In the twenty-first century, we have never before had access to so much information, including the twenty-four-hour news that we can consume on a variety of devices. With so many terrible things going on in the world, it’s no surprise that people are starting to avoid the news. Recent surveys show that “news avoidance” has grown in recent years, with over a third of the population choosing to disengage from daily updates on politics and world events.
As well as indicating that people do not want to expose themselves to news of all the daily challenges and suffering of modern life, maybe there is also another reason. This could be that we yearn for a simpler, slower, and more peaceful life, where we reconnect with and appreciate what it means to be human with a sense of wonder.
There is the Earth, the four-and-a-half billion-year-old planet that we live on, and the collective World of societies, culture, language, national identities, politics, money, consumerism, industry, technology, and information that humans have created – that hover over the natural planet. When we grow up and become socialised adults, we end up seeing the World as the primary reality and the Earth as secondary. It’s this mis-take that led to the climate crisis and some of the other challenges we face.
The German Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer said that “Behind our existence lies something else that becomes accessible to us only by our shaking off the world”. He was pointing to the need to move beyond the surface of our worldly existence to discover a deeper, more meaningful truth. And one way to discover this meaning is to experience wonder.
Wonder is a complex cognitive and emotional state, which involves a sense of awe, curiosity, and amazement in response to something extraordinary, beautiful, or mysterious. Wonder can include a range of emotions like joy, peace, and happiness, like when watching a beautiful sunset. We can also experience wonder when we use curiosity to expand our understanding. Of course, many human achievements can also make us feel a sense of wonder. For instance, the discovery of DNA, artificial intelligence, images from the James Webb telescope, as well as art and culture. But almost all these build on what is already there in the universe.
Examples of things that we take for granted when we are caught up in the world include:
- The beauty and complexity of the world around us, including our own body, which has over thirty trillion cells and eleven interdependent systems that keep us healthy and alive.
- Although we may have some limits on our attention and ability to process more than one thing at a time, our human mind has the potential to store and process unlimited thoughts, knowledge, ideas, and memories, with possibly boundless creativity and imagination.
- The nature of life and how it is created, from a newborn baby, through to the different stages of life.
- The reality of living on this massive rotating planet, formed over four and a half billion years ago in our solar system, one of over three thousand in our local galaxy, in a universe of two trillion other galaxies.
- The uniqueness of each moment, each breath, every face, every particle of sand on a beach, and every cloud in the sky.
Wonder and mindfulness are linked in several ways. Both can enhance our overall well-being and how we appreciate ourselves, others, and the world around us. By being more aware of and engaged, we are more likely to notice and appreciate the rich complexity of the present moment, which expands our sense of wonder. By bringing curiosity and openness to our experience we can see the world through fresh eyes and experience the wonder and uniqueness of each moment. With heightened awareness, we can start to appreciate the extraordinary aspects of life with a sense of wonder at the beauty and mystery of the world around us. Mindfulness helps us reduce stress and find emotional stability, which creates the space to experience wonder. When we practice mindfulness, we often rest our attention on the natural world. Maybe walking quietly through the woods, appreciating the peace, stillness, and sounds of nature as we experience a sense of wonder and connection.
Practicing mindfulness can help us experience moments of wonder every day. By being fully present and aware, open, and curious, we enhance our ability to appreciate the richness, complexity, mystery, and beauty of what we so easily take for granted.
Suggested weekly practice
- Explore the difference between the World that we have made and the natural Earth beneath our feet.
- See if you can experience a moment of wonder every day.
- Notice what you take for granted and use curiosity and openness to appreciate the often hidden richness, uniqueness, and complexity of life.
Find somewhere undisturbed, sit in a comfortable, dignified, and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the first settling practice, then either read through the session content or play the talk on stability and balance below.
- Then play the second practice to reconnect with and experience a sense of wonder.