Day 4: Embrace Awe
Welcome to the largest glacial cirque in the Alps: a magnificent amphitheatre at the end of our valley, from which our village takes its name.
From this awesome place, I invite you to call to mind a place or a time where you experienced awe. And to reactivate that feeling within you now.
Embracing awe is very positive for our wellbeing. It gives us a sense of our interconnectedness with Nature and all species, and releases certain chemicals in our body that support our physiological health.
So join me today for an awe-inspiring pause!
Hello and welcome to Day 4 of 7 Days on the Winter Mountain – a chance for us to pause together for a few minutes.
And today I’m standing in the largest glacial cirque in the Alps and it’s absolutely awesome. And our village takes its name from it. It’s actually part of the village area, part of the commune. So if you’d like it’s on our doorstep. But I would travel miles to come here.
We had snowfall overnight. We woke up to a clearing sky – this lovely blue sky – for at least half of today before more snowfall tonight. And whenever I come here, I’m always filled with the most immense sense of awe. And today, with this white winter wonderland, with groups of people tobogganing and cross-country skiing.. We were just observing a ski instructor earlier with a group of young children; teaching them to cross-country ski. You might see the people in the background actually kind of having fun. But even without any of that, just standing in this extraordinary piece of nature, it always makes me speechless. So I’ll do my best.
But just to give you a sense of the place.. This cirque, this amphitheatre, has a circumference of about four or five kilometers. So it’s pretty big – I said it was the largest in the Alps. There’s beautiful limestone cliffs that rise up about 700 meters. And beyond that, the mountain. And this mountain, known as the Tenneverge, which you saw actually in the distance if you watched the 21-day series last year, is about 3,000 metres behind the limestone cliffs.
If we were to walk straight ahead of me here in this direction to the end of this glacial valley, we’d actually come to a place that is known as Le Bout du Monde, which is ‘the end of the world’ and beyond that is Switzerland. But we can’t go there at the moment because there’s a very significant avalanche risk, as you might imagine with these steep sided cliffs. And even, you know, in normal terrain today it’s a risk of 3 on a scale of 5 which is pretty considerable. And as we’ve been standing here prepping for this video, we’ve heard lots of sounds of mini avalanches going off around us.
And in fact on 28th of December there was a massive avalanche here. There were a lot of people here. It was the holiday period and an avalanche which occurred in that direction was so large that people standing here were covered in a kind of aerosol of snow powder. It was a complete kind of blackout, a white out, which was videoed by a friend of ours in a video that went pretty viral. No-one was hurt I must add. No-one was hurt, it was a distant avalanche. But just to show you the range of something like that. And if you’re underneath one, of course that’s pretty fatal. So we’re staying here. We’re not going too far into the valley and all the activity is around here.
But for our pause today, I think the thing that I’d love to invite you to do is to think about a time or a place or a moment in which you experienced awe. Now I know for many of you I’m talking to at the moment, that in this current confinement, in the middle of this pandemic, you know, it’s not always easy to call to mind those moments. When we’re in a kind of a state of heaviness and dullness, and it’s raining outside, that can be really hard.
So I know this isn’t necessarily an easy ask but what I can say is that if you do summon a sense of awe, you’re doing something really beneficial actually for your well-being. When we experience awe, what it does is that it kind of makes us feel humble, doesn’t it? And when we feel humble, we get a sense of perspective. You know, with this the tiny blue dot syndrome, if you like. The sense of being very small indeed in this large universe. When we feel that sense of perspective, it’s good for us and it makes us want to reach out to other human beings. It gives us a sense of the interconnectedness of everything and our small part in all of that.
So awe is a very very positive thing to experience. And at a physiological level it reduces, apparently, the scientists say, it reduces inflammation in the body because of the release of certain chemicals. And it improves our immune system. So if you can, in this moment, call to mind a time when you experienced awe, in a place or in a moment. Or in this present time, if you’re not in the middle of a city with light pollution, think of the night sky, the star-filled sky. And if you are in the middle of a city where that’s more difficult, you might at least be able to see the moon. Think of anything which is accessible to you now or in a distant memory, which can activate the feeling of awe within you, for our pause today.
So remembering the three steps. Pressing the pause button here (the solar plexus). Dropping your attention and focusing into this space. And at the same time breathing consciously in and out. And I invite you to close your eyes or lower your gaze, as we begin our pause practice today. So breathing into this space, breathing into the back of your hand if your hand is there, creating space. Know that you are breathing in. Breathing out, know that you are breathing out. A sense of release and letting go. Breathing in, creating space. Breathing out, letting go. As you call to mind a moment of awe…
When you’re ready, to the sound of this avalanche in the background, please gently open your eyes or lift your gaze.
Thank you for joining me here today. I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow.