Clint Murphy, Jonah Paquette
Clint Murphy 00:03
Welcome to the growth guide podcast. I’m your host Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors to share the lessons that will help you and me be better, achieve more and become financially free. Today, it was my pleasure to have a conversation with Jonah Paquette, a clinical psychologist, author, and keynote speaker. Jonah is the author of Awestruck, How Embracing Wonder Can Make You Happier, Healthier and More Connected. Jonah introduces us to the power of awe and how it can help alleviate struggles in our modern life, including stress, social isolation, and time pressure. It was a really enjoyable conversation for me. And I think that you’ll enjoy it and come out of it with a little bit more of an appreciation for those moments of awe in our lives. Enjoy. Jonah, welcome to the growth guide podcast, we are going to dive into your book Awestruck. And before we do, I’d love if you could start by sharing a little bit about yourself with our listeners. So they’re up to speed when we jump into your book.
Jonah Paquette 01:23
Absolutely. So great to be here with you. I’m really honored to be to be on here. So I’m a clinical psychologist by trade. I’m out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, originally from New York, and I keep getting progressively further west, it seems but yeah, essentially in a nutshell, my body of work has focused on well being and sort of, I guess you would say broadly speaking, applied positive psychology. So the science of well being, emotional fitness. So ever since graduate school, really, even though we were learning so much about depression, anxiety, trauma, very important topics. I always felt myself gravitated much more towards the other side of the coin understanding what constitutes the good life, what do we know about what works, what doesn’t. So I’ve written four books over the years, including Awestruck, but all of them have that central theme really just around what are the skills, habits, behaviors that each of us can cultivate bit by bit, to live a better life from a psychological standpoint. So that’s really where my focus has been over the years. So I’m a clinical psychologist, a writer, an author. See, I have a small practice. And then besides that do quite a bit of speaking, writing and things like this, which is a lot of fun.
Clint Murphy 02:34
And those are, those are many of my favorite topics, how to live a good life. We could probably talk for days on this so that this will be an exciting conversation. Where I thought it would be a good place to start is when we’re talking about the concept of awe, what’s the general definition that you would throw at the listeners and what I’d love to cover in there is in the book, you talked about this idea of two main conditions that we need to cover, including perceptual vastness, conceptual vastness, Transcendence, and accommodation. Those seem to be the tickets to get us into an awe state.
Jonah Paquette 03:17
Yeah, it’s a great question. And often where I like to start because terms mean different things to different people. I think when it comes to awe, I think for most listeners, we know it when we feel it, we know it when we experience it. And so, to some degree, you know, it’s trying to define an experience that’s indefinable to some extent, which I recognize, I think on an informal definition, I think of awe as the moments that give us goosebumps, the moments that make us go wow, in life, and I think that’s honestly plenty good. But in terms of the research on awe and that’s really been an emerging field, subfield within positive psychology in the last few years, they’ve started to center on two interconnected but distinct elements like two ingredients that you put that put them together and you experience awe. So the first is we experience or we encounter something that’s vast, something that’s bigger than us. And you mentioned the two subtypes of that, which would be like perceptual vastness or conceptual vastness. So you can think of like perceptual vastness, perceptions, things I can see touch, feel experience. If I look up at the night sky, if I gaze up at, you know, an incredibly tall mountain, that would be examples of perceptual vastness, but then you have you know, experiences that don’t quite fit that like watching Michael Jordan play basketball, or listening to an incredible piece of music, or, you know, gazing up at a beautiful piece of art or watching a child take their first steps. Those are vast, but they’re not vast in the way the Grand Canyon is, but they’re vast, just as just as much. So that would be more in the idea realm or the experience realm. So that’s vastness, either in the literal sense, the physical sense or more of that idea sense. And then the second piece is this idea of transcendence, or sometimes it will be called accomodation. And what that basically means is there’s something about the experience that makes us reevaluate what we thought we knew. It challenges our assumptions, it forces us to grow, it forces us to take in that experience. So the example I always like to give is, if you have a beautiful environment near you like the redwoods near me, if I saw those same exact redwoods every day, where my office was, right, it’s not going to give me that same transcendence quality, because I know exactly what I’m going to see. Unfortunately, we get used to it. So whether you want to think of that, like as an element of surprise, to some degree, I think that’s one way you can kind of make sense of that. But there’s something about that experience that’s new, that’s fresh, that just pushes us beyond what we thought we knew about ourselves, the world or others around us.
