Space – awe and humility and the Overview Effect
Our first stop was Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory. Curiosity was flowing in me as I noticed the weather, flora, and fauna were all different. What made those rocks, hills, and formations? What type of flower is that? It’s colder here. Wow, that feels good, it even smells different. Yay for a new adventure in the new-to-me motorhome and with my love and Willow, our dog. We were all wagging our tails with anticipation.
Driving up the mountain to the observatory travels through a diverse and beautiful part of Texas, resplendent with a flowing river, tall trees, high desert, pastures, to mountain pines, red rocks, and into the Davis Mountains.
We were full of curiosity as we entered the museum and learned about the observatory and how it has impacted space exploration and continues to be a place of learning and education through the University of Texas. This is the observatory that has the laser that reflected off the mirror that Neil Armstrong from the Apollo mission placed on the moon. Lunar Laser Ranging began with this mirror and laser it proved Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Wow. Just wow. We drove and walked around the large telescopes and saw inside the latest with its shiny mirrors. A bonus: the drive to the top is the highest highway in Texas. The views were good despite the low clouds. We were amazed at the lodgings for the astronomers, who when working often do not leave the observatory.
I had purchased Sky Party tickets in advance. We had the option of a refund but chose to return for the sky party despite the drizzle, clouds, and full moon. Not at all ideal for a star party, but we went anyway as they mentioned alternative programming. What a treat and I am so grateful we went! The sky cleared for a bit, and we got a lesson in identifying constellations. To my total geeked out excitement – I was literally bouncing on my toes and squealing with excitement - they brought out and opened up the telescopes!! Oh my, what awe and wonder.
We viewed Saturn, its rings, and moons. The image was so crystal clear it looked fake. We saw Jupiter’s stripes and 4 moons – ah-mazing. Of course, we saw the moon in HD vision. We glimpsed a star cluster and returned to view them again as the crowd died down. The astronomers were happy to share their knowledge and love of the dark sky. We were treated to a wooden homemade telescope that was donated for crystal clear views. Lastly, we were treated to the alternative program for the sky party inside. This was a spectacular program with views from the telescopes on good nights and a lecture on what we were seeing and the research programs associated with them.
The most profound images were a classic Hubble image and then their local images of stars and galaxies. It’s a reminder that we are but a minute speck of dust in a vast expanding universe.
We stayed late and talked with the senior staff members until closing time – nerding out to the max.
On the drive back, we were quiet and shared our reflections on our smallness, our humble little planet and lives. There’s a term for this called, the Overview Effect, where we gain a cognitive change from the new perspective when we experience awe and wonder.
Awe and wonder are parts of curiosity. They improve our well-being in the following ways:
- Increased positive emotions – joy, gratitude, optimism, vitality, curiosity
- Increased memory and attention
- Increased sense of connection – to humanity and self
- Igniting creativity and curiosity
- Promoting innovation and problem solving
- Lowering depression, PTSD, and anxiety
Advice from the Night Sky: (from a Tshirt I have from the observatory)
- See the big picture
- Be a star
- Keep looking up
- Don’t be afraid of the dark
- Stay full of wonder
- Expand your horizons
- Turn off the lights! (this is in reference to light pollution
I continue to bask in the awe and wonder of our trip. I can feel it trickling into my everyday life and being. I notice the improved well-being by feeling more alive, taking better care of myself, feeling lighter, continuing to be curious, appreciating and grateful for my life and the people in it.
I hope for you that you take time to ignite awe and wonder.
We can’t all take a trip to an observatory. Take some time in nature. Notice the changing of the seasons. What’s different? What’s changing? Take a look at art that resonates with you—be it paintings, photographs, reading, or architecture. Travel via the internet and take in some amazing views. Listen to awe-inspiring music. Be compassionate and generous—this can ignite awe in others. Dive into spiritual practice.
If you or someone you know would like support to reignite your curiosity, find awe and wonder, bounce back or foster more curiosity in your life, please reach out and contact me. You can also forward this to them or even provide an e-mail introduction. I provide a safe place to bounce back and move forward in your life and business. My clients inspire me with their new confidence, hard work, new jobs, reaching goals and moving forward in life.
Are you considering coaching, I have space for 1 client in my coaching practice this fall. If that's you or someone you know, please contact me here, use the form at the bottom, and we’ll have a conversation to see how I may be of support to you.
Teresa –Benefiting from awe, wonder and curiosity.
Teresa Q. Bitner, M.Ed., PMP, PCC - Resiliency, Change and Loss Coach
Partnering with those who have been knocked down my life and want to build resiliency and move forward and live a bold life.
• Soul Love: How A Dog Taught Me to Breathe Again - 4.8 Stars on Amazon
• Torn in Half: The First Days - Widow Journey - 5 Stars on Amazon
• Explorations into the Being and Doing of Coaching: A collection of voices, insights and wisdom from Austin area coaches