Saturday, April 29, 2017

Inspirational Quote – April 29, 2017

“If you want to see a miracle, just open your eyes. Everywhere you look, there’s magic in disguise.”

Oh there is, there is! Take time to appreciate the miracles around you all the time, every day. A new baby, a flower, even the rain that we often complain about but without which everything on our world including us, would perish. True miracles are to be found in the wonders of nature around us, or people acting unselfishly towards others, our health professionals who care for us, etc. True magic is to be found in all of these and more. It’s up to each and every one of us to notice and appreciate the magic enhancing our own lives and the lives of those we love.

The Power of the Mindful Minute at Work: One Company's Brave Exp

Investing and finance aren't exactly fields synonymous with mindfulness and kindness, but some companies are starting to change that. During his annual review at an investment firm, Birju Pandya's boss looked at him and said, "You've done well. What do you want?" Pandya, now a senior advisor at RSF, calls it "the 'Godfather offer'" of the investment bank world. His mind teetered on the verge of a typical answer and then he took a totally different tack, "I'd like to start every team meeting we have with a minute of silence," he said. There was a long pause, then came the definitive answer, "No," his boss said. But the next morning, perhaps after reflecting on all that his employee could have asked for instead, he softened and agreed to the unconventional request. An intriguing first step, but even he couldn't have anticipated what would unfold from there over the next few years. In this brief video, Pandya shares the compelling domino effect of the collective mindful minute at work.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Inspirational Quote – April 28, 2017

“Each new moment is a place you’ve never been.”

Very true isn’t it? We don’t often stop to think about this though do we? Too much going on, too many things to do, people to see etc. Take a moment to think about it. Each new moment in your life is unique to you and only to you. Once it’s gone it’s gone, never to return but yet puts another stitch in the tapestry of your life that’s an ongoing work of art, your own personal masterpiece! Appreciate the moment before you wish it farewell forever….

A Nobel Laureate on the Power of Not Knowing

"Surrender to not-knowing" was the catchphrase of poet Wislawa Szymborska who offered this as a guide to participate in the wonder of creation as an artist. Whether a scientist, poet, or everyday worker we are all artists as we become co-creators in life. As we step into each moment with the willingness to allow for the unexpected to unfold, we make art with the stuff of our lives. The alternative for some is to control and define with closed minds what life should be instead of what it could be. Instead of contracting back into certainty Szymborska challenges us to live bravely in the "I don't know" that defines the inexplicable nature of our existence here on Earth. By opening themselves to the unknown, artists of all kinds have been led to discoveries and inventions that have changed life on Earth for the better. Read more about Szymborska and her perspectives on uncertainty.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Making SEL the DNA of a School

By Vicki Zakrzewski

School and district leaders share their stories of how they are infusing SEL into everything they do.

Districts and schools all over the country are working hard to make social-emotional learning (SEL) a part of the “DNA” of the educational process, meaning they’re going beyond just the adoption of an SEL curricula and are incorporating SEL into school climate, discipline policies, teacher professional development, and the like.
But for educational leaders who are new to SEL or who are trying to figure out where to start, this process can seem overwhelming.
Thankfully, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has created an excellent set of guidelines for implementing SEL into schools and districts, including factors such as supportive leadership, weaving SEL into classroom curriculum and instruction, and getting parents on board.
But what’s it like to work in a school that’s trying to integrate SEL at every level? To find out, we reached out to district leaders who are part of CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative. Their stories revealed that, while it’s not easy to cultivate the “SEL DNA” of a school or district and that the process can actually be very messy, the outcomes are profoundly rewarding.
Here are some of those stories.