Clint Murphy 05:47
And on that point you made there, it’s this weekend, we’re driving back from a basketball tournament. And as we’re driving towards downtown, you see in the background, beautiful mountains, as far as the eye can see snow capped in my wife throws out. Yeah, that’s something we really take for granted, isn’t it? And is it? Yeah, because not only not only can we see those mountains, but those cranes that we see just below them that’s on the ocean of one of the largest ports in North America. So we have the ocean right there. And then in behind the ocean, we have these mountains that we can be skiing on or snowshoeing. And for a lot of people, they’ll come here and say, Wow, that’s beautiful. It’s amazing. And for us, well, it’s not, that’s just our backyard. So it takes away a bit of that awe.
Jonah Paquette 06:47
Yes. And I don’t want listeners to feel bad about that in any way. Because that is just what our mind does, right? We get used to good things, we get used to experiences that we see every day, if you want to think about this hedonic adaptation, the hedonic treadmill. So just as you get used to those experiences, I have many here, out here in California that, unfortunately, I say yes. And part of what I wanted to write the book about is, some of that’s going to happen organically just sort of living our lives. But I also think we can learn we can train ourselves bit by bit, to see the wonder that surrounds us every day, but that we don’t really realize even as wondrous, we can see how special things are that we see all the time. And so I think even when we talk about awe, it is easy, I recognize to immediately jump in our mind, and even in our conversation to things like that vista, the Grand Canyon, the night sky. But what I always encourage people to think about is look at how many things surround you right in this moment, if you’re listening to this podcast, within your field of vision, that would have been absolutely mind blowing, and magical to someone even 50 years ago, let alone 500, 5,000 50,000 years ago, like we really are surrounded by these miraculous parts of life that we just have blinders on so much of the time.
Clint Murphy 08:
And for that one, you talk about the idea of really just being present in the current moment in mindfulness. So when it you know, we’re fast forwarding a little, and we’ll jump around in there, and that’s great. But how do people use that idea of the present moment in mindfulness to cultivate that sense of awe in their daily lives?
Jonah Paquette 08:34
Yeah, it’s great question, because you could, obviously, and you probably have had a number of guests that focus just on that piece of the puzzle. And I tend to think so really is like a bi directional relationship, in the sense that the more that we cultivate mindfulness, the more that we sort of build that mental muscle to be in the here and now, whether we’re doing it in formal ways, like meditation or informal ways, like taking a walk, and just noticing our surroundings more. As we start to develop our capacity for that, we are inevitably, in my opinion, going to notice more of these wonders of life that we just so often miss, because we’re in our head, we’re looking down at you know, we’re not experiencing life. And simultaneously, the more that we experience awe, what we know from both kind of subjective experience and reports, but also even from some of those, you know, incredible brain studies being done on experiences of awe is it’s one of the most centering kind of grounding and present focused experiences we have, like our brains are as present as you get the noise completely tunes out when we experience these moments. So the more that we encounter awe, or the more present we are, and also the more present we become. I think the more that we’re going to notice the small wanders often that we that we miss.
Clint Murphy 09:48
And so when we think about all one of the things that I love to talk about was this idea of the Overview Effect, which really highlights vastness at its most for probably most of humanity, can you share with the listeners what is the overview effect, and how had the researchers been trying to hack that overview effect.
Jonah Paquette 10:13
So this is a term that goes back actually to I believe the 70s, an astronaut, by the name of Frank White, who coined it. But it really refers to the experience of, you know, the kind of experience that you and I and most listeners, for now can only dream of, and hopefully that changes in the coming years, and we get to experience ourselves. But this sort of account of looking down and seeing our huge planet, reduced to the size of a small blue marble, looking at it from outer space. And they call this the overview effect. And it just, what’s fascinating about it is difficult is like this mega dose of awe, it’s like awe on steroids, there’s not many experiences that are going to compare to that. But what was really interesting about it is, I’m not going to say universally, because that’s never the case. But so many of these astronauts that described feeling that experience, came home forever changed. So like, in some ways, what was most interesting, at least to me, it was not the experience itself. But what happened afterwards, you know, some of them founded nonprofits, some of them entered lifelong contemplative practices, others kind of gave away their possessions and sort of reoriented their values. So it manifested in different ways. But, you know, across the board, you saw a lot of these sort of astronauts who have that mega dose of awe, that overview effect, change their life forever. In one of the things that you can, I think draw a parallel to is even some of the emerging research on certain psychedelic states. This just shifted trajectory, this shift of perspective. And, you know, we always have to still work on that, right, it’s sort of that opens the door of perception. And then you have to keep walking through and continuing. But, you know, not only have I seen some similarities there, but even if you look at some of what’s happening in the brain with our default mode, network, and becoming completely offline, among others, there are some really, I think, unique similarities there between those two states.
