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Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
Tue May 2, 2023, 09:57 AM May 2023

Here's why you need to be cultivating awe in your life


Empirical research by me and other psychologists has found that the cultivation of awe can be done, as with mindfulness practices, anywhere, and only takes a minute or two. You don’t need a lot of money, nor to travel to exotic locales, to find awe; it literally is always around you, if you just take a moment to pause and open your mind to what is vast and mysterious nearby. Still other studies suggest that awe is up to the task of responding to the crises of individualism, of excessive self-focus, loneliness, and the cynicism of our times, and even to some extent to rising problems of physical health.

Feelings of awe shift attention away from the self toward what is around you – to being, in the words of Jane Goodall, “amazed at things outside the self”. In one simple test of this power of awe, students who were led to look upward into a stand of eucalyptus trees just for one to two minutes later reported less narcissism and entitlement than students in a control condition, and these awe-filled students offered more help to a stranger in obvious need nearby.

Today I regularly teach students simple awe-practices that orient attention outward: to look to the sky, or clouds, for example, or a stand of trees, or the movement of city dwellers making their way to lunch; or to the collaborating sounds within a moving piece of music.


I have been trying to do this every chance I get. It helps.


39 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Here's why you need to be cultivating awe in your life (Original Post) Doc Sportello May 2023 OP
Found a beautiful brown and orange salamander in my garage. Hermit-The-Prog May 2023 #1
I much prefer cultivating Awwwwww in my life Jerry2144 May 2023 #2
I like those too n/t Doc Sportello May 2023 #9
In my philosophy about innocence vs. corruption... nuxvomica May 2023 #3
I love this Alice Kramden May 2023 #7
Thanks! nuxvomica May 2023 #34
Absolutely Alice Kramden May 2023 #35
Just adding this because I have it opened in a tab and was going to post it: demmiblue May 2023 #4
Thank you for your post. llmart May 2023 #6
Thanks for posting! Articles such as this are always so nice to read and enjoy and ponder, vs. the SWBTATTReg May 2023 #8
That was great Doc Sportello May 2023 #10
I once heard astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson comment that Hortensis May 2023 #5
And that from a brilliant man who has looked at the sky thousands of times Doc Sportello May 2023 #11
Sky's always there. And with warm weather, for close focus Hortensis May 2023 #13
There's some awe there Doc Sportello May 2023 #15
:) I never see those in the garden without imagining Hortensis May 2023 #33
It always surprises me how few people look up Sympthsical May 2023 #29
Bookmarked Kaleva May 2023 #12
Thank you so much for this post! Collimator May 2023 #14
You're welcome and thanks for the quote Doc Sportello May 2023 #16
This is great advice if you're already a happy person. Rizen May 2023 #17
The key word from the article is cultivate Doc Sportello May 2023 #18
It's called wishful thinking Rizen May 2023 #22
You're using strawmen Doc Sportello May 2023 #23
Absolutely. I've spent some down times since my parents' death, a beloved dog's death, BlackSkimmer May 2023 #27
I have had a similar experience Doc Sportello May 2023 #30
Of course you can't. But I've found this kind of thing very helpful to me. BlackSkimmer May 2023 #28
I'm a fucking miserable person The Wandering Harper May 2023 #39
love it RussBLib May 2023 #19
Well said Doc Sportello May 2023 #24
Well put. BlackSkimmer May 2023 #32
I actually recently listened to an interview with Prof. Kelcher on NPR's Hidden Brain Tommy Carcetti May 2023 #20
Yes, often it is the "seemingly ordinary" we miss Doc Sportello May 2023 #26
What an interesting thread. 3catwoman3 May 2023 #21
A couple of years ago I noticed an orphaned quintet of ducklings at a nearby pond Doc Sportello May 2023 #31
To keep the innocence you see in the eyes of children and animals. betsuni May 2023 #25
It's the perfect time of year to be looking at trees. crickets May 2023 #36
You and everyone else who got something from the article are welcome Doc Sportello May 2023 #37
Andre Gide had a quote about that ExWhoDoesntCare May 2023 #38


(35,047 posts)
1. Found a beautiful brown and orange salamander in my garage.
Tue May 2, 2023, 10:05 AM
May 2023

Don't know why it was in there, but cleaning stopped until I could find a more suitable location for the critter. Well worth the time and interruption.


