Behind the Science of Awe

June 10, 2019
Anne Koller, Communications Team

I cry as I approach the sand.
Rays of light burst forth
from the orange orb descending in the sky.

I am in awe.

My feet take me to
where the water should meet the shore.

Instead I walk on a Mars-like surface
with craters made by unseen creatures beneath me. Bubbles appear and puddles ripple
reflecting the life breathing below.

My feet squeal with glee in the squishy clay
a recipe spiced with salt water, sand and seaweed.

I am in awe.

I walk to where the water dips into itself
and watch the sun play across the surface with ease each giving into the other freely.

I am in awe.

Birds fly inches from the water’s surface forming V shapes then redirecting into straight rows
as if they were tied to a secret line amongst them.

Mother birds train baby birds to fish
pecking the water on a hungry treasure hunt. 

I am in awe.

Slowly returning to the shore
I glance back at the sun’s contagion spreading into the wide reaches of the sky enveloping the San Francisco skyline
in a massive colorful hug.

I am in awe.

I lay a blanket next to a piece of driftwood and sit I begin to weep in nature feeling completely touched by mother nature
I ache to bow my head in reverence.

So I do.

I am in awe.

Planes fly overhead
taking people from Oakland airport to distant places. 

I smile and say thank you
for being right here
right now
in awe.* 

Whether watching a sunset, or present at a baby’s birth, or in a space shuttle gazing at the earth, each of us might remember a moment in time when we saw something that made us open our mouths, exhale and say “Ahhh” — an experience of awe.

But what really IS awe? and more specifically, what happens to us mentally and physically when we experience it? Does it improve our lives? Does it make us healthier?

IONS President and Senior Scientist Cassandra Vieten takes us inside the function of awe and discusses her years of research on a topic, often overlooked, that expands beyond a human emotion into a transformational tool for growth, expansion, and experiencing a deeper sense of purpose in The Science of Awe featured in the June edition of The Life Connection Magazine.

She also shares her thrilling endeavor, with IONS Scientist Loren Carpenter, to create a platform that encourages and supports moments of awe through a virtual reality experience that mimics Dr. Edgar Mitchell’s and other astronauts’ experiences in space, known as the “overview effect,” right here on Earth.

Now, before you dive in, close your eyes and remember a time when you have experienced awe.


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*In Awe by Anne Koller, Free to Feel


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