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ETpro's avatar

How do you reconfigure your mind to experience the most meaningful moments in life?

Asked by ETpro (34557points) May 28th, 2013

It’s so easy to settle in to a routine, let boredom start to reign. Here’s an awesome video about how to remember to see the world through they eyes of a child, eyes that realize that every new moment, it’s all new. Of course, massive galaxies colliding are fascinating to watch. It’s easy to be blown away by the mind-boggling power of a gamma ray burst.

But how can we remember that, as Henry Miller told us, “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”? Jason Silva, in his ShotsOfAwe YouTube Network, defines awe thus; “Awe, an experience of such perceptual vastness you literally have to reconfigure your mental models of the world to assimilate it. Don’t you love being awestruck? How do you make sure hedonic adaptation doesn’t rob you of your sense of awe?

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24 Answers

josie's avatar

On a clear night, I go outside with my iPad and turn on StarWalk.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Personally, without trying to sound like I am boasting, I think I have found a way to do it, at least a way that works for me. It is not like I just discovered a new continent, but I would claim to have achieved a way of focusing on the more significant parts of life, and retaining my child like wonder for the world.

I know you would not know it, from some of the things I have said, but I really actually am quite a jolly person. Here on Fluther you guys normally either get the extremist version of me, the logical version, or the trollish version.

I think on some level, some of my more “negative” traits are a product of my quest for being free and able to explore and wonder.

My dislike of politicians, police, and authority figures in general, is kind of linked to my child like side. It is normal to hear teenagers saying “fuck the police”, and what not, but by the time you get to your 30’s it is normally gone.

I admire the teenager attitude towards “the man”, and I have always tried to retain my moody teenage mindset as a tool I can call on. It provides freedom by the bucket.

I have basically developed a series of things I do that help too. For example when watching television, if I happen to be in front of one, I will vocally comment on it, just to remind myself of how much bullshit it really is.

I try to keep up to date (for the most part) with what is going on and what is new, by keeping and eye on the cutting edge of things, it helps keep that awe about the world, at least to a certain extent.

This post is an incoherent abomination I know, but I understand it. It is just way too late in the day to keep a linear thought track on this topic.

bkcunningham's avatar

Go outside and watch the sunrise and sit quietly by myself in the mornings. Watch a newborn baby sleeping. Hold my granddaughter on my lap and feel her body mold into mine while she naps. Hold my husband’s hand and feel that electricity that passes between us.
Read poetry.


by Walt Whitman
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Pachy's avatar

Such an epiphany hit me some years ago on a moonless winter night, on a mountain road between Sedona and Flagstaff. I wanted to stretch my legs and breathe the mountain air so I pulled my car off to the side of the road and got out. Everything around me was so black I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Then I looked up and saw more stars than I’d ever seen in my life, saw how close they seemed to hover over my head, and I knew in that instant how tiny the Earth is in the universe. It’s an experience that truly deserves being called “Awesme.”

hearkat's avatar

For me, it happens whenever I choose to be fully present in the moment. For example, as I did the much-loathed task of laundry this evening, I marveled in the textures of the clothing I was washing, and improvements that have been made since my childhood in the 1970s.

Mariah's avatar

Very nice question. Not that anyone wants to go to these lengths, but the awesome times are best appreciated when contrasting examples run rampant.

I never purposefully seek out these contrasting examples, but they find me all too often. The most appreciative, wonderful parts of my life have occurred post-sickness. I usually slowly slip back into complacency when my health is stable. But going through something awful generally has a “rebooting” effect upon my brain – it makes normal life seem wonderful and new again.

rooeytoo's avatar

I live in a beautiful country. No matter which part, it all has the most amazing beauty. Some of it reminds me of east coast USA but other parts are so different, it is like being on a new planet. I cannot help but feel awe whenever I look around me. I have a thing for trees, and there are trees everywhere, each individual and in its own way spectacular. Then I am also in awe of myself and the things I can do and I don’t know how I do it. I love to scavenge a piece of the trees when they drop and find the creature hidden inside. And of course my dogs, the dingo is a real piece of moving awe. The way she thinks and moves and acts.

I figure I am pretty damned lucky, I never lose the awe for long, I just have to look around and there is always something to make me say wowowowow!!!

Blueroses's avatar


That was both a flippant and serious answer to your question.

To train yourself/allow yourself to immerse in the magic of one moment. Something profound and silly… To focus on one small thing until it grows in your mind to become “all” and then suddenly “nothing”.

Once you experience that, you can bring it back any time you want it. Some lucky/spiritual people can do this without aid, but I’m glad to have seen it.

Sunny2's avatar

It takes very little to get me onto that memory plane . . . a mocking bird singing . . . a two year old practicing walking . . . getting a smile back when I smile . . .and those are just everyday bits of joy. I have so many “moments” to remember and so many hints that remind me of them. The worst trials can’t interfere with my moments of wonder.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Great question. I’m very aware of my own habits. (hallucinogens have made me quite aware/conscious of most of the things in my life.) It’s interesting, I know I get into habits, I know I do the same thing day in day out and I know I should go out and experience more and yet I don’t.

When I was in Belize it was like discovering something new, something amazing every day. I went down there with only a backpack for 7 months and 2 months into the journey I had honestly forgot about half the things I owned back home. It really got me thinking….if I can’t remember these things, how important to me can they possibly be? I really thought this experience changed me, that when I came back to the US I would be a totally different person…. and yet somehow within a few short months I was back into my old habits that I held before embarking on my amazing journey. The only conclusion I’ve come to is I am a product of my environment, and this environment here in the US is clearly not the right one for me.

