Are you paying attention? Life’s amazing… be amazed! Sometimes we get stuck in our routines, challenges and seemingly humdrum lives and forget that this life we are living is truly amazing.
Recently an astronaut came back from a six-month exploration on the moon. On return to earth, all he could say was that it was the “best ride of my life!”
Many others who have also had this rare experience of travelling to outer-space equally speak about feeling in total awe when looking at Mother Earth from “out there”, and seeing how breathtaking our world is. And we live here? Wow!
Yes we are actually here, off to the edge of a vast floating whirlpool of stars, alive and conscious, walking and talking on a big rock circling a bigger burning ball of gas.
Here, now, nearly 14 billion years after the cosmos emerged out of what was once nothing. Amazeballs!
Becoming aware of this, the mind stops yapping and, if we allow ourselves, we can feel the delight and awe of a little child who for the first time sees a butterfly, or tastes ice-cream, or realises that the stars above are really very far away. Gratitude and something edging into, dare I say it… sacred, can wash through us during these experiences. This often happens to me.
In a word, becoming aware of this can lead to a sense of amazement, which means “filled with wonder and surprise,” even “overwhelmed with wonder”.
Besides the simple happiness in this experience, it lifts us above the tangled pressures and worries we can get stuck to like a bug on flypaper. Amazement is an instant stress reliever. It also opens the heart: one feels more profoundly connected to others and to something greater than ourselves.
Perhaps most deeply, being amazed brings you into the truth of things, into relationship with the inherent mysteries and overwhelming gifts of existence, starting from the tiniest molecular systems of life, to the love and forgiveness in human hearts, to the dark matter that glues the universe together. Wow. Really. Wow!
Opportunities for amazement are all around us. I think back to that look in the eyes of my son when he was born, blinking in the light of the room, surprised by all the shapes, sounds and colours, entering a whole new world. Seen with the eyes of a child, the simplest thing is amazing: a budding flower, being licked by a puppy, the taste of sweet berries, riding piggyback on dad, or the fact that running your eyes over lines of black squiggles fills your mind with stories of dragons and heroes and fairy godmothers.
Look around you. This morning I sat down to my computer, clicked a mouse, while my radio filled the room with music. Awesome! Imagine a Stone Age person transported 50 000 years forward into your chair. Glass windows, flat wood (or flat-screen TV), the smell of coffee, pencils, computers, woven cloth, a metal spoon… it would all be amazing to him.
Try to see more of your world in this way, as if you are seeing it for the first time, perhaps through the eyes of a child if not a caveman. If you’re not amazed, you’re not truly paying attention.
Explore and have a “don’t know mind” – not “duh” mind, but an openness that doesn’t immediately slot things into boxes, but allows a freshness and curiosity, a “beginner’s mind”.
The brain naturally categorises and labels things to help us survive and make our lives easier. That’s fine, but underneath this skim of constructed meaning laid over the boiled milk of reality, we don’t truly know what anything is.
We use words like “minds” and “quarks” and “photons” but no one knows what a mind, quark or photon actually is.
We don’t know what love actually is, either, but it is all around us.
It’s amazing to me that people love one another, amazing that people forgive each other, that those once at war with each other can eventually live in peace. Think about people you know, how they keep going when they’re tired, breathe through pain, get up yet again to walk a crying baby, settle down in the middle of an argument and admit fault and move on. To me, that a mother can embrace the young man who murdered her son is more amazing than an exploding supernova or brushing shoulders with celebrities.
We don’t have to wait to be dazzled. We don’t have to wait to be presented with something groundbreaking and revolutionary before exercising our “wonder muscles”.
If we are just willing to consciously lower our “amazement threshold” and notice the incredible nature of everything that surrounds us moment by moment, we can all be reconnected to our innate childlike wonder and to see and fully experience life as it is.
The next time you get yourself a glass of water, take a moment to consider that every drop of water you are about to drink are the exact same drops that arrived on Earth around 4.5 billion years ago on icy comets from the far reaches of space. And how that transparent liquid is responsible for all life on this planet. And how if it weren’t for some fluke (or miracle) of universal physics, that water might not have arrived and you and I wouldn’t even be here to observe it. Isn’t that mind blowing?
How about looking down at your hands? Wiggle your fingers. Observe them with a sense of curiosity. How much of what you do in your life is only possible because of those interesting, spindly, tentacle-like appendages?
Isn’t it fascinating how a caterpillar, from their fragile little cocoon, morphs into a colourful butterfly?
How amazing is it that we, as a relatively young species, have managed to achieve and create so much? From harnessing energy and sending humans into space, to being able to jump in our cars and go to the supermarket to gather our food for meals instead of hunt and gather for them.
Just for today, see how far you can lower your own amazement threshold. Amazement, wonder and gratitude are nutrient rich supplements that nourish and inspire the mind, body and soul.
If we were brave enough to be more often filled with wonder and surprise, we would treat ourselves, others and our delicate world with much more kindness and thoughtfulness. Be amazed.
* This column will appear every two weeks. Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist in private practice. While she cannot enter into correspondence with individual readers, she will try to answer as many queries as possible through this column or refer you to organisations that can assist. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.