15 Mar Find your spiritual path to happiness…via AWE!
via Science of Us by Drake Baer
If you want to feel transcendent, you can fly to space and get a dose of the overview effect. Or head to a monastery and do some meditating. Or trek up a mountain and take in the landscape. Or, like David Yaden, a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, you can wander down to your local body of water — the Delaware River, in his case — and catch the sunset. “It’s not a stunning overview, but there’s beauty to it,” he says, and enough to inspire awe. This is part of a healthy phenomenological diet, he maintains; as his and others’ research has found, experiences like awe — called “self-transcendent” in the literature — have all sorts of positive consequences for the people who get into them.
As Yaden and his colleagues detail in an upcoming paper in the Review of General Psychology, awe is the low-hanging fruit among Self-Transcendent Experiences, or STEs. These are the sorts of things where the gossipy voice in your head calms down, and you feel more absorbed into whatever it is you’re doing — states including mindfulness and flow, as well as peak and mystical experiences. Awe is the low-hanging fruit among STEs: Yaden says that while 20 to 30 percent of people have had mystical experiences, they only happen a couple of times in a life. Awe, on the other hand, is readily accessible: Almost everybody has experienced it, and likely at least once within the last couple of weeks. That’s why, he says, awe is “the everyperson’s spiritual experience.”
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