“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein
For years, I walked as if I were asleep.
Autopilot steered me along the familiar paths between home and work and shopping centers and the gym. Paths I traveled so many times with my mind somewhere in the future or somewhere in the past, that everything around me passed like ghosts: present, unseen.
Sometimes, in a moment between waking and sleeping, I glimpsed marshmallow clouds, a burnt sunset, the bruised hills, the star-studded night sky. But mostly I was pre-occupied with living my life: working, eating, sleeping, and sometimes playing.
I didn’t even know that I didn’t notice what was around me, that I wasn’t paying attention or connecting to the world around me, until I had an encounter that changed the course of my life.
Learning to scuba dive in the tropical sea, on my second ever dive, a small green turtle suddenly appeared and paddled gracefully through the water with her flipper-like limbs.
As she moved in front of me, we locked gaze.
In that moment, we were connected through an invisible essence, like all creatures and humans are connected in a way that we often don’t understand. I sensed her ancient wisdom and timeless soul, and was transfixed.
Eventually, the turtle looked away then flapped her front limbs and swam away into the blue.
I watched her until she was gone but she would never really leave me. That moment of connection flicked a light switch in my soul. From that moment I was hooked on diving and slowly I started to wake up.
Some years later, in the midst of a career crisis, I quit my job in financial planning to be free for a while.
I went to Thailand to pursue my love of diving and completed my Divemaster and Instructor courses.
The way I lived changed completely: slow, in the sea, barefoot, lying on hot sand, riding motorbikes through jungle-covered hills, tangled hair, watching sunsets every day. I was wild and free.
My senses were alive with bright colors, the scent of frangipani and the sweetness of ripe mangoes. I reveled in it all.
I paid attention to everything—the moon’s fullness, the strength of the wind, the sun’s position to the horizon, and the presence of clouds for sunset’s potential beauty, although I always went to the beach to watch it anyway.
Returning home to corporate, city life was a difficult adjustment; my free-spirit felt constrained, the concrete and glass buildings dead and cold, the routine numbing. But I carried within me everything I learned, and I knew that if I could see an amazing world overseas I could see one back home too.
I kept a mindful writing practice called small stones, writing down at least one thing that I noticed every day, just as it was, in its beauty or plainness.
I walked to work to escape the tired energy of the train and witnessed the city parks transform from green to tangerine to rust to paper bag brown to naked then back to green.
I took time out to sit on the earth and feel the sun on my skin and the breeze brush my hair.
As I opened my senses and my heart to the world around me, I re-discovered wonder—gasping “ah,” and “wow”—the essence of amazement that we all knew when we were children as we experienced something new only to forget how miraculous it was as the experience repeated became commonplace and normal.
To be amazed and in awe of life is to feel fully alive and present in the moment.
When we reclaim wonder in our everyday lives, whether we are washing the dishes, driving to work, or watching the clouds shift and change in the sky, we transform the mundane and the routine into a sacred experience.
The ordinary becomes extraordinary and our lives deeper, richer, and more connected.
You don’t need to spend money or go out of your way to find wonder. You can experience it right here, where you are.
Simply stop and pay attention. Notice what is around you.
Look with innocence and curiosity. Release the tendency to judge and describe with adjectives like ugly or pretty. Be grateful for what you witness and you will experience more.
Let it move and inspire you. Write about it, take a photo, paint a picture, sing a song, say a prayer, dance.
Your life is made up of some big moments but mainly many small ones. Without paying attention, your life will pass by quickly and your memory of it will be beige.
But witness those moments with presence, gratitude, and wonder and your life will be vividly multi-colored. It will be extraordinary.
Amazed little girl image via Shutterstock