If you want to experience true wonder you don’t have to trek to Machu Picchu, walk the Great Wall of China or visit the Taj Mahal. There are countless other ways of doing it, which don’t involve jetlag, a large carbon footprint or trying to fend off people selling you unwanted snowdomes.
We live in a remarkable world. Our days are connected by all sorts of tiny wonders… which we mostly overlook or ignore, whilst stressing about something else. Far too often we fail to register these everyday delights, instead turning our focus to imperfections, annoyances, terrible news, Twitter fights and all those unwashed dishes in the sink. We strive and hustle and exhaust ourselves, somehow still sold on the idea that we can have it all, if we can just get it all done.
If you are feeling tired and uninspired, it may be time to pause, look around and register all you have. By bringing our attention to the many tiny wonders surrounding us, it can completely shift the way we feel. While these mindful moments may be small, they can be incredibly powerful, helping to lift mood, boost resilience and (when shared) strengthen our relationships.
To bring some special attention to some of the tiny wonders you may have been missing out on, we asked 7 people to share one of their personal tiny wonders.
Georgie Maxwell – peanut butter
Often, I throw food in my face in an eating style not dissimilar from the cookie monster’s, but when it comes to eating peanut butter on toast, the experience is very different. As the bread descends into the warm belly of the toaster, I feel a happy anticipation wash over me. I pick up the jar of peanut butter. It’s the fancy brand and crunchy (I worry about anyone who chooses smooth). I carefully unscrew the lid, stick my nose in and inhale deeply. The intense aroma of all those crushed, roasted peanuts sails up my nasal passages, before arriving at the pleasure centre of my brain to perform its exquisite little dance. Instantly my mouth starts watering.
No one is up, the house is quiet and with the toast still browning, I go in for another big, indulgent whiff. It confirms that this tiny wonder is still quite wonderous. The moment the toaster pops I snatch the toast from the air and begin smearing it with a layer of peanutty goodness. I decide not to turn on the news because my day is starting perfectly and this moment of enjoyment is far too beautiful to be sullied by politics, wars or disasters.
Oisin Joyce – being a human canvas
Some dear friends of mine recently moved into a beautiful big house just down the road, merely a five-minute stroll away. One afternoon, we were having a little get-together in the backyard, when, with a cheeky grin, my friend Prue, pulls out some body art pens. After watching her scribe for a while on one of our mates’ shoulders, I volunteered to be the next human canvas.
Lying face down with a bundle of pillows scattered on the lawn, Prue begin to gracefully line my back, I was immediately confronted with the fact that, I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, I just had to lay there, keep still and enjoy the moment. A hard task for somebody who is always on the go. With closed eyes I could feel her examining my skin, deliberating over where to lay the ink, each stroke dutifully considered, much like the conductor of an orchestra precisely swings their baton.
My senses were heightened, for I could not see the artwork coming to life, I could only feel the strokes, and anticipate where and when the next ones might fall. My experience of the performance was purely sensational, it garnered my focus into a natural state of meditation. As the unseen artwork transpired, punctuated by the silent contemplative space between brushstrokes, there manifested in my mind, a simple phrase with profound relevance, “Appreciate the Pause”.
Yes, the realization that I need to learn to let go and give in to the simple moments of pause was a tiny yet profound wonder.
Kerry Sinclair – The Bower at Manly Beach, Sydney
For many years now I have been swimming in the icy ocean. It has become a ritual, a routine, a way of being. I love the way that the cold ocean water wraps around me as I dive into the silence. I feel thrilled and shocked into life. It makes me take in a deep breath, wakes me up and leaves me with a buzz from head to toe. My monkey mind disappears, I become focused on breathing. My eyes brighten, I can see clearer. I see fish, sting rays and other ocean creatures. On clear days I see blue groupers, Shelly the turtle and cuttlefish. My heart beat calms after the first initial shock of diving in. It becomes rhythmic. My head clears and happiness is ignited in my brain and filters throughout my whole entire body. The rush lasts for about two hours afterwards. This experience is best shared, with my father especially. We both have a love, respect and bond with the ocean. Without this tiny wonder in my life I feel lost, out of balance. Like a boat without a sail I don’t even go in the right direction and things just don’t makes sense. My tiny wonder – the icy ocean is my happy place where I feel safe, loved, free and exceptionally grateful to experience it.