SEL requires supportive leadership

School leaders who recognize that SEL isn’t just for students—that they themselves and their staff need to constantly model and cultivate their own social-emotional competencies—are well on their way to building a school culture that values the social and emotional aspect of education.
Before becoming SEL Coordinator for public schools in Warren, Ohio, Jill Merolla was a principal for 13 years—and, she says, “I was the boss.” That meant she “made the decisions” and demanded that her staff follow them. “But SEL made me a little wiser,” she says. “I learned that listening more—taking the time to get feedback from people before making a decision—not only makes for a better decision, but also helps with buy-in.”
SEL also changed how Merolla ran meetings so that they became more human-centered rather than task-oriented.
I always start with a practice where we learn a little about each other or we check in on how we’re doing, and then I close the meeting with a reflection. During the meeting, we collaborate, we talk to each other. Instead of just “sit-and-get” and being “talked to,” we break up into discussion groups. The staff is more engaged and they feel they’re being heard. The superintendent has started running meetings like this and people feel they have more of a say in the progress of the school district.
To help the adults cultivate their own social and emotional well-being, Merolla’s district is implementing “SEL Mondays.”
The principals are going to lead their staff through different SEL practices, like “Circles,” a discussion process that comes from Restorative Justice. We figured out that teachers need self-care and time to cultivate community amongst themselves, not just in their classrooms. In the end, SEL speaks to people’s humanity by treating them with respect and acknowledging that each person has a voice.

Integrating SEL into all areas of school life

To be truly effective, SEL needs to be a part of every aspect of school culture, not just the classroom. From the playground to the hallways to the cafeteria to the buses, SEL should form the foundation of adult and student interactions and relationships.
According to Jan Davis, SEL Specialist for the Anchorage School District, SEL is how the district does business—not just in the classroom, but also on the bus and in the cafeteria.
We let people know district-wide that we all need to work together to build these relationships. The bus drivers know their job is important because parents are giving them their babies to get them to school safely and to bring them home safely. Knowing the kids by name, giving them a high-five or a handshake, and smiling at them starts students’ days off for learning on a positive note.
And then Mario, who oversees the making of school breakfasts and lunches, knows his job is hugely important because he views the students as his own children and that it’s his job to feed them. He believes that the best job—and the most stress-free one—is working in the cafeteria in Anchorage.

SEL practices can also help shape discipline policies by teaching students to resolve conflicts peacefully, either on their own or with some help from peers or adults. Ruth Cross implemented the SEL program I Can Problem Solve as a principal and now works as a district consultant with CASEL. She described a time when she overheard two boys talking, who had been sent to her office for fighting.
One of them was new to the school and the other had been there since kindergarten. The boy who was new asked the other boy, “What is she like?”
The young man responded, “Oh well, she’s not so bad.” I thought on a scale of 1 to 10, I’ll take that.
Then the new student asked, “What’s she going to do to us?”
The other boy answered, “I don’t know, but I will tell you this: She is going to ask you what you did, and I will tell you right away just be upfront. Tell her the truth because she knows when you lie.”
I thought, “My gosh, that’s a good thing for people to believe about me—that I know when they’re lying.”
I waited a minute longer and then the same boy added, “She’s going to say to you, ‘Tell me what you can do differently to solve this problem.’ And if you can’t, you will never get out of her office.”
This conversation told her that students were learning the process of identifying the problem—and that they’d come to understand that “it was up to them to figure out different and appropriate ways to solve the problem.”