(12,632 posts)
3. In my philosophy about innocence vs. corruption...
Tue May 2, 2023, 10:25 AM
May 2023

I define innocence as being the state of honesty, playfulness and wonder (awe) while corruption, it's opposite, is the state of sham, drudgery and fear. In this framework, these characteristics are binary and mutually exclusive, so you can't be deceitful at the same time you are honest, playful when engaged in drudgery, or full of wonder in a state of fear. This being “amazed at things outside the self” is therefore an antidote to fear and is supportive of honesty and playfulness as well. The whole point of my philosophy is to choose the characteristics of innocence over corruption whenever possible as the state of innocence is ultimately the goal of human existence, I think, and not something we necessarily grow out of or are prevented from returning to as long as we make the effort to fight corruption and defend the innocent.


(37,267 posts)
4. Just adding this because I have it opened in a tab and was going to post it:
Tue May 2, 2023, 10:33 AM
May 2023
How to Grow Up: Nick Cave’s Life-Advice to a 13-Year-Old


How to harness youth’s centripetal curiosity as a creative force for bettering the world is what Nick Cave — himself an insightful reckoner with the art of growing older — explores in answering a 13-year-old boy’s question about how to live a full, creative, actualized, spiritually rich life in “a world ridden with so much hate, and disconnect.”

In consonance with W.E.B. Du Bois’s advice to his teenage daughter and with David Bowie’s idea of perfect happiness, Cave writes:

Read. Read as much as possible. Read the big stuff, the challenging stuff, the confronting stuff, and read the fun stuff too. Visit galleries and look at paintings, watch movies, listen to music, go to concerts — be a little vampire running around the place sucking up all the art and ideas you can. Fill yourself with the beautiful stuff of the world. Have fun. Get amazed. Get astonished. Get awed on a regular basis, so that getting awed is habitual and becomes a state of being. Fully understand your enormous value in the scheme of things because the planet needs people like you, smart young creatives full of awe, who can minister to the world with positive, mischievous energy, young people who seek spiritual enrichment and who see hatred and disconnection as the corrosive forces they are. These are manifest indicators of a human being with immense potential.

This openhearted curiosity, this aura of astonishment, becomes an antidote to the spiritual poison most corrosive to the world — cynicism, that supreme enemy of hope. At any stage of life, the refusal to succumb to cynicism is among our greatest triumphs of the spirit. It is certainly our mightiest force of courage and resistance to the cowardly denouncements of possibility that pock the countenance of humanity.


The Marginalian is an excellent website to bookmark, btw.


(15,854 posts)
6. Thank you for your post.
Tue May 2, 2023, 10:44 AM
May 2023

The beginning of that paragraph is so crucial. I can relate. I've been a "rabid reader" my entire life. I read anything and everything. I'm curious about the worlds outside of my own tiny sphere. I found solace in reading growing up in a poor, dysfunctional household. I think the second statement speaks to my other mantra in life which is basically "balance in all things". Don't pour your entire soul into just music or just art or just reading. I have zero artistic ability but I still go to art museums and stand in awe of the people who can create things like that with just a paintbrush and canvas. I love the music and artists of my younger years and listen to it regularly, but I also listen to classical, jazz, new things by the younger generation (country not so much). Same with movies and documentaries.


(22,730 posts)
8. Thanks for posting! Articles such as this are always so nice to read and enjoy and ponder, vs. the
Tue May 2, 2023, 12:00 PM
May 2023

constant doom and gloom of so much of the news of today.

Have a wonderful day!

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
10. That was great
Tue May 2, 2023, 12:37 PM
May 2023

Thanks for adding this to the discussion. It really added a human element, and with steps most all of us can do.


(58,785 posts)
5. I once heard astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson comment that
Tue May 2, 2023, 10:34 AM
May 2023

he never stepped outside without looking at the sky. That really hit home. Awe as a way of life.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
11. And that from a brilliant man who has looked at the sky thousands of times
Tue May 2, 2023, 12:38 PM
May 2023

If he can be awed, so can we average folks.


(58,785 posts)
13. Sky's always there. And with warm weather, for close focus
Tue May 2, 2023, 12:51 PM
May 2023

here come the bugs... This one's always in charge of her part of the garden.


(58,785 posts)
33. :) I never see those in the garden without imagining
Tue May 2, 2023, 04:07 PM
May 2023

what they'd do with me if only they were bigger. Awe inspiring.


(9,538 posts)
29. It always surprises me how few people look up
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:54 PM
May 2023

I'm an amateur astronomy type. Whenever I walk outside at night, I look up and stare. I have been doing it since my parents bought me a book about constellations as a kid. Three years ago, I moved farther from the city and the sky is so much clearer. I look up whenever I leave the house. I look up whenever I just take the garbage to the curb.

It has never grown old. It has never grown less humbling. It has never not been threaded with a deep and resonant emotional sense of participation is something.

