Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second Pause

a note from Erin:

Happy Thursday!

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second PauseSigh…. isn’t that a great reminder?

Wellness has long been a passion of mine.
I am fascinated by research, by natural remedies, by ancient and modern perspectives, and by that balance of orienting toward wellness without becoming a health-Nazi.

My mom always counseled that if something makes you happy, (be it chocolate cake, wine, or occasional french fries) that happiness might be as good for you as any health food. Smart lady.

My beloved acupuncturist also walks that middle way beautifully. She told me at a recent visit post-miscarriage, “Now don’t you go doing one of those super-clean diets or cleanses. It’s not good for you!” She knows I eat healthfully but can occasionally veer into being overly concerned about my healthy choices, which isn’t healthy at all. Like feeling bad about my once-a-year indulgence in donuts and fried seafood (which is an essential part of our Cape Cod tradition when we visit Carl’s mom.) Last summer when I reported on my indulgence, she said, “Good. That’s what you’re supposed to do on vacation.” Smart lady.

I’ve loved exploring the research pointing to inflammation as being at the root of many illnesses and have enjoyed learning about anti-inflammatory foods. I’m into organic, fresh, whole foods, with a healthy dose of stuff that makes me happy and is totally not on that list. Like dark chocolate, salted caramels, good red wine and the tater tots at Copper Common. Beware, they are crazy good. Transcendent tater tots. Who knew?

I was fascinated to learn recently that awe has been found to be a powerful anti-inflammatory emotion for human beings.

Not only anti-inflammatory in that when we regularly experience awe our anger is less likely to get inflamed to the point where we’re ready to start World War 3 with our spouse, our annoying neighbor, family member or colleague…. but it’s literally been found to be anti-inflammatory at the cellular level.

Read an article about it right here, where they get a little more into cytokines and interleukin-6 and such details – in case you like that stuff like I do. :)

I was joking with my Women Embodied group on Tuesday – I’m going to go ahead and eat that buttered popcorn (one of my favorite foods) – and just take 10 extra seconds when I pass those poppies, peonies, and roses in bloom right now and let awe have its anti-inflammatory way with me. Why not?

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second PauseWhen’s the last time you felt awe?

For me just this morning I was awed by the four fledgling great horned owls and their mama hanging out in a tree together, seen on my morning walk.

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second PauseI’m awed by the roses blooming in my yard.

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second PauseI’m awed by my son’s sweet little face with the freckle on his chin, by his amazing mind and his playful spirit.

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second PauseWhat brings you awe?

There’s something that helps me with inviting awe more than anything else.

It’s the magical 10-second pause.

I fell in love with the phrase “the speed of life” years ago when I read the book by Gay Hendricks with that title.

My body knows the difference so clearly between the actual speed of life and the warp speed of thinking mind.

My body and my mind love coming together at the speed of life, in recent weeks especially through weeding my garden.

It amazes me how my mind can revamp my garden in 30 seconds flat. (My mind has its very own Home Improvement channel. Does yours?) In my imagination, I can remodel and paint my entire house in all of 3 minutes, imagining all kinds of elegant possibilities.

But weeding? It’s another thing entirely. It’s real. It’s me at the speed of life, one handful of green at a time.

Back to that 10-second pause, which can bring us right into the speed of life.

When I walk up my street and see the luminous pink blossoms on the hawthorn tree in my neighbor’s yard, I can think “mmm, nice.” But if I take an extra 10 seconds to pause, to really see the blossoms, WOW! I’m touched. Blown away, actually. In awe.

I aspire to live in my full bodily experience at the speed of life, rather than miss life by living mostly in my head.

Care to try it right now?

I invite you to take 10 seconds to pause your reading – feel your contact with the ground as well as your breathing. Not the concept of the ground you know is there or the breathing you know must be happening, but feel it from the inside. So your body is felt as HERE rather than THERE. This ground. This breath. Give it just 10 extra seconds. You’re alive! Breathing!

Welcome back to the speed of life.

A teacher of mine recently said something that struck me as very true.

“What your thinking mind describes as irrelevant is the key to grounded presence.”

My mind often balks at spending a whole ten seconds taking in beauty, in feeling the ground or my breathing. (I mean seriously, I’m busy!!!)

Why would I want to do that? Well…. because I don’t want to miss my life.

I want a being-touched-by-life life.
Not a drive-by life.
An “everything is a miracle” life.
I want awe!

Living and pausing in this way may seem weird. I’m 100% ok with weird. Truthfully, I revel in weird. Michael Meade says it’s our job as we age to get weirder, in our own unique way. I’m all for it.

See a color you like? Try spending 10 seconds taking it in – the color of someone’s scarf, a painted door, a flower, the sky – 10 extra seconds and ordinary becomes extraordinary. Making this a habit can turn our velcro-teflon dynamic around, as well as our inflammation.

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second PauseI’m sure that like mine, your thinking mind will tell you you don’t have time, and that it’s irrelevant to pause.

But me? I’m not going to let that thinking mind drive my life.

I choose to gift myself an extra 10 seconds looking in my son’s eyes. Really being present as I pet my sweet old cat who is lying across my forearms as I type. 10 extra seconds to take in the particular pink of those roses on my mantle. 10 extra seconds to appreciate this sip of tea in my mouth.

Your thinking mind will tell you you can’t afford it.

But I bet if you’re like me, your wiser heart-mind will tell you you can’t afford not to.

Just 10 extra seconds.
If you practiced this even 10 times today, that would add up to less than 2 minutes of your day. If you did it 100 times during the day, it’d add up to just more than 15 minutes. Would you give yourself that gift? Invest in your well-being in that way?
Besides feeling much more in touch with life, it’s good for our health too.
It’s something like the “Midas touch.” But instead of turning things to gold, your extra bit of attention brings everything to life.

Stepping off the speeding train of thought and into our life takes courage.

But what could be more worthwhile?

Awe: The Anti-Inflammatory Emotion + The Magical 10-Second Pause

May you be blessed with oceans of awe today.

Thanks for reading!


p.s. Though it’s been many years since I’ve written regularly for the wonderful Catalyst Magazine, I was delighted when asked to contribute a piece to their current issue on offbeat weddings. Ours (simply a Buddhist one) was 10 years ago this summer. Here’s a link if you’d like to read!

p.p.s. I’ve been having fun in these past weeks as life has slowed me down dreaming into what’s next. Besides playing with roses and a cute 5-year old boy, I’m cooking up an awesome online course for the summer and revamping my private practice, as well as planning a retreat in Santa Fe this fall, and more fun local offerings too. Details coming soon! I can’t wait to share.

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.

1 Comment

  1. Angela Harding on April 29, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Dear Sweet Erin,
    Thank you for this delicious week. I have spent some time with it but want to savor it in the next weeks. Maybe one lesson a week. Yes, life is hectic and stopping and appreciating it is divine. I am grateful today for you and for all you bring to everyone you touch.
    Much Love,

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