Making SEL a part of classroom curriculum and instruction

Students work on “mindful movement”Students work on "mindful movement"Image courtesy of the Center for Healthy Minds
Unfortunately, SEL is sometimes viewed as a “fix-it” solution for students who struggle in school, especially those who face harsh circumstances on a daily basis, such as racism and other forms of trauma. Instead, when embedded into classroom routines, curriculum, and instruction, SEL can be used as a way for teachers and students to build caring, trusting relationships with each other, in which teachers focus on students’ strengths rather than their deficits.
Kyla Krengel, a former teacher who is now the director of SEL for the Metro Nashville Public Schools, told us a powerful story of how a simple SEL practice transformed her relationships with her students. As a new fifth grade teacher in a Title I school, she found herself struggling with classroom management. A mentor suggested a morning meeting, “a time for students to come together and share how they’re doing or to discuss a problem they’re facing.” Krengel initially resisted the suggestion, feeling like she didn’t have the time. But she continued to struggle and her mentor persisted—until finally she decided to give it a try.
So he taught me how to structure a morning meeting and he led a few with my students, with me sitting in as an observer. Eventually, I co-taught them with him.
And then one day, I had to do it on my own for the first time—without my mentor being there. I remember sitting in a circle with 35 fifth graders and one little boy raised his hand to share.
He told us that the reason he gets so stressed out during the week is because when he was five and his little sister was three, his mom took them to Wal-Mart and left them there. It wasn’t until midnight that the police found them and took them to their dad’s house. Now, after not seeing his mother since he was five, she had just returned and he was required to spend every other weekend with her.
I understood in that moment that this was why this child came to school totally different every other Monday and that he needed a space to just chill and relax.
At one point in the morning meeting, Krengel noticed that “the entire class was sitting, listening, and quiet.” Every child had a story to share.
I remember trying to listen without crying because they didn’t need that. They needed to share and I needed to hear them, because how could I teach them without knowing their lives? After that, my students asked for morning meeting.
Morning meeting completely changed how I go about teaching. I learned that if I don’t have that safe space, where every single one of my students feels connected, valued, and heard, then they’re not going to be open to academic content.
I also realized that personalized teaching doesn’t always mean academics. For example, the child who first raised his hand had two seats in the classroom. Every other Monday morning, he sat in the back of the classroom where he could write and get his anger out—he could share what he wrote with me, he could ball it up and throw it away, he could save it in a notebook. And when he was ready to transition, he could join us.
A few years later, I taught some of those students again in 8th grade and I thought that they wouldn’t want to do morning meeting. But they wanted it even more and they needed it even more. And now, in my work with both adults and students, I make sure that we have space for a morning meeting to get to know each other—and not just on a surface level.

Getting parents on board

Getting parents on board with SEL is a huge part of the success story, because what good is it if kids practice their SEL skills only in school? But connecting with busy parents is challenging for many schools.
However, as CASEL district consultant Judy Nuss’s story suggests, perhaps schools should rely more on the students to reach their parents.
I was talking to a father with two adopted children who had learning challenges and who had dealt with a lot of trauma in their lives, and he was telling me how well they were doing in school. I asked him if he knew about the SEL work happening in the district, including the PATHS curriculum.
And he said, “Let me tell you a story. This past Saturday, my wife and I were driving with the two boys in the backseat, and she and I started a little tiff. I wanted to go to Place A and she wanted to go to Place B and we started arguing about where to go first.
“All of a sudden, one of the boys in the backseat said, ‘Mom and Dad, here’s what you need to do. Calm down. Dad, calm down. Take a breath and say the problem. Dad, what is the problem?’ I played along with him and stated the problem. He went through the whole problem-solving process with me.
“Then he said, ‘Mom, I see that you’re calmed down now. Now, what’s the problem?’ And he processed her through the entire problem-solving protocol.”
The father then turned to me and said, “I think the SEL program is working really well.”
I was surprised because the boy was just five years old and had only been through our preschool and kindergarten SEL program. So in that short time, he had learned how to coach his parents through problem-solving.
As the stories illustrate, SEL isn’t just about academics. It’s about human connection—that beautiful and complicated necessity of life and school. Here’s how Austin, Texas, administrator Caroline Chase puts it:
Sometimes it’s hard for the adults to connect to the fact that students are human beings. So SEL is the humanity that’s created when we do things like check-ins with each other, which allows us to have real relationships—where you’re really interested in somebody’s story and you want to know what that person’s about and why they are the way they are.

Inspirational Quote – April 27, 2017

“Don’t expect only happiness in your life. There are going to be dark times, but remember that stars need darkness to shine.”

