We don’t need extraordinary things to happen to be grateful. Being alive is marvelous and miraculous in itself. My gratitude practice invites me to look at the micro-moments in my life.

Alex Elle

Welcome to Day Two of Awaken to Awe

Noticing and savoring the miraculous in the seemingly ordinary is a foundational principle of grateful living. When you cultivate a consistent practice of gratefulness, your entire orientation to life shifts from taking things for granted to being in awe of the wonders of daily life. Building on yesterday’s practice of awakening to awe in nature, begin today by watching A Grateful Day, Br. David Steindl-Rast’s beautiful reminder that gratefulness is rooted in awe — of the natural world, yes, but also of modern conveniences, each other’s faces, the very stories we carry. Whether the video is familiar or new to you, allow it to serve as a brief meditation and introduction to today’s practice.

Today’s Practice

First, enjoy reading Miracle Day, a short essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr. Doerr asks the profound question, “When did utter miracles start becoming banalities?,” then offers this playful invitation: “Imagine that one of your ancestors, a version of yourself that lived, say, twenty-seven thousand years ago — a caveman, if you must — is hanging out with you for the day.” Seen through the eyes of your time-traveling companion, what miracles of “ordinary” life might bring you to your knees in utter awe?

  • Take Inventory. Set a timer for two minutes, and take inventory of the seemingly ordinary things that are an essential part of your ability to live, even thrive, on this particular day. It might look something like this: coffee, computer, groceries, medicine, air conditioning, the mail, glasses, books, stairs, window panes. In only a couple of minutes, you will likely have an abundant list!
  • Envision the Story to Now. Choose one thing from your list and imagine the people, inventions, time, or transportation that made this “ordinary thing” a possibility on this very day. For example: Close your eyes and bring to mind the myriad systems and individuals, current and past, that made it possible for the card your friend dropped in a mailbox a thousand miles away to arrive directly to you — one person among millions — only a few days later. Or: Imagine the hours of research by people you’ll never know, in labs around the world, that resulted in the medicine you took with your morning coffee made from beans that someone grew in a country far from your own. 
  • Attune. Commit to tuning in to the wonders of the ordinary for a set amount of time: an hour, the morning, a whole day. At the end of that time, reflect on the following: How would my life be altered without the gift of these “ordinary” things? Where were there opportunities for awe in my supposedly ordinary day? When I pause to appreciate the actual miracle of these daily gifts, how does it shape my day or enhance my sense of aliveness?

Share Your Reflection: Help build a collection of ordinary things that awaken awe by sharing your insights in the Community Conversation area below.

Deepening Resource

All That Is Glorious Around Us by Barbara Crooker

In this beautiful poem, the poet shares that what is glorious to her are the small wonders all around — the driving rain, steam from her soup, the miracle of breathing.

From wherever you are at this moment, take a moment to pause, breathe, and give thanks for all that is glorious around you.

Research Highlight

In this Templeton Ideas podcast, Dacher Keltner shares research by his colleagues that shows that finding awe in daily life doesn’t depend on having a lot. It might be surprising, in fact, to learn that “privilege, wealth, and resources negatively correlate with awe.” Listen to minutes 6:15 – 9:19 to hear more about people’s capacity to find awe in the ordinary, particularly amidst hardship. And if you have time, enjoy the full 29-minute episode, transcript included.

Photo by mrjn Photography