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Mindful : August 2018
INSIGHT When nature momen- tarily pulls us out of our own heads, writes Dacher Keltner, we can find greater meaning and joy. 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, compas- sion, mirth, and awe. Awe means being in the presence of things greater than our individual selves, that take us beyond the ideology of self-interest. It is the experience we have when we encounter things that are vast and large and that transcend our cur- rent understanding of the world. The Greek philoso- pher Protagoras believed that our capacity for awe is our defining strength, the engine of creativity, discov- ery, purpose, and health. And the science could not agree more: Brief experi- ences of awe, such as in 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 give people a better sense of how they are part of larger social col- lectives, they stir scientific thought, and are good for the immune system. To explore Mindful’s virtual- reality guided awe walk: mindful.org/awewalk I’ve battled anxiety throughout my life and my older daughter has too. It keeps you away from the things you love. My daughter and I consistently find peace through awe. We backpack, and suddenly nature runs through our nervous system and makes us happier and healthier. Our immune sys- tems work better. At the Greater Good Sci- ence Center we par tnered with Mindful to do a guided awe walk, and we’ve been partnering with the Sierra Club and Outward Bound to get people outdoors to experience awe—veterans, inner-city kids, nursing home patients, whoever needs it. It’s such a simple gift, something everyone already has that allows them to find peace and meaning. When you’re in awe, it takes less energy to be alive. Normally, we’re all so attuned to trying to figure out where we need to be to try to make something happen. Awe short-circuits that. You can just be where you are. Awestruck 58 mindful August 2018