I think most of us know that life isn’t unending happiness but a combination of happiness and unhappiness, unfortunately for some of us, in unequal measures. However, that’s life and there’s nothing we can do about it but accept and do our best to cope and move on from the unhappy times. The only good thing, if there is such a thing, is that the unhappy times should bring us the realization that the happy times need to be enjoyed and treasured. Just like the stars need darkness in order to shine, so the happy times need the unhappy times to make us value them as we should.

Honorable Harvest: Indigenous Lessons in Giving Thanks

In a consumer-driven society, it's easy to take for granted the abundance of Earth's natural resources by which we're surrounded: fresh air to breathe, plants, water, and food. What if we looked at each of these life-giving sources as gifts, fellow persons even, rather than mere objects for our taking? YES! Magazine writer Robin Wall Kimmerer challenges readers to consider how we treat and interact with the organic materials on which our lives depend, and look more closely at how we can replenish as much as we absorb. The Honorable Harvest, an indigenous practice, applies to every exchange between people and Earth, and is governed by reciprocity, gratitude, and taking only what you need. Kimmerer writes, "When we speak of the living world as kin, we also are called to act in new ways, so that when we take those lives, we must do it in such a way that brings honor to the life that is taken and honor to the ones receiving it."

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Can Empathy Protect You from Burnout?

By Summer Allen

A new study suggests more empathic police officers are less likely to become discouraged and demoralized.

While anyone can feel on-the-job burnout, those who work with people in distress are more at risk. People in helping occupations may also experience “compassion fatigue,” feeling less and less motivated and able to alleviate suffering. In those circumstances, they may begin to put up a wall between their and other people’s suffering. But is that the best choice?
A new study aimed to answer this question by looking at empathy, burnout, and compassion fatigue in police officers who work with rape and sexual assault survivors.
Their job is one that demands tremendous empathy. If survivors perceive the investigating officer to be empathic, they’re more likely “to continue with the prosecution process and go to court,” note study authors David Turgoose, Naomi Glover, Chris Barker, and Lucy Maddox of University College London. But officers can pay a cost for this work, experiencing secondary trauma that arises from listening to stories of sexual assault.
The study, published in the journal Traumatology, surveyed 142 British police officers in a special unit that works with survivors. The officers reported on their levels of compassion fatigue, burnout (emotional and psychological exhaustion), and secondary traumatic stress (PTSD-like symptoms).
The researchers also measured the officers’ overall empathy levels—so-called dispositional empathy—using a questionnaire that included statements such as, “I can tell when others are sad even when they do not say anything.”
The researchers found a significant association between empathy and burnout: Officers with higher dispositional empathy actually had lower levels of burnout.
“The findings provide tentative support for the idea that empathically engaging with victims might serve as a protective factor against burnout,” write the authors. One possible explanation for this finding is that empathy may make their work feel more meaningful—an idea that has been proposed in studies of physicians.
Further, the researchers did not find that more empathic officers had higher compassion fatigue or secondary trauma. These findings are a counterpoint to recent arguments against empathy—and previous work that found that highly empathic people may be more likely to experience compassion fatigue, and that compassion fatigue itself may reduce empathy towards others.
Contrary to expectations, the levels of compassion fatigue and burnout the officers reported weren’t high. Most had average levels of burnout and an impressive 84 percent scored low in compassion fatigue. And almost three quarters of the officers showed no, little, or moderate levels of secondary traumatic stress.
This seems like good news. However, the average participant in this study had not worked with survivors for very long—less than two years. 
In fact, when the researchers accounted for time spent working in the special unit, they found that veterans scored higher in compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress than newer recruits. They didn’t see the same pattern when comparing symptoms to years of general police experience. This finding suggests “something specifically related to working with rape victims increases compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout over time,” the researchers conclude. If empathy actually reduces burnout, it could be very powerful for these officers and for survivors.
Importantly, the authors note that the design of their study did not allow for explicitly testing this causal relationship. Thus, it is possible that burnout somehow decreases empathy.
Future longitudinal studies are needed to definitively test whether empathy does indeed protect officers against burnout. Such studies could also determine how likely it is that officers who work with rape survivors for many years will eventually experience burnout, compassion fatigue, or secondary trauma.
As part of the study, the researchers also included a brief training program designed to educate officers about how to recognize signs of stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue, as well as various self-help strategies, such as social support, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques. Many participants found this training helpful—and some even indicated that they’d begun mindfulness practice on their own after the course.
As one officer said: “Glad to learn about compassion fatigue and realize I’m not weird.”

