Some Awe!

I was struck this week by the comparison of the size of an atom. If the proton at the centre of an atom were the size of an apple, the electron that is floating around it would be the size of sugar cube and be spinning in an orbit two kilometres away from the apple. The rest of the ‘sphere’ that makes up an atom is, as far as we know, empty space. The presenter I watched went onto emphasize that an atom is 99.99999999999999999% empty. A whole lot of nothing!

I read recently that our body is made up of about 100 trillion cells and each cell is made up of about 100 trillion atoms. That multiplies up to: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms (28 zeros there) or to make it easier, 10 Octillion atoms (thank-you Siri), in the average human body. But if this is true, then my body is also 99.99999999999999999% empty space. So why do most of us believe that the body and everything around it is solid? Perhaps there something filling the space that I think must be empty? Perhaps it is filled with energy, vibrations, dark matter? Perhaps solidity is an illusion, as is all of reality. Einstein said so, but he qualified it by saying that it was a persistent illusion. Thinking like this causes me to pause and think deeply and wonder.

Hubble Photo of the Cosmos

For me, this is a moment of Awe. I am struck by the wonder of it all. Where there is virtually nothing, I can sense a whole world. When quantum physicists got together with cosmologists, they discovered that the images they saw when looking into an electron microscope and looking through a powerful telescope were pretty much the same: a lot of empty space dotted by the tiniest of lights. This is incredible! This leaves me in a state of disbelief and yet at the same time, full of wonder at this truth. The British expression, ‘Gobsmacked’ fits here. It’s somewhere in between Homer Simpson’s ‘Doh!’ and Archimedes’ cry ‘Eureka!’ Yes, gobsmacked: the wonderment and astonishment of it all.

I watched a video last week on YouTube presented by Andrew Kirby. He’s a young chap from the UK I discovered last year when I was looking for information on Stoicism. In this video he said he believes being filled with a sense of awe can affect our lives even more powerfully than gratitude. When we are in a state of awe, we acknowledge that we are in the presence of something far, far greater than ourselves. We feel extremely small and insignificant relative to it. Perhaps you’re at the top of a cliff looking down at the waves crashing down below, sitting quietly inside a magnificent cathedral or gazing into the eyes of the Mona Lisa. And even though we sense how great this thing is and how infinitesimal we are, we still feel a deep connection to it.

Raphael’s School of Athens, Vatican City

When I was on the tour of the Vatican Museum years ago, we were escorted through room upon room of many of the great works of art: oils, sketches, frescoes, sculptures. There is so much art that great artworks lose their significance; it’s just one more Titian or another Michelangelo. I was following the crowds going at a fairly quick pace through gallery upon gallery when I turned. There before me was Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens. Having studied art history as well as having studied the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, I knew the fresco. I had seen photos of it, heard about it’s significance to art, to the politics and to competing philosophies at the time. And there it was! I wasn’t expecting to see it. I didn’t know it was in the Vatican Palace. And suddenly, there it was in all of its eight by five metres renaissance splendor! I was filled with awe: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder or fear (thank you Oxford Dictionary). And I was connected to the subject, to the artist, to the ideas expressed and to the moment, a moment that, obviously, has stayed with me ever since. I couldn’t say anything; I was gobsmacked!

Yes, we hear the word ‘awesome’ so often that most of its true meaning has been sucked out of it. It is still a good word to use in situations like this. When I am at the cliff edge staring down, I have a feeling that goes beyond being grateful to experience this moment. It’s a ‘be still and know’ kind of moment. It’s a ‘OMG’ kind of moment. It a ‘being completely in the now’ moment. It is a very humbling moment and a deeply spiritual moment.

Photo by Xiaoyu Chen on Pexels.com

We need more of these awe-some moments in our lives. We can seek those moments out. Find a place to live that inspires you. Visit the Grand Canyon, climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, witness the miracle of birth, watch a flower unfold. Discover places and moments that fill you with awe in the truest sense of the word.

And what will this do for us? How does being full of awe help us? We connect. We step back. We relate. We are grateful. We are happy to have been a part of this experience that no video or still, no description nor writing and no telling could ever completely encompass; a moment that will impress feelings and emotions so deeply into our psyche that it can never be erased. We will have a sense that in some respects, although we are insignificant, and realizing that there may be more stars in the heavens than there are atoms in our bodies, we have communed with the divine.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Find your awe!

