still water. Perhaps what summoned you is a pop of color, or the sound of bees buzzing, or wood smoke lingering in the sunrays. Are you willing to go deeper now?
What I’m Reading:
AWE The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner
I saw this book reviewed in the Spiritual Directors International magazine, and then heard the interview with the author on Krista Tippett’s podcast HERE. Dacher Keltner sounds like a delightful human being, with a wonderful mix of scientist and mystic in him. For his book and his study, Keltner defines AWE as “being in the presence of something vast and mysterious that transcends your current understanding of the world.”
To me, AWE seems obvious and is everywhere, every day. As a near-death experiencer and contemplative photographer, noticing and appreciating beauty, wonder, AWE (and sharing it) is my spiritual practice. So, I found it curious that someone would think to approach AWE from a scientific viewpoint, and to study how people around the world experience AWE. The great news is, people throughout the 26 cultures studied, have similar experiences leading Keltner to create a classification system. We humans love to label and categorize things. Keltner classifies AWE as the sixth emotion (left out of the Disney Pixar film Inside Out) which featured Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. He gives us his taxonomy of AWE in his “Eight Wonders of Life”
- Moral beauty = other people’s courage, kindness, strength or overcoming
- Collective effervescence = we feel like we are buzzing and crackling with some life force that merges people into a collective self, a tribe, an oceanic “we.”
- Visual Design
- Spirituality and Religion
- Life and Death
The book is a fast read. Brain science and statistics are intertwined with short personal stories throughout, and a good deal of repetition about salient points. Keltner shares that he is also processing his own grief, wonder and AWE around his brother’s death, which makes it all the more relatable. If you are short on time, at least read Section IV, Living a Life of AWE.
In the end Keltner concludes that the science in his study indicates that… “AWE integrates us into the systems of life – communities, collectives, the natural environment, and forms of culture, such as music, art, religion and our mind’s efforts to make sense of all its web of ideas. The epiphany of AWE is that its experience connects our individual selves with the vast forces of life. In AWE we understand that we are part of many things that are much larger than the self.”
I once heard someone say, if “GOD” is a word that triggers you, try replacing it with “AWE.” In these times of deep polarization and degradation of all systems– where fear, anger, disgust and sadness run rampant, where little joy is to be found– this seems to me to be the wheelhouse of those of us in the spiritual, healing and creative professions: to embrace, create and nurture AWE.
Some faves from Feb – click on any for gallery view
What I’m watching:
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song – feature length documentary on Netflix
Beautifully edited with lots of archival footage of Cohen. As a teenager, I listened to Cohen’s music a lot, especially Suzanne. But it’s Hallelujah that makes me cry every time, especially when sung by KD Lang. It was fascinating to learn about the multiple iterations the song and its numerous stanzas traveled over the years, and how it took on a life of its own. Hallelujah is on my death-bed play list.
The 1619 Project – 6 part Docu-Series on Hulu
If this project had used Ken Burns production techniques it might have more dimensionality to it. It falls a little flat… That said, it’s absolutely worth watching, especially for us white folks. The episode on capitalism really struck me as it laid out so clearly how slavery gave birth to American capitalism. At one point in the episode, I was stunned by the comparison between cotton picker slaves and contemporary Amazon pickers. So long Amazon.
My colleague, Katrina Leathers, and I held our first Death Café this past weekend. We had 10 in attendance and are grateful for their heart-felt sharing. Next one is March 26. Send me an email if you’re interested.
What I’m listening to:
All There Is – Anderson Cooper Podcast about loss and grief. Heart breaking and uplifting at the same time. Best episode is his conversation with Stephen Colbert.