As children we have a great sense of awe and wander but as we grow up that gets lost as we have so much to do and think about. But awe and wonder are valuable to us, particularly when life is feeling difficult.
In this episode I share:
Episode 119 Go for a wonder walk
Welcome to Pressing Pause, I’m your host, Gabrielle Treanor, a coach, writer, introvert and sensitive soul with an inclination to ponder over the stuff of life. Join me as I explore how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
Wouldn’t it be handy if you could talk to someone who understands the challenges of being a sensitive, empathetic introvert in a world where busy, loud and productive is ‘best’. Someone who understands your desire to be helpful, to make people happy, to not mess up or let anyone down, and who understands how exhausting and overwhelming it is trying to be that person all the time.
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Someone who will listen, who will really hear you, with compassion and without judgement. Someone with whom you are free to be you. Someone with years of experience supporting women who feel just like you to become more trusting in themselves, to feel stronger, calmer, lighter and happier.
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Now, let’s get on with the episode.
Welcome to episode 119. A couple of weeks ago we brought home our new rescue puppy, Bailey. And one unexpected result of having a new puppy in our lives is that I’m looking at the world through his eyes. His excitement and confusion and barking at things I can’t necessarily see or hear. His sniffing every inch of the ground around him. Wanting to feel and taste everything with his mouth including plenty of things he shouldn’t be putting in his mouth.
Seeing his reaction to the garden, the house, where we go on our walks, other people and dogs – reminds me how interesting and extraordinary the world is, including the little patch we live in and know so well.
It’s like when you put yourself in the place of a child and see the world through their eyes – there’s so much awe and wonder that we miss out on as grown-ups because we take things for granted, we’re in our heads thinking about work and bills and the box set we hooked on.
But awe and wonder are really valuable to us. When life is feeling difficult, there’s a lot on your mind, a lot to juggle and deal with it does us good to come out of ourselves and notice how much there is to wonder at in our world.
Feeling a sense of wonder is different to feeling joy or happiness or contentment. As well as experiencing awe when we’re in nature, music, art, and religion can provoke feelings of wonder too. We may find it hard to put our finger on a clear definition of awe but we know it when we feel it. We feel humble and small in the grand scheme of life. There’s a feeling that we’re not at the centre of the universe and research shows that this encourages us to focus less on ourselves and that makes us more altruistic. It seems that people who feel awe are more likely to feel they’re part of a bigger picture and want to contribute more to society through volunteering, donating to charity or getting involved in their local community.
We experienced awe more frequently when we were children because so much was new to us, we were learning about the world every day. When we grow up we can lose that sense of wonder but we can create opportunities to spark feelings of awe instead. A great way to do this is by taking a wonder walk. I was tempted to call it a wonder wander but decided the play on words would just be confusing!
With a wonder walk you’re not just being aware and mindful of your surroundings you’re opening up to the awesomeness (in the real sense of the word) of the world around you. So I thought I’d share a few suggestions for where and how you can take a wonder walk and feel a sense of awe whether you’re in a rural spot or the heart of a city.
So, if you’re in a nature setting you can take a walk through a forest or wooded area. The difference in scale between the tall, towering trees that have been standing for years and the teeny tiny wildflowers growing on the forest floor is wondrous if you think about it. Think about how old the trees could be and what the area looked like when they were saplings. There’s a yew tree near me that is 5,500 years old, it blows my mind every time I go for a walk and see it. Get up close to the tree bark and notice the detail of lichen and insects living there. Crouch down to examine the variety of plants, flowers and creatures making their home at ground level.
Climb up a hill or even a mountain, go as high as you can to get as far-reaching views as possible. Consider how the mountain was formed and how long it’s been standing in comparison to human history. Look up at the vast sky and look in all directions for what you can see from this vantage point. Imagine you’re up in the sky looking down, consider your size in comparison to the mountain. How many people have walked on that ground for hundreds, even thousands of years?
Walk along a river, watch the flow of the water, its speed, the strength of its current. Peer into the water to see what lives beneath the surface. Look at the banks of the river, who or what lives there? Think about how long the river has been flowing along this route, what effect the powerful water has had on the banks and riverbed. If there’s a waterfall, even better, listen to the sound of the water, watch how the river falls and flows and blends back into the river.
The coast or a beach is a great place to tap into that sense of wonder, you’re on the very edge of land! Look out at the sea or ocean, where the water meets the sky. Watch the movement of the waves, consider how the tide moves in and out every day, without failure or interference. Imagine how far it is to land on the other side of the water.
If you can go into a rural area on a clear night and look up at the sky you will be rewarded with a truly wonderful sight. It will seem like more and more stars are coming out as your eyes adjust to be able to see them. Perhaps you’ll recognise constellations or identify planets or satellites. In every square inch of sky above you there are billions of stars. The ones that you can see in our galaxy, the Milky Way, could be billions of years old. When you look at the night sky you’re looking back in time because the light you see left its source possibly thousands of years ago. What you can see may not even exist any more because of the time it’s taken for the light to travel to your eyes. Isn’t that amazing?! I think the night sky could be our greatest source of awe and wonder.
Now, what if you live in a city or a built-up area and climbing a mountain or sitting in a field in the pitch black isn’t practical for you? There are still plenty of ways you can reignite your sense of wonder in an urban area.
For a start you can go for a wander, spelt with an a not an o this time, without any clear route or plan in mind. Just see where it takes you, without putting yourself in danger, of course. You may discover streets, parks, buildings or monuments perhaps many years old that you didn’t know existed simply because you went off for a wonder walk.
In the heart of a city where modern skyscrapers, centuries-old houses and blocks of flats are all jostling for space with parks and market stalls, with roads, pavements, cars, people and street furniture cutting a path through it all, this manmade environment can be awe-inspiring when you stop to think about it. In an old city consider how the architecture styles have evolved over the years and where buildings have been slotted into any available space. The way the streets have been used and travelled upon by foot, cart and horse, and the first motor car. There’s a photo of my street that must have been taken around the turn of the last century, before there were pavements or a proper laid road, and you can see a herd of cattle meandering past my house.
In a new city think about how much planning went into the layout of the office and retail buildings, the communal spaces and homes. How the town planners sought to learn from and improve upon older cities’ blueprints. The new technology and sophisticated building materials in use.
Find an historic building or monument. Whether it’s an art gallery or a war memorial, St Paul’s Cathedral or the Coliseum, a structure with history and a story to tell can be an incredible source of wonder. Think about the people who designed and built it, what’s taken place through the years in and around it, what it symbolises and what it stands for.
And of course people can be utterly awe-inspiring themselves. From a stadium or arena packed with fans singing as one to a band’s song or cheering on their sports team, to an athlete demonstrating their incredible commitment, skill, strength and endurance. From those who became world famous for stepping up to lead, bring about change and inspire, to the unsung, ordinary heroes being wonderful, in the true meaning of the word, as they go about their everyday lives
There is awe and wonder to be found all around us, if we just open our eyes to it. So, where will you find wonder today?
Thank you for listening to Pressing Pause, you can find details of what I shared in this episode in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. I’d love to hear what you take from the episode so do email me at [email protected]. You can leave a rating or review on iTunes too, and that helps other people to find the podcast.
As I said at the start there is a new way for you to get the support you want to bring down your stress and overwhelm, let go of people-pleasing, procrastination and perfectionism, and live with more calm, peace and joy, by having me as your coach in your pocket. Find out how you can get coaching any time you like, without having to schedule Zoom calls, by going to gabrielletreanor.com/pocket. And there’s an amazing special offer available for a limited time so don’t miss that.
Thanks again for listening, until next time.
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