Cultivating wonder without leaving home
Regaining our capacity for fascination with even the smallest things is relatively simple, reduces anxiety, and nourishes the senses.
“The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper,” William Butler Yeats once wrote. This sharpening of the senses, the act of opening one’s eyes to the world, depends necessarily on the type and quality of care we put into our surroundings. It can be a way to reenchant ourselves with reality, and to re-amaze us with all the miracles inadvertently happening all the time.
Amazement is a feeling which enlightens the mind in any given moment. It allows people to emerge from the blindness of routine and to pay attention to the miraculous-ness of existence, the environment, and the universe. Being amazed allows us to find answers to that which baffles the intellect. It precedes a desire for knowledge, and yet makes it possible.
While it’s true that upon the end of childhood, we usually lose our capacity for wonder, it can also be recovered and exercised. Being inside, during the confinement that current conditions require (in a kind of timeless bubble), may be an excellent opportunity to cultivate our lost capacity for wonder and to thereby reduce anxiety, by allowing ourselves to be surprised at the things that make up our daily lives, even the smallest.
From three simple sequenced exercises, based on the popular meditation technique known as mindfulness, we can regain our capacity for fascination and achieve living, feeling, and thinking in the present moment, leaving aside the continual concerns of the present. We’ll do all this while lowering stress levels.
Here and Now
To silence the mind, one needs to understand that, despite living in a world full of distractive stimuli and a constant flow of information, we can decide what we give our attention to and when. It’s called selective perception. When we focus carefully on the things we do, however “everyday” and ordinary they might seem, our minds remain in the present moment. (That is, in the present here, and the present now.) We detach ourselves from the overwhelming accumulation of concerns in which we’re usually immersed.
Silence the Mind
Once we’ve managed to focus on the present moment, we can use another important tool: patience. This lets us achieve a state of calm. It also gives access to a dazzling state of coherence. Suddenly, everything takes on a different meaning, linked, connected, sequenced, accompanied by a mental silence. It’s a space free of thoughts.
Inhale and Exhale
By combining mindfulness with a conscious breathing pattern —with each exhalation lasting twice as long as each inhalation, for example— one can open the doors to a type of perception that facilitates astonishment. Exhaling deeply has a number of benefits to help us to stay calm, organically. At the same time, it increases our capacity for wonder. Breathing this way slows the heart rate and drops the blood pressure along with muscular tension. Such an exercise improves overall mood, starting with a release of dopamine.
These exercises help to build a tranquil interior space and emptiness. And nothing is dependent on physical context. This can give rise to surprise, to seeing what’s always been there from another perspective, and to being as amazed as children so effortlessly are.
These mental exercises are useful for critical moments of any kind, including in the wake of the global pandemic. A simple, disciplined practice of cultivating and maintaining amazement helps us to respond to crisis without having to leave home, by re-discovering the wonder of every moment.