Then I talk with friends, and they'll say things like they've never seen a shooting star. They don't know the bright lights above that are impossible to not see are Venus or Jupiter or Sirius. My partner turned 50 this past year, and until we met he had no idea what was in the sky until I started pointing things out while standing in the backyard.

Some people can go their entire lives living under this dome that feels like a vision of eternity, and they rarely look at it and have never really even thought about it.

That is just . . . I can't wrap my head around that.


(1,664 posts)
14. Thank you so much for this post!
Tue May 2, 2023, 01:00 PM
May 2023

It is a life affirming boost to our spirits. May I include a quote attributed to Albert Einstein to this discussion?

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

And one of my personal philosophies is that I don't have all the answers because I don't need them. All I need are the questions.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
16. You're welcome and thanks for the quote
Tue May 2, 2023, 01:29 PM
May 2023

I also liked your take on questions and answers. As I get older it's kind of depressing to think how many questions for me will go unanswered but you're right. Having questions can be more important than getting the answers.


(762 posts)
17. This is great advice if you're already a happy person.
Tue May 2, 2023, 01:33 PM
May 2023

But if you're not it really is delusional and doesn't work very well. You can't turn on happiness like a light switch.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
18. The key word from the article is cultivate
Tue May 2, 2023, 01:43 PM
May 2023

It doesn't say you can turn on happiness like a light switch and you don't have to be already happy to try it. The definition of cultivate is "try to acquire or develop (a quality, sentiment, or skill)". So you try to acquire those qualities through some very easy to do things like mentioned in the article or others' posts. It may not work for everyone but it doesn't hurt to try.


(762 posts)
22. It's called wishful thinking
Tue May 2, 2023, 02:36 PM
May 2023

Speaking as someone who's been chronically depressed, there's no easy path to mental well being and it's disingenuous to claim there is. It takes years, even decades of hard work and careful medication. People should consult professional help.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
23. You're using strawmen
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:13 PM
May 2023

There is not one word in the studies - done by scientists who actually do research on these topics - about an "easy path to mental well being" nor are there any such claims in the article, studies or by anyone in this thread. Nor is there any advice to not consult professional help. If you don't want to try any of the techniques, then don't. But don't misconstrue the studies, articles and others contributions in this thread to fit your narrative.

But some of these techniques, such as more time in green spaces, have been shown by research to improve some people's mental well-being. Just because it doesn't work for you or others does not mean it's ok and certainly not scientific for you to dismiss their work or others success with this approaches such as these. Sometimes drugs and/or therapy works, and sometimes they don't. Mental well-being is not a one size fits all.



(51,308 posts)
27. Absolutely. I've spent some down times since my parents' death, a beloved dog's death,
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:43 PM
May 2023

and other life crises. Always been a very optimistic person, but somehow got crushed under it all.

I read something similar to this, and I've really worked at it. It works for me, simply to look for those little moments:

The wrens have come back to the nest they built in my old (unused) mailbox on the porch, and I can watch them coming and going even as I sit on the couch.

I saw a sharp-shinned hawk the other day. Also saw my first hummingbird of the year. And a barred owl a few weeks ago.

Found out my mailman has a part-time job at my favorite CBD store.

Spring has sprung!

There've been other instances as well, but thanks for posting this. It really does help if one works at it...cultivates just as you say.


Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
30. I have had a similar experience
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:55 PM
May 2023

I lost a sibling last month and five days later found out my beloved dog was going to require surgery that would either fix his issue or he would be put down. Luckily, the surgery worked but my younger sister's death has been hard. But you know what, she wouldn't want me to stay sad and the last few weeks I have been trying to focus on things that inspire. That's why the article hit home with me.

I don't know how much longer either I or my dog have so why not appreciate even the mundane things you can find beauty in. Spring has sprung and I'm spending as much time outside as I can and as much time with him as possible.

Coming from an alcoholic family, I never wanted to be attached to any one thing but in my retirement I have come to really appreciate cannabis through edibles. I use them two to three times a week and every time they make me take a more positive view of things, and appreciate what I do have, even though it is less than others when it comes to material things.

Glad to hear about your positive emergnce from a tough time in your life.



(51,308 posts)
28. Of course you can't. But I've found this kind of thing very helpful to me.
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:51 PM
May 2023

An eternally glass-half-full, optimistic, bounce out of bed type of perky annoying (!) person lol, but the last few years took a toll on me.

I literally felt as though I was losing my footing, like being caught in an undertow.

Read something similar to this, and I've really started to pay attention and to ensure that I, and only I, am in charge of my outlook - be it shitty or bright.

