The Tao Te Ching tells us:
In ages past, people followed the One.
The heavens were bright and clear,
The earth was in balance,
The spirits rejoiced,
The valleys were filled with life,
The ten thousand things flourished,
The leaders were wise,
And people lived in harmony.
All this came from oneness.
Tao, Chapter 39
This message of oneness echoes throughout the Tao Te Ching, which portrays the earth and sky, darkness and light, yin and yang, our lives and all that we know as part of the larger whole. The sense of oneness is intrinsic to the human condition, appearing in religious traditions throughout the ages (Van Cappellen, & Saroglou, 2012). Our ancestors felt a deep sense of oneness as they gazed in wonder at the stars, shining symbols of aspiration high above them.
Have you felt a sense of wonder when you looked at the stars, watched the ocean waves rushing in to shore, or responded to a radiant sunset, symphony, or remarkable work of art? Then you have experienced awe. Psychologists have discovered how the beauty of nature, music, poetry, and art can bring us this transcendent feeling. In what Abraham Maslow (1971) called a "peak experience," this feeling takes us beyond ourselves into an expansive sense of oneness with all creation, changing our lives in profound and meaningful ways (Keltner, & Haidt, 2003).
Research has shown that experiencing awe can bring us greater hope. It can improve our health, transform our perception of ourselves and our world, and increase our generosity, trust, and connection to community (Piff et al, 2015).
One way to experience greater awe is by appreciating beauty and excellence, one of the character strengths common to humankind (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
Ask yourself where and when you feel this transcendent sense of joy and oneness.
Is it in appreciating the beauty of nature, music, or the work of your favorite artist?
You can experience awe more often, experiencing greater hope and connection to the world around you, by pausing to appreciate the daily beauty in your life.
Keltner, D. & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 297-314; Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M, & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 883-899.
Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York, NY: Viking Books.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M, & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 883-899; Rudd, M., Vohs, K. D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people's perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science, 23, 1130-1136.
Van Cappellen, P., & Saroglou, V. (2012). Awe activates religious and spiritual feelings and behavioral intentions. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, 223-236.