We continue to work on The Reverence Project, identifying many passageways into the understanding and practice of respect and awe. Recently, I came across a copy of Creation Spirituality magazine, from the summer of 1995, in which M. C. Richards wrote about awe. The author of Centering, she was a poet, potter, teacher, and mystic.
"Awe is more than a perception, it is a feeling. It is personal. It starts with our own breath. It makes mystics of us."
I am glad to see that this sensitive writer locates the impetus for awe in the breath and the body. She also allies this faculty with the sweep and majesty of mystical feelings.
"To behold with awe is to see things filled with their own light. This light and this bit of being are gifts of creation. As gifts they fill us with awe. This awe is accompanied by delight. It is the original blessing."
Light, delight, gifts of creation, the original blessing — all these stir the soul and inspire gratitude.
"I had lost my awe before death. I kept asking it to make sense, to shape up, to explain itself, to justify itself. It was out of my control. And suddenly I fell off the edge into Mystery. Mystery! Death is a mystery. It is too big, too unfathomable, for any of us to grasp. . . . It must be dissolved, dissolved again and again and again, by silent awe as the great archetype moves relentlessly among us. Mystery, a meditation, a shroud, a sound that is both lamentation and praise."
It is interesting to see that for Richards, it is not her own death but that of others that troubles and trembles her soul.
"Creativity in the arts can be the practice field for awe. Working with a primary material like clay, wood, stone, metal, glass, movement, sound, speech brings us again and again to the edge of wonder and discovery. . . . Think of creativity as gift — gift to oneself, gift to others."
Awe takes our hand and leads us into the abundant fields of creative endeavor. There is no competition here, only caring and sharing.
"We are both visionaries and activists. We have our feet on the ground and our head full of imagination. We live both inside and outside when we are whole. . . . Awe is the basic connection between humans and the cosmos. It is the standard by which we measure our receptivity. . . . to work, to grief, to love, to creativity."