Wandering in Wonder
It was my 18-month old daughter who deepened my experience of wonder. As soon as she could toddle, her chubby little legs carried her outside to explore the big, wide world.
I can still see her in my mind’s eye, crouching down in the grass to point her tiny finger at any number of nature’s surprises: ants busily building a house, fragments of a pale blue robin’s egg, the delicate tapestry of Queen Anne’s Lace. “Look, Mama,” she would say, “isn’t it pretty? Come see!” And she would continue to crouch and wait until I did the same. Every waking moment of her day, all she wanted to do was go outside to explore nature’s handiwork. This little soul lived in a world of wonder.
My daughter taught me to look deeply, to truly see what was there beyond surface observation—loathsome ants, something broken, another weed. She shook me awake to witness morning dew glistening on beach grass and masterfully painted sunsets in the evening. All day long we wandered in wonder.
In later years, another wise teacher kept me rooted in wonder, the Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He advocated “looking deeply” and through the practice of mindful awareness, helped me stay attentive in the midst of a very busy life. At first, I took looking deeply as a simple practice to stay rooted in the present moment; to keep my vision clear, attuned and on the lookout for stellar beauty; to sniff out the more subtle evidences of abundance and joy that are easily missed in the cacophony of daily life.
As my spiritual life matured (with the help of Buddhist studies), I came to comprehend a deeper meaning of looking deeply. It had to do with the interconnectedness of things—“interbeing”—as he called it. One of the ways I understand interbeing today is that there is no separate self. We are all connected. We are all dependent on one another. On a deeper level yet, we are all sourced in this wondrous mystery we call life. The water you boil for tea comes from the clouds, which comes from the interaction of earth, sky and atmosphere. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, when you breathe in and breathe out, looking deeply, you can see a cloud floating in your cup of tea.
How does this happen? I ask myself. How does a cloud become tea? How does the tiniest of ants carry something many times its own weight? How does a delicate blue egg hold new life within its fragile form? How does a simple wildflower look remarkably like intricately woven Belgian lace? I have no idea. The vast intelligence that weaves all the elements and beings of Earth together (not to mention the worlds beyond) is more than my mind can grasp.
And, truth be told, I don’t want to grasp it. I want to hold it tenderly in my heart—breathing in, breathing out—allowing the gentle caressing of it to open me to the greater Mystery of all that is. I want to live in wonder.
I’m fine with not knowing how things came to be or why they are the way they are. Divine creator or evolution as an explanation for what’s here does not have cosmic significance to me because, as far as I’m concerned, this “figuring it out” stuff can dim the glow of majestic Northern Lights or mask the miracle of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.
I want to live in this marvelous Mystery and very simply give thanks for what is here. This is enough. I praise my daughter, and Zen masters and the spirit behind creation (whatever that is) for opening me to wonder. Because of them, life is nothing short of a sumptuous feast.
Dr. Janice Lundy is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, a leading-edge organization engaging in education, experiences, and relationships for practical, integrative, unitive living. She is an interfaith/interspiritual guide, the author of several spiritual formation books including Your Truest Self and My Deepest Me, and the creator of the Pure Presence® method. She resides in Michigan, USA.