My Gift to Me

For many years in the past, when I have heard people saying that they bought somethings for themselves for Christmas that that was the height of Ego Arrogance.  I just didn’t see the point of giving yourself something. I buy what I need when I need it and it’s not necessary to have a special day to buy something for myself.

In truth though, I am learning that it is important to mark occasions such as one’s birthday and Christmas with a special gift. If I am giving gifts to others at those times, why not give myself something out of the ordinary? I am not talking about something that you would have bought anyway. Put at least as much thought into what you are getting yourself as you put into what you wish to buy for your best friend or spouse.

Why? Why should you gift yourself with something? Because you, better than anyone else know if you’ve been naughty or nice. You have put a great deal of effort into the past year and you deserve a treat that is out of the ordinary. We have been told it is better to give than receive, but I believe that we have to receive in order to give if there is to be a flow of positive energy. We live in a universe of abundance, so splurge a little and get yourself something that you deserve.

It’s a false sense of humility that says you don’t deserve a present. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. You know how hard you have worked the past year or so. You do deserve it. Nor should you thing that if you get yourself something, that it shouldn’t be anything too expensive. If it’s a gift for anyone, it has to mean something, cost is beside the point here; it should mean something for you whether it costs nothing or a thousand dollars.

Your gift to you doesn’t have to be a thing.  What about getting yourself a day at a spa, or a massage. Go for a day or two to a place that’s special to you. Have a meal out at a restaurant that you normally wouldn’t dine at. Buy yourself flowers or a plant that will give you months of pleasure every time you see it because it is a constant reminder that you are worthy. Yes, you do deserve it.

What does giving yourself a gift do for you? Gifting something to yourself is a tangible sign that you really do matter in this world that increasingly treats people like a robotic commodity. Self giving increases your self-esteem. It confirms that the universe is a place of plenty. And when you then give to others you give from a place of understanding and joy; your generosity and gratitude will bloom from this.

You need not shout it from the rooftops what you have given to yourself. If anyone asks you can say it’s from a Secret Santa or a close friend. Nothing more needs to be said if you don’t want to.

So enjoy your gift to yourself.  No, it’s not a guilty little pleasure, it’s a well deserved present from someone who appreciates how far you’ve come along in your journey.

Merry Christmas and Season Greetings to All.

flat lay photography of baubles and ornament

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Taking Stock

We´re almost at the half way point of December. Where did the year go? We had the same amount of time that we did lasts year. Everyone gets the same 24 hours each day, weeks and months go by, and suddenly we’re close to marking the end of another year. Regardless of whether or not you make New Year’s Resolutions, I believe it is important to take a yearly stock of where we are and put forth some intentions of where we want to go in the next.

Now is as good a time as any to do a yearly inventory. I can look back at the past year and see how far I have come. In what ways have I found gains in my life and where did I fail in being the person I wish to be. In doing so, I will find the areas of my life where I need to put forth more of a concerted effort to make changes.

If I am truly living my program of recovery then I am constantly changing and evolving. I am not the same person I was a year ago, or at least I hope not. I can only really know by doing that personal moral inventory again. Few business owners like to do a physical inventory of their business, but it is the only way they can truly calculate the exact state of the company. It is a check to see that what is written on paper, or in the computer, is in agreement with what is actually present. A physical inventory lets the owner know not only how the past year went but also how to plan for the next, develop strategies for coping with changes in trends and look to the future.

I have to do the same in my inventory. It is not about self recrimination and focus on failure. Rather it is an honest look at my state of affairs. Neither do I focus on how much I have accomplished. It is an even handed, humble look at who I am now and measuring that against who I was a year ago. In doing so I know where my weaknesses are, how I’ve fallen short in my program and how I can move forward for the next year to improve where I am in life.

It is very apparent to me that I need to work on self esteem. Early on in life I developed a false sense of humility and it is still a struggle to recognize my talents and successes. I still tend to focus on my failures and run the tapes over and over in my head of how I am not good enough. Good enough for who?

I am working on a plan to shift my focus for the next year. I will strive to keep in mind the small gains that I make. I will work to recognize when I am slipping into feelings of unworthiness and turn them around before they affect my mood or take me down the road of depression. I can’t control my thoughts, but I can control what I do with them. I do that by daily committing to my recovery program, by being vigilant and by focusing on accomplishments.

I’ve learned that if I am not changing then I am not living my program. I want to be a better person today than I was last year. I want to see improvements. I want to live life fully and on life’s terms. I accept that I have made many positive changes in this life and that I can work on other aspects of my character. I do this by taking the time now to see where I have come from and decide where I wish to go.