Do Mixed Emotions Make Life More Meaningful?

By Kira M. Newman

According to a new study, we don’t have to feel good all the time in order to live a fulfilling life.

Happy and sad. Excited and scared. While mixed emotions are familiar to many of us, they’re still a bit of a mystery to psychologists.
Initially, many researchers believed—and some still do—that it isn’t possible to feel both positive and negative at the same time. But more and more research is suggesting that mixed emotions do exist—more often as we get older, and among women. But why would this kind of emotional experience be useful to us?
A new paper has taken some early steps to explore how mixed emotions contribute to our well-being, and it suggests that they may play a role in the search for meaning in life.

How happy-sad are you?

The paper covers two studies. In the first, researchers recruited 52 college seniors who were about to graduate. The seniors reported on the positive and negative emotions they were feeling at the moment, allowing the researchers to calculate a score for mixed emotions. Then the participants watched a short video about graduation designed to induce bittersweet feelings. To the tune of fast-paced but sad music, it said things like “You’ll miss the university and the friends you’ve made…but you’re also looking forward to the future and the exciting possibilities it holds”:

After watching the video, participants again reported how they were feeling. They also completed a questionnaire measuring their sense of purpose or meaning. If they scored high, that meant they believe they know what they’re meant to do in life.
Overall, the video did appear to elicit mixed emotions: Afterward, participants felt more happy-sad and enthusiastic-sad than beforehand. And the more their mixed feeling of enthusiasm-sadness increased, the greater their sense of purpose and meaning in life.
“Mixed emotions seem to be a relevant companion in the creation of a meaningful life,” says lead author Raul Berrios, an associate professor at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile.

How mixed emotions make meaning

Mixed emotions may be related to meaning, then, but how?
A second study Berrios and his colleagues conducted shed some light on this question. Here, over 400 students filled out surveys measuring their sense of meaning or purpose in life and if they’d recently experienced an event that provoked mixed emotions. The survey also asked if, and how much, their life goals had recently come into conflict.
The analysis suggested that these factors were all related: Participants with more conflicting goals tended to have stronger mixed emotions. The stronger their mixed emotions, the more actively they were searching for meaning in life, and (in turn) the more meaning and purpose they felt.
How can we interpret these results? Berrios seems to envision mixed emotions as a kind of red flag for conflicting goals, a signal of some discrepancy we need to resolve in order to make meaning out of our lives. In the case of the college seniors, for example, they might simultaneously want to preserve their current friendships and connect with new people outside school, or savor their last months of college but also prepare for finding a job. Being aware of these conflicts could motivate them to form a plan and craft a narrative about how to transition from one life stage to another.
“Situations involving common personal dilemmas tend to [be linked to] the experience of mixed emotions,” says Berrios. “This may be important to understand how people construe a meaningful life in the face of difficulties.”
In moments of conflict or stress—when feeling purely good may not be possible for us—mixed emotions could thus be a healthy pattern. Past research suggests that mixed emotions can help us be more resilient and cope with adversity, like when bereaved spouses still experience moments of humor.
Berrios emphasizes that these studies are preliminary, and he says we can’t assume, without further research, that mixed emotions cause us to search for meaning. And not all mixed emotions may be created equal: The disappointment-relief I feel after dropping an ice cream cone that would have blown my diet may not motivate any major soul-searching.
Still, this study suggests (yet again) that we don’t have to feel good all the time in order to live a fulfilling life—and that some bad feelings may actually be part of the process.

