A Garden of Awe and Gratitude

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

– William Blake

William Blake knew awe. His poem shows what happens when a person is captured by the sense of awe. In our gardens we are given the gift of awe. Although awe is felt in many situations, it is most often experienced when outside in nature. In our own gardens the sight of a flower can take our breath away. The patterns and colors can transfix us, bringing a wonder and amazement that overwhelms us. A butterfly that dances in the wind as it flies from flower to flower enthralls us. The taste of a sweet ripe fruit picked fresh from the tree brings an ecstasy of flavor.

The experience of awe enhances our lives in many ways. Without its life would not be the same. When in awe we feel an overwhelming sense of something larger than ourselves. This sense transforms us so that we see the world and how we want to interact with it in a different way than before the experience. It turns out everyone is hardwired to have experiences of awe. It is universal not matter what beliefs or culture.

Throughout the ages, awe has been explained in philosophical, spiritual and religious terms. Recently awe has also entered into the scientific realm. The feeling of wonderment and being part of something way bigger than the small self is now being studied by numerous scientists around the globe. One study showed that in our time tight way of living, people actually felt there was more time in their lives after an awe experience.

Feelings of humility, wanting to improve the world and being more open to helping others were common effects of awe. Some of the latest research being conducted is testing the physiological effects of the awe experiences. Feel-good chemicals, like dopamine and others, produced in our bodies are being measured before and after awe-inspiring nature outings. Other markers of how health is affected are also being measured.

Whether explained by science or theology, the awe inspiring effects of nature in the wild or in our gardens are some of the most transforming and pleasurable times of our lives. For these experiences we can be grateful.

One way to give thanks to the garden for all its gifts, including awe, is to do a walking meditation through the garden letting the sense of awe take place. These walking meditations can take place any time of year. November is a perfect time as the harvest and celebration of the growing year is coming to a close.

Stop and pause before walking around the garden. Breath in and out a few times centering attention on the air and light around you, and the energy of the growing earth below. Walk slowly paying attention to the small things not often seen: a fallen leaf, the texture of the bark, the seed head of a flower, the stones on the path. There is a universe in each square foot. With each step send thoughts of gratitude and love into the garden. And in that place of awe let yourself experience, “a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.”

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and sustainable gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader. Visit her blog: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog or website: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com.
Contact her at 314-504-4266.