Clint Murphy 12:12
And so when you think about the states that you’re getting into with awe, and you talked about this idea of human evolution, and so as humans, most of the emotions we have tend to tie to safety and survival. When you think about awe though, it’s almost the opposite effect, right? is, Oh, I see this beautiful vista and I stopped to stare at it. And then I get eaten by the lion because I wasn’t moving. So so how is it that that that awe was an emotion that stayed with us, and you talk about social connection, generosity, curiosity, and researcher saying, Hey, we think that awe creates these things, which is why it stayed with our people as we went through survival of the fittest over the generations. So what is it about these three things and how does it awe drive them?
Jonah Paquette 13:11
Yeah, it’s really fascinating, because like you said, with many emotions, right, if we think of our universal human emotions, that we all experienced to various degrees, but wherever you look on the globe, people describe that anger, fear, sadness, and all that. They make sense on a certain level of like, oh, yeah, of course, we’d want that it’s going to aid in our survival process, awe can on the surface feel a little bit out there. But as you say, like one of the really fascinating parts of it is sort of looking at it from the other direction of what these experiences of awe do to us. How do they change us? How do they change our perceptions? How do they impact us emotionally, and there are a lot of benefits to awe that go beyond this. But you know, in my book, I do talk about those three, what I call the three C’s of all awe, leter C not ocean sea connection, compassion and curiosity. We know that it’s been described as the ultimate collective emotion for one thing by a number of those researchers who’ve done a lot of that work, that when we experience this emotion, we feel much more part of the broader group, the broader collective, we see ourselves as part of a broader human species. And you see it as even with really interesting stuff coming out to this day in terms of like how these moments make people care about people that they’ve never met halfway around the world, we create much more global consciousness, so to speak, is another way to think about that. But it’s very connecting. It also spurs altruism, much more than other positive emotional states. So it’s not just simply that, oh, it feels good. So I’m going to be more generous more giving, seems to be something unique about awe that really seems to open ourselves up to both be more connected. And these are all interrelated, of course, but not only more connected and feel like I’m at one with the others, but also more generous, more giving, more pro social. And that’s another sort of secondary finding that’s really interesting. And then the third is this impact on things like curiosity. Which makes sense when we think about it, right? Like, if I look up at an incredible sunset, or the Milky Way, or whatever it might be on top of a mountain, you know, we sort of feel this in ourselves, we want to know what that’s about. We’re in an ancient Grove of redwood trees, we want to know, like, how long have these been here. So I think many of us have felt that experience, that link between awe and curiosity. But that’s a third area. And those three, by the way, you could also think of as just benefits, because there’s incredible benefits to curiosity to kind of, you know, benefits for the giver in terms of kindness, as opposed to just the person receiving kindness, there’s great research on that, on connection. I would actually say connection is, in some way, and, you know, great book that just came out from Robert Waldinger on this in terms of just you know, the Harvard study, looking at 80 plus years of data, that social connection really is the most important, arguably the most important factor for wellbeing across the lifespan. So those are benefits, but they’re also I think, explanations to some degree of like, why did we evolve to have this seemingly strange emotion, reverence and awe inn our universal human catalogue of emotions, so to speak.
Clint Murphy 16:19
Yeah. And what probably is jumping out to the listener, and for sure is to me, Jonah, is you talked earlier about the research and the studying you’ve done on the good life, and positive psychology. And all of a sudden you write a book on awe, and so that so the question that jumps out is, why was this the topic you decided to research? Why awe, and what was it about it that made you think this is something I’ve got to put, I got to chew on, dig into and write a book on because anytime you choose to write a book on something, it’s something you want to go deep on so what was it for you that made this the topic?