Shamus McGowan – surf swimming
Being able to swim in the surf every day is a most magnificent luxury. I love feeling the power of the waves. I love jumping through the white water and being pummeled and thrown around. It reminds me that I don’t need to be in control of everything. So long as I come up for air every now and then I will be alright.
Swimming at the beach is inherently mindful. In that moment there is nothing else. There are no distractions, nothing to do, nothing to worry about. It is just me and the Pacific Ocean. Completely carefree, I can slide down the face of waves like I’m a weird misshapen dolphin. I can appreciate the millions of bubbles that appear after a wave crashes, which make me feel like some movie star bathing in champagne. And when I get out, I can anticipate that lovely little moment when I will feel that tiny pop and all the water will trickle from my ear.
Miles Hunt – Moreton Bay Fig
My tiny (or not so tiny) wonder is a really old tree. Just the sight of a Moreton Bay Fig overlooking the Harbour, its huge gnarled arms stretched out and up, holding so much weight at the trunk you wonder how it stands; or a Banyan Tree, with squiggly roots hanging down from the behemoth branches, creating a bat cave of stalactites, reaching out to join the earth below and spread the trunk further. I walk over and look at the trees with wonder in my eyes: at their majestic beauty; at the years of life upon the earth, sitting patiently watching it all go by; at their camaraderie as create shade or share much-needed nutrients through the interconnected roots system. I reach out and touch the trunk, feel the life in the tree, the rough bark on my hand, and it fills me with awe for the tree, for life itself… reminds me that I am part of something bigger, something more profound, a tiny insignificant part, but an equally important one, and there is a sublime beauty in that feeling.
Catalina Rodriguez – slipping into mindfulness
On my favourite mountain bike trail there is a steep hill scattered with loads of roots and loose rocks. I make it up about 50% of the time. On those days I ride away with a big delighted smile on my face, feeling like a conqueror. But today wasn’t one of those days. Today my back wheel spun on the big slippery root and would go no further.
To avoid tumbling down I quickly unclip from my pedals and re-find my balance. I’m annoyed, but all I can do at this point is slump over the bars and try to suck in some big gulps of air. My pulse bounces through my temples and echoes through my helmet. I feel alive in a way that you never do when just lying about. As I pay attention to my pulse and my breath, I also start to notice all that other life around me. There are birds squawking, cicadas singing and native flowers spilling their honeyish scent into the air. After a couple of minutes soaking it all in, I ride away, not feeling like a conqueror, but feeling part of it.
Kate Cranna – catching joy at the netball
During the biggest rain event in 20 years, we battled the weather to attend 9 year old netball grading. Indoors thankfully. Dripping kids with numbers emblazoned on their thighs in black sharpie, ready to take to the court. Some were scared, some were pumped. Some were tracing patterns in the raindrops on their legs. Wet and bedraggled parents settled in for an hour on the sidelines and talk inevitably turned to busy schedule, crazy life demands and storm damage – all the while keeping one eye on the kids and inwardly groaning when they dropped the ball, stepped offside or randomly fell over. The panel of graders were poised with clipboards on the opposite sideline and it sometimes felt like very serious stuff with high stakes.
And then, during one particularly vigorous battle for the ball, with the netball ping-ponging between hands, one delighted little mid-courter found herself with the ball securely in her hands for the first time during the game. She righted herself, and let out a giggle of pure delight. And like most giggles from a 9 year old girl, it was piercing enough to interrupt the general din of the howling storm, the chatter of parents and the assessments of the graders. And everyone stopped and smiled. It actually went quiet for a few seconds. She squealed again (and I think there might have been a somewhat illegal un-netball-like skip of delight as well), before she excitedly passed the pass to her equally delighted teammates. It might sound dramatic, or it might sound totally inconsequential, but it dissolved the tension and the general officious atmosphere.
I’ve thought of the happiness and innocence of that squealing laugh a number of times since grading, and it has made me smile every time.