There are moments of incredible natural awe that some of us are lucky enough to experience. I’m collecting those moments, and I hold to my heart a double rainbow, the view from 3000 feet as I rise on a thermal in my paraglider, the first sight of a gorgeous tropical waterfall after a long hike, the midnight sun, and the full eclipse. Those moments, and others, inspired awe in me.
Sometimes these moments are hard-earned and sometimes they are freely given by the world if you happen to be at the right place at the right time. But they are, by their nature, fleeting moments. They are awe inspiring partially because they are sudden and rare. Awe is reverence and respect mixed with fear or wonder.
Yesterday I went walking around gorgeous gardens in the September sun. I listened to Songs of the Northern Tribes to block out the sound of other visitors and admired the beauty of the green, of the pond and tiny waterfall, of the light playing with the leaves. It was really the first time since my injury in March that I’ve been able to wander alone. I felt serenity, but not awe.
In a good ritual, there may be the moment when a chant peaks and everyone is united as one and feels the energy flowing through the group… and there’s awe there too. Not everyone will get to see the view at 3000 feet or luck into seeing a double rainbow, but we can create opportunities for awe in our rituals. Start by making sure there are ways for everyone to meaningfully, deeply participate. Continue by making sure there’s an energy raising. And make room for wonder; don’t treat your ritual like a to-do list.
No matter what you do, sometimes your participants won’t achieve awe, because it’s an emotional state that also depends on what they find worthy of reverence. And sometimes they will experience awe in your rituals while you don’t, and you end up offering the full ritual experience as a gift from outside of it. But sometimes magic will happen.