Jonah Paquette 17:01
Yeah, great question. And I think with a lot of people, if you’re gonna write a book, it’s good to have it be personally meaningful to you and sort of something that you’re not going to be bored of after a few months. So certainly, that was not the case with me. I think it was a few little factors. One is just this intellectual curiosity on the good life, as we’ve said, but also on a personal level, like when I think about moments in life that I have and I write about a number of them in the book too, but like moments that I want to remember when I’m knock on wood, 80 years old, that I look back on life, and you know, those peak experiences of life for me have often had to do a lot with experiences of awe. So I kind of knew that in the back of my mind. And then it was actually a personal experience being on a trip with my wife, incredible rainstorm that hit us and we were on a beach, we kind of hustled back to the car, it’s torrential. And then we looked up right as we sort of, were about to pull away, and it was the most incredible double rainbow we’d ever seen. The most idyllic setting and I just was filled with this immense feeling of awe in that moment. And for me, I had that moment, literally an epiphany on that vacation, where I said, I want to find out like as much as I can about this and I think I’ve figured out what I want to write about. So we hustled back to the sort of little rented place we were staying I think was the only 56k wire dial up modem left in the world so I was like spent all night just at a crawl at a snail’s pace learning about everything that had been started to look be looked at with this emotion. And at the time, hadn’t no books had been written on it really. And that has changed by the way for listeners there’s actually like two to three I think three awesome books on awe, no pun intended that just came out too, should probably be touting my own book Clint but buy mine too, but they’re also three really good books including one by Dr. Keltner who’s done so much of the primary research on awe that just came out I think about a month ago. So anyways, nothing at the time though so I that’s where my reading project started. But I would say actually, if I could say one other thing on a personal level, it wasn’t till after I actually started to write the book that I really felt the the healing power of awe and moments of awe for me which was actually more during the pandemic and picking up a pandemic hobbies as some of us did in mine happened to be investing in a pretty high power heavy duty lug it around telescope that I would take out to tark sky locations and when you when I would look up and it’s all that uncertainty that was in the world at the time and all the loss and the sort of the pain that was happening societally all around. I would just feel it melt away in those moments. When you’re looking at a galaxy that’s literally millions of light years away. So that was for me in some ways like the application on my in my own experience happened more even post writing the book as I started to get really into that because for me that is as inspiring as you get. For listeners, there might be something totally different. That gives you that feeling. But for me, that’s one of the big ways.
Clint Murphy 20:04
Yeah. And we’ll dive into some of the different ways people can cultivate cultivate awe their life and where you did some of the dark stargazing with the telescope, I had been to one of the places you mentioned in the book and had awe inspiring moments for different reasons. So can’t wait to get to that part with you. But before we do, the you highlight in the book, there are there are also some health benefits evolution aside, there are some health benefits we can experience from all. And you highlight five or six in the book, and three that I thought maybe we could dive into, you talked about awe helps us be happier and more satisfied with life, reduces our self stress levels, and helps us be more humble, and reduces self importance. Yeah, thought those might be three good ones we could tackle together for the listener.
Jonah Paquette 21:02
Yeah. And that was one of the most eye opening parts for me and in learning and writing. And, you know, experiencing so much of this was, you know, I used to look at these moments of awe as being very memorable, but almost like the cherry on top of a good life Sunday. Yeah, nice if you have it, but, you know, it’s not the most important thing. And I was really, I think it’s good to go into a writing project, or any, you know, anything with a really open mind and, you know, not have your preconceived notions and see where that learning takes you. And one of the things that really surprised me, I remember was just learning all about the impact of awe, the incredible effects that it has on our mood, even on our body that we’ll get to later. I’m sure we’d like inflammation, but even from a mental health standpoint, incredible shifts when it comes to depression, stress, even PTSD. really amazingly. So yeah, whatever we want to get into that, but I’ll just kind of snapshot for the listeners. You know, I think one thing that’s really interesting is it not only boosts our mood, which is nice, that’s like how we feel in the here and now. But it also shifts our sense of life satisfaction. And sometimes people oh, those sound the same. But like, if you think about it, how I feel day to day, does not always correlate by any stretch with more of the second question, which is when I step back and look at my life as a whole, how do I feel about where things are, right. And sometimes those go in complete opposite, I might be feeling good, because I’m, you know, having a good moment, but feel pretty dissatisfied with the state of my life. Or you might be having a crappy day, but step back and say, you know, I’m but actually I feel good about, you know, relationally, personally, professionally. And, you know, so actually, awe seems to impact each of those for different reasons. One is sort of a mood state, it just sort of feels good, as we know, from a lot of these moments of awe, but also, it’s a very, it’s an experience that lends itself to perspective, more than many other what we think of as like pleasant emotional states, it really, to me, like if you were just putting into words, which is hard to do, it’s like this idea of the small stuff that stresses me out a lot of the time, it doesn’t feel so important, when we are surrounded by something that’s ancient, or awesome in that way. And it totally shifts, the things that tend to weigh us down a lot of the time on a day to day level. So I think that’s one big thing that you see.
Clint Murphy 23:23
And so when you talk about the mental health, you talk about the inflammation. It was interesting, this idea that they put people in MRIs, they hooked the electrodes up the heart rate monitors, what are some of the things they find that are happening inside the body, that tied to awe when we’re experiencing it?
