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Enhances: Sensousness Balances/Counters: Indifference
The Basic Practice
Wonder begins in the senses, comes alive in the imagination, and flourishes in adoration of the Divine. It arises from our natural curiosity about the grand adventure of life. It increases our capacity to be a bold inner space tripper and an avid explorer of the physical world. There is no end to the things that can awaken our wonder, from the majesty of the night sky to the smell of lilacs in the spring to the turning of the leaves in the fall. And it is all right here, a feast of epiphanies and astonishments in the daily round of our spiritual lives. The first step in this spiritual practice is to rejoice in the play of our senses: smell, touch, taste, hear, and see. Slow down and tune into the varied world of this and that. You'll never get anywhere with this practice by rushing.
Why This Practice May Be For You Indifference — that listless, blasé, and detached feeling — is the contrast to wonder. We can never be astonished, awestruck, or surprised when we are either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Feeling the first, we don't notice the subtle blessings in our surroundings; we don't take the time to stop and smell the roses. Feeling underwhelmed, we couldn't care less. "So what?" becomes our response instead of "ah-ha!" Wonder is an antidote to both conditions. This spiritual practice spices up our life with a constant parade of new delights. Most glorious of all, it enhances sensuousness, that elixir that keep us forever young in spirit!
Borrowing the lens of a poet's sensibility, we see the world in a richer way — more familiar than we thought, and stranger than we knew, a world laced with wonder. Sometimes we need to be taught how and where to seek wonder, but it's always there, waiting, full of mystery and magic. — Diane Ackerman in Deep Play I think we all have a core that's ecstatic, that knows and that looks up to wonder. We all know that there are marvelous moments of eternity that just happen. We know them. — Coleman Barks If you become Christ's you will stumble upon wonder upon wonder and every one of them true. — Saint Brendan of Birr quoted in The Open Gate by David Adam The tin foil collectors and the fancy ribbon savers may be absurd, but they're not crazy. They are the ones who still retain the capacity for wonder that is the root of caring. — Robert Farrar Capon in Bed & Board A mature sense of wonder does not need the constant titillation of the sensational to keep it alive. It is most often called forth by a
confrontation with the mysterious depth of meaning at the heart of the familiar and the quotidian. — Sam Keen in Apology for Wonder At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spirited life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder. — G. K. Chesterton in Chaucer It is confirmation to me that beyond the material world of cause and effect, there is a dimension of spirit waiting for our recognition. We see such a small piece of all the wonder surrounding us. — Paula D'Arcy in Gift of the Red Bird To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. — Abraham Joshua Heschel quoted in Finding Your Own Spiritual Path by Peg Thompson May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder. — John O'Donohue in Eternal Echoes Wonder encourages us to stand humbly before the unfathomable mysteries of human life, trusting that, in them, we encounter God. — Melanie Svoboda in Traits of a Healthy Spirituality But if we mean to choose the world, we must see God in the people who come under our care. That is, we must see them as at bottom no different from ourselves. No matter our busyness, no matter our own or others' flaws, we need at some point to see every human being as a marvel, a berry held up in sunlight, worthy of wonder. — Philip Simmons in Learning to Fall Contemplate the wonders of creation, the Divine dimension of their being, not as a dim configuration that is presented to you from a distance, but as the reality in which you live. — Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook quoted in The Gift of Kabbalah by Tamar Frankiel It takes grace in our time to keep our minds open to wonder, to be ready for the tug from God, the push from the Spirit, and the revelation of deep things from the hearts of ordinary people. It takes grace, but it is a great gift. — Lewis B. Smedes in How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong?
Open my eyes, O God, to the marvels that surround me. Show me the wonder of each breath I take, of my every thought, word and movement. — Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in The Gentle Weapon I join my hands in thanks for the many wonders of life; for having twenty-four brand-new hours before me. — Thich Nhat Hanh in Call Me by My True Names
An Excerpt from The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life by Parker Palmer Parker Palmer challenges teachers of all stripes to emphasize identity and integrity over technique. In the following passage, the author writes about the value of wonder. "Normally, when we are taken by surprise, there is a sudden narrowing of our visual periphery that exacerbates the fight or flight response — an intense, fearful, self-defensive focusing of the "gimlet eye" that is associated with both physical and intellectual combat. But in the Japanese self-defense art of aikido, this visual narrowing is countered by a practice called "soft eyes," in which one learns to widen one's periphery, to take in more of the world.... "Soft eyes, it seems to me, is an evocative image for what happens when we gaze on sacred reality. Now our eyes are open and receptive, able to take in the greatness of the world and the grace of great things. Eyes
wide with wonder, we no longer need to resist or run when taken by surprise. Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery."
An Excerpt from The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature Translation and Annotation of Rabbi Rami Shapiro Rabbi Rami Shapiro presents the actions, challenges and delights of Mother Wisdom in Biblical wisdom literature. Here is an excerpt on the spiritual practice of wonder.
The beginning of Wisdom? Wonder! The culmination of Wisdom? Wonder! The crown of Wisdom? Wonder! The root of Wisdom? Wonder! And Her branches? Long life! — Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 1:14, 16, 18, 20 "When you begin the Way of the sage you do so in wonder. When you complete the journey, your wonder is compounded. No matter where you travel, the world is a fierce and wondrous thing. "Each step of your journey is filled with wonder. It is how you know you are on the Path. If you investigate Wisdom and find your heart grown cold, then you know it is not Wisdom you explore but folly. Wisdom is passionate and heartfelt, giving rise to compassion and love. Falsehood weaves a life of bitterness and fear, giving rise to cynicism, anger, and despair masquerading as irony."
A Teaching Scene from Spring Forward directed by Tom Gilroy This touching movie chronicles the unlikely friendship between Paul, just out of prison for armed robbery, and Murph, nearing retirement from his job with the parks department in a small town. Working together, driving from one outdoors job to another, they talk about this and that — routine, karma, apologies, dreams, infocommercials, betrayal, sex, fathers and sons, the little challenges and satisfactions of their daily lives. One day in the fall they are out by a field rimmed with trees flush with brightly colored leaves. Their conversation turns to poetry. Murph relates that his brother told him a story about a Native American tribe that had the same word for "poetry" as they had for "breath." He adds, "So breathing was like a poem." "Maybe that was why they didn't need books," Paul says as he surveys the beauty around him. "If breathing is like poetry and you walk around and this is what you see, you live in the poem." The two men pause and are just present to each other and the place. Then in the distance a church bell chimes — a call to attention.
Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing
• When my senses are tingling, I take it as a cue to practice wonder. • Passing a tabloid rack in a grocery store, I am reminded that my curiosity can be trained on wonders not sensationalism. • Whenever I notice fresh dew drops on the grass, I vow to appreciate the wonders in the world afresh every day. • Blessed is the Great Artist who fills our very being with wonder.
Have a "Wonder Week." Concentrate each day on a different sense: Monday, smell; Tuesday, touch; Wednesday, taste; Thursday, seeing; Friday, hearing; and Saturday, synesthesia (the interplay of the senses). Notice what each sense is drawn to and irritated by. Try to expose your senses to new sensations. Go into a natural food stores, where herbs and spices are stored in bulk, and see how many you can identify by smell alone. Walk barefoot. Assemble a platter of as many tastes as possible: salty, sweet, bitter, bland, etc. Look for odd color combinations. Scan the stations on your radio noticing types of music, modulations of voices, and more.
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