To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower - Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. ~William Blake
We humans love spectacular. The bigger the spectacle the better. From big budget action movies to mile high burgers - from monster trucks to monster amusement park rides. But what passes for spectacular and extraordinary in popular culture is mostly artificial - synthetic creations - soon fading like fireworks in a night sky.
Awesome is a word frequently associated with the spectacular. It's a word that gets thrown around carelessly today. Its common use only further trivializes the already trivial. Very little of what goes on in pop-culture is worthy of awe - it may be spectacular, but it's not awesome. That's because awe has nothing to do with thinking or sensory perception.
Awe is not a function of the brain. Awe is a feeling that comes from that mysterious place deep within the heart and soul. Awe isn't a product of thought. Rather, awe arises from the gap between our thoughts. There, we connect with that which is beyond description and understanding - something that can only be felt - something that can be shared, but not explained.
For this reason awe can only be found in the ordinary - or what, on an average day is thought of as ordinary - shadows on the winter snow - a summer meadow - even the acts of washing dishes or taking out the trash are capable of eliciting awe.
Awe as a feeling can conjure both ecstasy and dread - sometimes together. An ordinary night can be transformed by an encounter with the milky way. The massive grandeur of pitch black space and millions of stars overpowers synapses and the ability to comprehend. For a moment, we are taken outside ourselves to a place of exquisite joy. At the same time, the primitive part of the brain responds in fear to the enormity of it all, and the body reacts with a shiver in the awesome presence.
Ordinary is the doorway to awe. Why? Because ordinary is authentic - ordinary is real - and ordinary is eternal - like the night sky.
But no two encounters with ordinary are alike - because an awesome encounter with ordinary can only happen in the present moment. A drop of dew on the petal of a flower will soon evaporate. The ordinary flower that brought the encounter with awe today will be a different flower tomorrow. The ordinary sky we saw tonight won't be the same tomorrow.
So, finding awe in ordinary requires being fully present in the moment. And being fully present is something most of us find immensely difficult.
Being present in the moment - the now - requires stillness. It requires silence - the kind of silence that most people go to great lengths to avoid. Ubiquitous Phones, MP3s, TVs, radios and such, provide protection from the frightful silence.
What are we afraid of? What lurks there? Why do we believe silence to be an enemy? Why do we fear being alone with ourselves? Is it because left on its own, the mind will run a muck, occupied with regret thoughts about the past, worry thoughts about the future - and the cornerstone fear of just not being good enough?
The good news is that we can change our relationship with silence. It's possible to see silence not as a thing from which to run, but rather as a precious gift. Silence opens the door to mindfulness - and mindfulness brings awareness of a sacred presence that otherwise goes unnoticed.
With mindfulness, ordinary is transformed - and us along with it. Ordinary becomes a window through which we're able to perceive the world as it really is - infinite (Blake again). Ordinary is transformed into something awesome - and so are we.
In mindful encounters we are able to clearly see the essential. In ordinari-ness we find our most basic connection, stripped of all the other stuff that deflects our attention. We are connected - with ourselves, with others, with the earth, the universe - and ultimately, with love.
There is only the one reality. It is love - it is us - it is ordinary - and it is awesome.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~T. S. Eliot
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