Since August 6, 2017, we have had a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse, and currently Mercury is in retrograde. What I know now following the solar eclipse on August 21 is that behind the shadow of life, one can discover the light or uncover the answer to a problem.
Santa Barbara was engulfed in a heavy cloud cover the morning of the solar eclipse. I was not optimistic that I’d see the eclipse which I knew would be observable at approximately 10:15 am local time. Nonetheless I grabbed a pair of the safety glasses as I left my dentist’s office around 10:00 am. Something nudged me to do so – a “whisper of wisdom” no doubt.
As I approached a local restaurant to have breakfast, I saw a tiny bit of the sun peeking through the clouds. By the time I parked my car, there was a slight hint of blue sky and more sunlight. I grabbed the safety glasses from my purse and looked at the sun. And there to my amazement was the dark moon sitting on top of the brilliant bright sun. I was ecstatic and texted my sister and niece who were looking together at the eclipse in Tucson. We shared that blessed moment together. I looked again and was amazed at the majestic sight of this cosmological event. I was bearing witness at the same time with millions of others across the world. In this experience, there was a sense of being connected with something bigger than my one small life. I looked around me and saw two men looking from the doorway of the restaurant. I motioned for them to come look and to use my glasses. They were thrilled and advanced towards me with eagerness. In that moment we were in harmony with one another and the cosmos. It was a blessing and a miracle all rolled up into an opportunity to be connected under the heavens.
I recognized that more times than not, people long to be connected. In that one brief space in time, I was able to share an incredible celestial moment with two fellow human beings here in Santa Barbara, as well as with my sister and niece in Tucson. I was humbled by how simple it was to do. I will never forget that moment nor the happiness I felt in sharing it with others. Life is a mystery and for that I am grateful.
In her book Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, author Lyanda Lynn Haupt defines wonder as “an attitude of mind and heart, a graced completion of a circle between observer and observed. Wonder is not a given; it is contingent on the habit of being that allows it to arise”. I have written about wonder ever since attending a Landmark workshop in Quebec last summer. I have attempted to create a practice of wonder for the past several months. Ms. Haupt’s definition brings me to a new level of awareness of a “wonder practice”.
There is something about looking out at the ocean from my terrace that encourages a practice of wonder and a way of being is cultivated that is open to wonder. The experience of being with the ocean lends itself to wondrous inquiry. Gazing at the horizon, I am often freed from the mundane thoughts that shape my day in the form of to do lists. Instead I drift and float with the movement of the waves. My listening is narrowed to the sounds of the rhythm of the waves as they move in and out from the shore. My senses are engaged and I am present to my breath and to the breathing of the universe. My mind is quieted and my imagination is freed from the cage of rational thinking. There are no enemies in this wondrous realm – I am just being with the cumulative forces of life.
These moments of wonder allow me respite from the daily wear and tear of my life: burdensome thoughts that create fearful internal states. The thoughts sound like: will I get cancer, will I have enough money to live on until I die, will I meet another wonderful man with whom I can co-create a lasting loving relationship, will we as a species find a way to honor diversity and do no harm to others, who will win the elections in November, and what will happen to our environment. In a practice of wonder, there is a freeing up, a liberation within intrapsychic spaces which brings forth creativity, energy, and possibilities. No longer are the questions fear driven, instead they are cast in lightness and generativity: the quality of the wondering shifts to themes such as what contribution will I make in my remaining days, who can I share my wisdom with today, what if I just surrender to a sense of faith that I will form a lasting relationship with a wonderful man and that he will arrive when he arrives, in what ways am I here on this planet to be of service, how can I help in the ways that I can, I wonder what can I do today to bring beauty and grace to those I meet.
I hope to leave you with a sense of wonder in your own lives. Is it possible that we can cultivate a habit of wonder at the drop of a hat – not only when alone with the ocean, but also when in the middle of a crowded grocery store when pandemonium engulfs us. This is I think at the heart of Haupt’s query into wonder as an attitude of mind and heart working together. My motto for this week is “think less, wonder more!”