From Awful to Awe Full

By Phylis Clay Sparks

If I were to ask anyone who speaks English what the word “awful” means, they would have no problem telling me. Everybody knows something awful when they see it, hear it, or otherwise experience it. Something awful is that which is extremely bad, very unpleasant or even terrible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most of us prefer feeling awe full rather than awful.

The ancient sage Heraclitus once said, “Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.” That magical child part of us knows how to get the most joy, delight and awe out of any positive experience. Awe is typically an emotion which surpasses the best of feelings. It can be a feeling of reverence, absolute and utter respect, or an overwhelming appreciation of something beautiful.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said: “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment.”

The responsibilities of everyday life, whether it be paying the bills, taking the kids to school, closing the deal, shopping for groceries, or getting the car washed, seems to take priority over the needs of our soul. Before we know it we feel awful instead of awe full. Life is filled with challenges. But an awe full life is about meeting those challenges without amplifying them into suffering. It’s about savoring pleasure without becoming a slave to pursuing more and more of it.

Where do we go and what do we do when we decide to put some space between ourselves and our everyday world? If you’re like me, it usually involves getting in touch with nature. Many of my favorite and most awe full memories have happened in the Spring when days become longer, buds and blossoms pop out everywhere, and going barefoot in the grass awakens the magical child inside me. Spring is, indeed, a time of renewal; a time that can inspire us to re-group, clean out, re-prioritize, and perhaps even reinvent ourselves!

Springtime calls us to spend time outdoors where we can lift ourselves into awe by the colors of a sunset, the thrill at seeing a rainbow, listening to the birds chirping, or just leaning against an old wise tree. There is nothing that can renew one’s energy, inspire the soul, and arouse creativity more than the sights and sounds of nature.

Chief Seattle said: “There is no quiet place in your cities, no place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect’s wings. The Indians prefer the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, the smell of the wind itself cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with pine. The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath; the animals, the trees, the man. Like a man who has been dying for many days, a man in your city is numb to the stench.”

I guess the bottom line here is that awakening the magical child within, distancing ourselves from our everyday routine and connecting with nature, is really about nurturing our soul. When we let nature nurture our soul, we open our heart to the subtle whisper of the deepest possible joy which explodes into goose bumps on our bodies, a feeling of awe beyond belief, and a renewal of body, mind and spirit, which may be just what the doctor ordered.

Phylis Clay Sparks is a professional speaker, teacher, workshop facilitator and author of FORGIVENESS … It Is NOT What You Think It Is! A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the Ernest Holmes College School of Ministry in Orlando, Florida, Phylis is an ordained minister. She is the founder and Spiritual Director of The Soul-Esteem Center in Maryland Heights, Missouri, now in its twentieth year. Visit www.Soul-Esteem.com for more information.