Since I started paying closer attention to the good things, trite as it sounds, it has cheered me. I still don't feel like myself, but I'm pleased when I can take the time to feel happiness, gratitude, awe, whatever anyone wants to call it.

I find it really helpful.


(9,241 posts)
19. love it
Tue May 2, 2023, 01:50 PM
May 2023

there is so much mystery everywhere. this is one totally awesome planet, and turning your focus away from yourself can work wonders.

thanks for the post.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
24. Well said
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:19 PM
May 2023

Especially about turning one's focus away from self. There is a lot of awesomeness out there of varying degrees. This morning I took my dog on a wildnerness walk. The area isn't as beautiful as the aspens I enjoyed regularly in Colorado or the redwood forests of California that inspire, but this May morning the oak and blackjack trees were shimmering with their leaves in the sunlight and we stopped and enjoyed it for several minutes and it was awesome.



(51,308 posts)
32. Well put.
Tue May 2, 2023, 04:03 PM
May 2023

Thank you. You said it very well.

It's like the old song...and I say to myself, what a wonderful life...

Tommy Carcetti

(43,330 posts)
20. I actually recently listened to an interview with Prof. Kelcher on NPR's Hidden Brain
Tue May 2, 2023, 01:58 PM
May 2023

And it did strike a chord with me.

The idea that we have to sometimes take a step back and take in how remarkable a situation is or was is something I would suggest.

It could be for something extraordinary, like a life changing event. Or it could be something seemingly ordinary.

As a hobby, I'll sometimes swim in open water swimming competitions and it is frantic and crazy swimming during the actual race. But when I'm done and back on shore, sometimes I'll look back at the water and the mile long course and think to myself, "I just swam that." And that gives me this wonderful sense of peace and accomplishment, just taking the time to think about something I just accomplished.

And we should see the awe in seemingly ordinary things. This is perhaps best exemplified in a scene from one of my favorite movies--the Coen brothers' A Serious Man--where a junior rabbi encourages the main character to take a look at the parking lot outside and see it in a new light.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
26. Yes, often it is the "seemingly ordinary" we miss
Tue May 2, 2023, 03:34 PM
May 2023

Like your swims, I get a lot of joy out of just watching my extremely loving dog make friends with anyone and everyone who will let him in. Sunday we walked on campus and hardly anyone would pet him until a group of six students asked if they could pet him and every single one of them took part in his ritual: petting, leading to leaning in and nuzzling, then to the ground and offering up his chest for more pets on his favorite spot. I think that's the most he has ever claimed at once. It makes him feel good, makes me feel good and from their comments walking away, made them feel good. An ordinary moment with a lot of upside.

BTW, A Serious Man is one of their most underrated movies in my mind, and I think you see their unique sense of humor in this scene of taking two different views of the world (sometimes it's more the rabbi's and sometimes it's the cuckold husband's).


(24,534 posts)
21. What an interesting thread.
Tue May 2, 2023, 02:35 PM
May 2023

I never tire of looking at the moon, or seeing deer, rainbows, hot air balloons, and herons/egrets.

I even delight in the everyday birds that frequent the feeders on our patio - juncos, chickadees, cardinals, mourning doves, wild canaries, redwing blackbirds, hummingbirds, nuthatches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. I love watching squirrels.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
31. A couple of years ago I noticed an orphaned quintet of ducklings at a nearby pond
Tue May 2, 2023, 04:00 PM
May 2023

They would waddle together and swim together as a group for protection. So I began feeding them bread, then switched to bird seed for better nutrition. I still get a kick out of them as grown-ups when they spot me and start waddling as fast as they can to be fed.


(26,133 posts)
36. It's the perfect time of year to be looking at trees.
Wed May 3, 2023, 01:57 PM
May 2023

The new leaves are still a bit bright from Spring, so green and beautiful in the sun.

Thanks for starting a wonderful discussion, Doc. It's a good reminder about perspective, and it brightened my day.

Doc Sportello

(7,708 posts)
37. You and everyone else who got something from the article are welcome
Wed May 3, 2023, 02:18 PM
May 2023

It's not for everyone nor will taking his advice work for everyone. But they are things people can try, and work on to see if they are helpful. I appreciate your comment.



(4,741 posts)
38. Andre Gide had a quote about that
Wed May 3, 2023, 11:43 PM
May 2023

"Que ta vision soit à chaque instant nouvelle. Le sage est celui qui s'étonne de tout."

"Find something new with every moment. The wise man is astonished at everything."

It's from his autobiography, Fruits of the Earth.

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