Crazywise: A Filmmaker Explores the Heart of Mental Illness

Phil Borges is a dentist-turned-photographer, author, filmmaker and social change storyteller. For more than 25 years, he has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures in some of the world's most remote, inaccessible areas. His recent film Crazywise reveals a paradigm shift that's challenging the way Western culture defines and treats "mental illness" and highlights a survivor-led movement demanding more choices from a mental health care system in crisis. The film explores cultural differences with respect to consciousness, mental health and the relevance of Shamanic traditional practices and beliefs to those of us living in the modern world. More on Phil's journey in this in-depth interview.

Inspirational Quote – April 26, 2017

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”

It doesn’t take strength to do what we do every day as normally it involves just going along with whatever we have to in order to earn a living, run a household, a social life etc. etc. We do what we know we have to because that’s what life usually entails, just getting on with it. Strength comes into play when things don’t go the way we expect or want, and we doubt ourselves in being able to cope and overcome successfully. Much easier for us to ignore or expect someone else to sort things out for us. However, finding the strength to do it ourselves this time enables us to cope better the next time, and the next………..

Will Rosenzweig: Business Lessons from a Quiet Gardener

When William Rosenzweig learned he had been awarded the prestigious Oslo Business for Peace Award via a Google news alert -- he immediately assumed it was spam. But it was in fact real. A 2010 recipient of this award, selected by a committee of Nobel Laureates for the highest distinction given to a businessperson for outstanding accomplishments in the area of ethical business, Will has spent more than twenty-five years integrating the practices and perspectives of an entrepreneur, venture investor, and pioneering educator in order to help transform global corporate business practice. Much of his inspiration in the corporate world comes from a seemingly unlikely place -- the garden. Here is an excerpt from his acceptance speech.

Monday, April 24, 2017

How to Cultivate Awe with a Walking Meditation

By Dacher Keltner 

Tap into a deeper sense of purpose and well-being with a 360° guided mindfulness practice through Muir Woods in California.

We are all naturally endowed with a set of passions that enable us to find our purpose, increase our well-being, and navigate our place in the social world. These passions include gratitude, compassion, mirth, and (our focus here) awe.
Jose Luis Aranda Nucamendi
Awe is the experience we have when we encounter things that are vast and large and that transcend our current understanding of the world. The Greek philosopher Protagoras believed that our capacity for awe is our defining strength, the engine of creativity, discovery, purpose, and health. And the science could not agree more: Brief experiences of awe—for example, standing amidst tall trees—lead people to be more altruistic, less entitled, more humble and aware of the strengths of others, and less stressed by the challenges of daily living. These brief experiences are good for the immune system, stir scientific thought, and give people a better sense of how they are part of larger social collectives.
We can find awe in many places, in listening to music, thinking about inspiring people, in contemplation and mindfulness. My favorite approach to cultivating awe is the Awe Walk.

What is an Awe Walk?

