Sometimes the Universe is not subtle. In the past eight weeks, I was privileged to watch three pairs of birds build their nests, lay their eggs, and fledge their young. At the same time, a half dozen monarch caterpillars joined our family and we’ve watched them grow and form glittering green chrysalises and emerge as beautiful butterflies. Certainly witnessing the emergence of new life is a gift in and of itself, but what stood out most particularly in this fiesta of fecundity was the fact that this had never before happened in our 13 years of living here.
I believe that everything is meaningful. When you’re about to give up and you get a call that reinvigorates you, or the cloud above your car forms a perfect heart, or a hawk soars really low and really close carrying a dead crow in its talons while you are speaking to someone about a psychological struggle, I call it a sign. A message. It means something. Only the completely unimaginative or irretrievably cynical or those sad souls who are abysmally lost in the tyranny of technology would see it otherwise. Important things are being offered all the time if we but pay attention.
As I did my usually front porch sitting, musing about these signs, it occurred to me that there is a rather simple methodology to cultivating a more meaningful, directed and happier life and it is this: Awareness, Wonder and Entertaining. In a word, A.W.E. The word “awe” means reverential respect, so it’s a perfect acronym. To reverentially respect something is to accord it sacred status. It is seeing beyond our exceedingly bloated and perpetually self-referencing ego and noticing that there is more…much more — and it’s trying to communicate.
So the first step to creating a more meaningful, purposeful life is to notice, to become AWARE. If you’re driving along I-5 and you’re not paying any attention to the road signs or GPS (which I strongly caution against, by the way. Please read my column “Don’t Trust GPS”) you might very well miss your exit. You’ll just keep zooming along, oblivious, going nowhere in particular. In order to receive anything you must be receptive, and you can’t be receptive unless you look up and look around. There’s a whole lotta world going on, myriad worlds, as a matter of fact.
Once you succeed in noticing something, like the fact that you are surrounded by morphing monarchs and nesting birds, it behooves you to stop and consider these phenomena. Instead of shrugging your shoulders and flipping on The Real Housewives of Who Gives a Bleep, you might just WONDER a while. This is Step 2. Why all these creatures right now? What do they symbolize? If there were a message in their appearance, what would it be? And who, or what, is sending this message? Hmmm. I WONDER.
Stay with this hmmm-ing a while. Hang out with your wonder. Step 3 is ENTERTAINING the wonderment without attempting to rush to any sort of answer or conclusion. Give your mighty ego, which wants answers immediately and wishes to appear very smart, a rest. “Live the questions,” Rilke said, and “perhaps you will live your way into the answer.” I still don’t know what that crow-carrying hawk was all about. I have thoughts, but I’m hanging out with them. I’m being a gracious hostess, entertaining the questions and ideas and wonder with cocktails and witty conversation, enjoying their company. Hang out long enough and something is bound to be revealed. And when it is, it will be AWE-SOME.