That said, I still do “stop and smell the roses” I am extremely fascinated and awe inspired by so many little things in life. I think a lot of this shows in my photography too. I love the macro world. To me it is this incredibly complex and fascinating world that most people walk by without ever noticing.

Blueroses's avatar

Second answer: Geocaching

It makes me stop in places I’d pass by. Look at details and the entire area the hider intended for me to see.

I’ve seen many a hidden gem of a place just because somebody made me point my gps in that direction.

ETpro's avatar

What fascinating, awe inspiring answers. Great answers to each of you who replied. I hope I get many additional great answers, and can learn from each of them as I have learned from the above. Thank you all.

Jeruba's avatar

Zen training is one way.

tups's avatar

This is not really an answer to your question.

I had a weird feeling some weeks ago. I was on my way home one morning and everything felt weird. I was paying attention to every little thing and I was thinking about how everything is a very mysterious experience. I was thinking about nature, human beings, natural things and I had this weird feeling. I felt like it was all so weird. It’s hard to describe. It wasn’t a nice feeling. I felt like I was going crazy and everything was just so weird. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I guess that I’m trying to say that paying attention to every little thing and thinking about what a mysterious thing it is doesn’t necessarily always feel good.

thorninmud's avatar

It helps to first recognize what gets in the way of wonder. I’ll call this impediment “knowing”. We generally consider knowing to be the opposite of ignorance, but the knowing I’m referring to is actually a form of ignorance in its own right.

The brain is lazy. It uses as many shortcuts as it can get away with. The kind of knowing I’m talking about is such a shortcut. It’s the substitution of a mental model for the experience itself. We do this way more than we realize.

If I mention “apple” to you, even in the absence of an actual apple you will conjure up your mental model of an apple. This is your “known” apple. It’s an approximation built from the composite of your experiences with real apples. The ability to do this is extremely useful. But here’s the downside: not only do we use these models for abstract reasoning and communication, we use them as stand-ins for actual experience even in the presence of the real thing.

This substitution is largely unconscious. As soon as you’ve identified the object in hand as an “apple”, the substitution kicks in. Provided that nothing in your sensory perception deviates radically from your “known” apple, you will tend to disengage your attention from the actual experience of this real apple, and your brain just fills in what you already know about apples.

There is a certain economy to this: it allows you to divert your attention elsewhere (typically to your thoughts) while eating the apple. But it also diminishes the experience of the real apple, transforming it into a flattened, schematic representation. Worse yet, it completely segments and segregates the totality of your experience into a collection of disconnected objects.

It can be very difficult to not do this. Zen uses terms like “not knowing” and “no-mind” to describe going directly to experience itself, without resorting to the mental models. Attention is the gateway to this not knowing.

When you begin to intentionally bring attention to bear on the ordinary aspects of your life, you discover that knowing and attention are somewhat antagonistic. Those commonplace things that you think you know well are very difficult to keep your attention on. This is because your brain would rather just substitute its model, since it isn’t expecting any surprises from that quarter. Real effort is required to keep the models from taking over. Knowing works against attention and, oddly, attention works against knowing.

That’s why Zen practitioners begin by learning to keep the attention on the breath. The breath is a prime example of something that you know; it’s so commonplace that most of the time you give it no attention at all. You know that you’re breathing perhaps, but you give no attention to what this inhalation is actually like in all of its nuance. Go deeply enough into the attentive experience of this inhalation and this exhalation, though, and knowing is seen to be hopelessly crude and restrictive. The breath, like all aspects of experience at this level of attention, is ineffable. In this ineffability lies wonder.

@tups makes a good point. This isn’t always a “nice” feeling. But at least its real.

FluffyChicken's avatar

Spend time with people you love
try to go on as many adventures as possible
talk to strangers about philosophy or art or history
experiment with entheogens!
Go to spiritual groups/ book groups/ do yoga

ETpro's avatar

@tups That’s a great answer to this question. I think you can come to a place where that feeling feels good, but as @thorninmu’s answer indicates, it’s a definite challenge to the status quo.

@FluffyChicken & @Jeruba Training? Work? Isn’t there just a pill? :-)

rooeytoo's avatar

Have alook at this
consider it grew out of the soft earth from nothing but a tiny little seed. Now that is awe inspiring! And they are everywhere!

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo Here’s a working link to your image. It is indeed amazing, isn’t it. Because of its fractal nature, the blueprint for all that was in a single strand of DNA within that see. And this 100 meter tall monster was once just as small a seed.

rooeytoo's avatar

Thanks @ETpro I was on my phone and couldn’t quite get it to work. I marvel about the growth of all things in the dirt. In the tropics it was dangerous to stand still in one place for too long because you would soon be covered with some sort of vegetation. Just a slight exaggeration. The aboriginal people say you can hear the spear grass grow if you listen and I swear you can almost see it grow, same with bamboo. The stately old trees are not as quick but just as hard to fathom. Here is one of my favorite pics of my trusty old jeep in the spear grass. They call it that because the kids strip it and throw it like a spear and it is stiff enough that it can hurt like a spear when it hits you! It is awesome!

bkcunningham's avatar

That is a fantastic photo, @rooeytoo. Thanks for sharing.

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo Awesome photo. Nature is so amazing.

Blueroses's avatar

So many great answers here, but I’m still processing @thorninmud.‘s

It speaks exactly to the question that his answer put me in a moment of awe and took me away from the here and now.

I was wishing I still had a teacher like him… and suddenly realized… I DO!
It’s right here!

Thank you for making my internet bill meaningful.

fluthernutter's avatar

Lower your latent inhibition.
In other words, what thorninmud said.

Zen training, hallucinogenic drugs, schizotypal genes. Basically lowering the efficiency of your mind to recognize and categorize (read: ignore) everyday things.

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