Four Ways to Cultivate Wonder
Early one morning after class, a vibrant splash of color in the sky drew my eye through the window. It came from the kind of sunrise you only see on a vacation at sunset. Pure wonder. My cost? - the willingness to look up.
This year is the year of wonder for me. No, there are no grand trips planned. With five dogs and other personal commitments, I am not able to make long pilgrimages. My wonder experiment is happening day by day in the free experiences of paying attention. Much of my practice is done while walking.
Maybe one day I’ll walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain as some of my friends have. They found answers on the way. There’s a moving documentary about one man’s experience on You Tube.
St. Augustine said "it is solved by walking", Solvitur ambulando /ˈsɒlvɪtər ˌæmbjʊˈlændoʊ/, a Latin phrase which refers to solving a problem through practical experiment. Walking can be the simplest of meditations, if done mindfully.
My walking path is in my neighborhood, right outside my door. Most days it’s the same path. But, the everyday experiences are not the same.
As it turns out, the usual moments are not so usual.
Finding wonder takes daily practice. It’s the kind of practice that involves shutting down the part of your brain that goes directly to your latest favorite worry, puts the blues on repeat or makes you want to crawl back into bed. Instead of seeing the normal dog walk as a chore, and there are many with 5 dogs, I wonder what will catch my attention. The hoot of an owl, the way the trees frame the sunset as I return from the late afternoon walk, the sight of a hawk soaring on the wind and an occasional deer sighting are recent discoveries.
I have a hunger to feel radically alive in the everyday.
Going on vacation or a special retreat with the purpose of manufacturing a certain emotion can be a recipe for disappointment. You bought the plane ticket and you paid the money. Bam! Now get in touch with wonder.
Choosing wonder doesn’t mean I am not choosing to be engaged in this life and face whatever challenges are happening. I still have the familiar concerns about my health, family, friends and anxiety lingers at my heels trying to get the best of me. It means being willing to see the other side, the side that shows what’s possible. It means making more space and time to be open to fascination and look at things with a new perspective. Instead of my usual trick of hiding when I’m feeling down, I am working on my vulnerability by creating moments to tell my truth in hopes that it might help someone else.
Wonder is work, but it is worth it.
Finding wonder makes your brain fire in new ways. It enhances your sense of curiosity and exploration. Every time I feel a sense of wonder I feel like I am putting a deposit in my bank of good experiences. The sum is compounding.
Here are 4 ways I’ve found to cultivate my sense of wonder just by taking a walk.
1. Bring a bag to take on your slow walk. Look for interesting objects of nature – a stone, a bird’s feather an unusual stick, flower, a piece of a plant. Arrange the items when you get home and take a picture to remember your peaceful walk.
2. Take a slow walk with small notebook and pen. Jot down sights - the dogs you pet, the people you meet or anything you haven’t noticed before.
3. Take a slow walk with a camera – cell phone camera is fine, sound off, no texting or phone calls. Take close-up pictures of 6 items along the way. Use the pictures to write in your journal about your experience.
4.Take a walk with a small notebook and pen and just listen for sounds. Write down what you hear, people talking, a bird’s song, plane overhead, construction in action or if you’re lucky, another sound of nature.