An Awe Walk is a walk within a place of meaning and beauty, where your sole task is to encounter something that amazes and transcends, be it big or small. I look for Awe Walks during my work day, with my family at night, and in rural and urban settings. And on very fortunate days I get to do Awe Walks in places like Muir Woods National Monument.
Amidst the tall redwood trees, I make sure to direct my attention upward, and take in their scale, their relations to one another, the sense of community they create—recognizing that in the case of the coastal redwoods, very often nearby trees sprout from the same root system; they are family. Their height, the sense of peace they create high in the air above, evokes a first feeling of awe. It is this experience in nature that Emerson described:
In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life—no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental; to be brothers, to be acquaintances, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty.
As I look up into the trees, a second kind of vastness astonishes and delights: temporal vastness. These coastal redwoods, which are some of the largest organisms to ever live, are also some of the oldest living organisms, and can live over 2,000 years. This transient moment in time, and really the span of my life, is but a brief chapter in the lives of these trees. Their age inspires awe. It’s good to stand near the trees, feel their size, sense how far they go into the sky.
I like to rest my hand on trees, and rely on the ancient language of social contact—touch—to take in the feel of their bark. Soaked in rain it will feel damp and cold. Warmed by the sun, dry. Its solidity feels like the back of a good friend. Making tactile contact with trees triggers yet another kind of awe—what you might call semantic awe, when what at first blush seem like disparate concepts are revealed to share a common substance. In this case, two species—humans and trees—share some vital force; we have both been shaped by evolution, we share this moment in time.
John Muir, whom we can thank for Muir Woods, wrote often about such experiences:
We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams, and rocks, in the waves of the sun—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal….How glorious a conversion, so complete and wholesome it is, scarce a memory enough of the old bondage days left as a standpoint to view it from.
Coming out of experiences of awe, I feel to be in a state of wonder, often the aftermath of awe. Wonder is what you might call a cognitive passion; it is an intellectual stance to the world, as is the sense of the absurd, or horror. Wonder is when we are delighted by that which surprises, and we are moved to find explanations and deep causes. Awe makes me want to search for truths and purpose and scientific discovery.
I take two kinds of Awe Walks. The first is to seek out the new, for there one is likely to find awe. And the second is to return to a familiar place, where the past is linked to the present, yet another kind of vastness—how brief experiences are tied together in the sweep of time. Muir Woods offers this for me. Some 18 years ago, near the stream that winds through the center of the forest, my wife Mollie and I watched our one-year-old daughter Natalie take her very first steps, near galloping in a little red jacket. We had rested to hear the water, to listen to the sounds of the moving water—its ever-changing pattern and promise reminding us of the patterns in our lives. And our little daughter galloped off, in her own burst of awe, to the amazement of her tired parents, witness to another unfolding moment of their firstborn.

A guided Awe Walk mindfulness practice

We begin an Awe Walk as we do all contemplative exercises, with the breath.
1. Take a deep breath in. Count to six as you inhale and six as you exhale. Feel the air move through your nasal passages and hear the sound of your breath. We’ll come back to this breath throughout the walk.
2. Feel your feet on the ground and listen to the surrounding sounds. Return to your breath. Count to six while you inhale and six as you exhale.
3. Shift your awareness now so that you are open to what is around you, to things that are vast, unexpected, things that surprise, and delight. Take a deep breath in. Count to six as you inhale and six as you exhale.
4. Let your attention be open in exploration for what inspires awe. Your attention might appreciate vast spaces, and the sounds and sights within them. You might shift to small patterns, for example of the sorrel on the ground, or the veins on leaves, or a cluster of tiny mushrooms.
5. Bring your attention back to the breath. Count to six as you inhale and six as you exhale. Coming out of these experiences of awe, we often feel a sense of wonder.
The striking thing, once you really start to think about awe and try to practice it in your life, is how omnipresent it is. As you move through your day, take note of the moments that bring you wonder, that give you goosebumps: These are your opportunities for awe.
Go out and find your awe moments and listen to them carefully; see where they guide you. What you’ll find, in how they stir humility and wonder, is that they will point you towards what you’re supposed to do while you’re here on Earth.

The Guided Awe Walk Meditation is presented by Mindful in collaboration with the Greater Good Science Center, the University of San Francisco, and the Sierra Club Outdoors.
Produced by: Heather Hurlock, Editor of
Narrated by: Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, UC Berkeley, Faculty Director, Greater Good Science Center
Video, photography, and editing by: Jose Luis Aranda Nucamendi of the University of San Francisco
Video production by: Lisa Beth Anderson of the University of San Francisco
Special thanks to: Jason Marsh, Stephany Tlalka, Christel LeBlanc, Melinda Moses, Eric Hurlock, Ernie Tokay, and all the patient people at Muir Woods who helped us along the trails
This article was originally published on Mindful. Read the original article.