Jonah Paquette 23:43
Yeah, this is a first off, I hate getting MRIs. So if you’re a listener, don’t volunteer for the next study that they’re doing on that in particular, but as you said, you’ve looked at it from a few different angles, a lot of people doing some of this amazing research. And I think two that jumped out to me that I’ll just mention, one has to do with a lot of those functional MRI scans, where you’re essentially, you know, whether it’s through a video or a memory, you’re encouraging or inviting the participant to think about or to get in touch with an experience of awe and you’re looking at what what changes in the brain when they do that. And a couple of the really sort of big shifts that you see just in kind of layman’s terms, one is the default mode network of our brain, which tends to be really active when we’re self judging, when we’re in our own head, ruminating the way a lot of us tend to a lot of the time. That goes almost completely offline. So we’re as present and centered as you get, which we know from our own experience, you don’t need a brain scan to to tell you on some level right like when you felt feel this emotion, you are present you are locked in. Second thing is like part of the part of the brain called the parietal lobe, that sort of helps us feel oriented to the physical world around us, that becomes less active. And a lot of people describe during powerful moments of awe kind of, again, mirroring some of that psychedelic stuff from earlier. This sense of like blurring of those lines between self other between me and the world around me. So it’s a very like connecting state, oftentimes, especially during those powerful moments, there’s like those boundaries diminish a bit. And then you also see things like the release of oxytocin, which is a really like, connecting neuropeptide neurotransmitter. So you know, the love hormone as its colloquially called, but it’s a little more complicated than but like, what I think is interesting about that personally, by the way, is like, that’s true even if you experience awe alone, which is wild, it’s like, yeah, be by yourself looking at a beautiful vista, listening to an incredible touching piece of music, no one else in sight, but you feel that and you are feeling more connected to others to the world around you. So those are like three big changes that you see on a brain based level, that are that I think, are fascinating. And then just the other piece, I would mention, and I don’t want to keep talking your ear off about this, but like, has to do with inflammation in our body, which, you know, we know is linked chronic inflammation specifically like being linked to things like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, all host of these physical health issues, but also depression, as well as with disorders too. And we know that negative emotional states, which I know is a little bit of an overgeneralization, we need all of our emotions, by the way, everybody, it’s like, don’t try to never feel sad, never feel anxious, like we’re wired to have those feelings. But unpleasant emotional states when they’re prolonged for long periods of time, like rumination, anxiety, depression, increase these markers of chronic inflammation or body, but pleasant emotional states, decrease those markers of chronic inflammation. But this is where it gets really interesting. In a comparison that was done of seven different positive emotional states all was linked to the largest reductions in any of those emotions in terms of those markers of inflammation. So it’s not just the fact that’s pleasant. It’s something specific to awe more than, like gratitude, more than pride more than sort of the other ones that were studied. That seems to especially like help. You know why that is, is honestly a little beyond us at this point. But the fact that it’s there, I think is really means we need to learn much more about that. Because if there’s a link there feeling these wow moments, lowers my inflammatory response, a whole host of potential benefits to our body and our health that come with that, too.
Clint Murphy 27:32
And some of the research, you noted, it isn’t just in the moment. But the power of awe seems to be long lasting. What did that look like? How did they? How did they show that and illustrate that?
Jonah Paquette 27:46
Yeah, I think that’s it, thank you for reminding me. Because that I think is a really important point to highlight is these moments can be very brief, right? We might feel a sense of awe, sense of wonder for all of a few seconds sometimes. But what’s really interesting is a lot of the boosts to things like our mood, to our stress level. Even in some of the studies that like looked at post traumatic stress, it wasn’t just that people felt better on those kind of index indexes later that hour, it was that actually days, even weeks later, for particularly powerful moments of awe, you could still see that like kind of afterglow, that residual effect. Now, you know, I don’t mean to say that every moment of awe is going to give us that everyone’s different, every experience is different. But there is born out of that research that some of these moments, even if they’re brief, even if they’re very fleeting on the surface actually stick with us in a really powerful way. Which I by the way had to I had to check myself on that because at first I was like that seems too good to be true. But like we don’t have any problem believing that do we when it comes to like negative experiences in life like something bad happens to us and that’s all I’m still thinking about. I’m still impacted by this a week later. No one would look at you like you were losing your mind but yeah, some reason these like very powerful ones were like oh no, that seems too good to be true. At least I was but certainly seems to be the case.
Clint Murphy 29:11
Well let’s dive in Jonah let’s dive into one of those negative ones that sticks with you maybe for the rest of your vacation. And so what jumped out at me there and I’m sorry to bring you back to this one. But you were on a you were on a field trip with Kelly and you were on a trail and you came around a corner and saw a cute Mama Grizzly bear with a cub and then I’ll let you finish the rest of the story in the impact that it’s almost you almost titled it a negative awe
Clint Murphy 29:44
Yeah and what that did to you for the rest of the trip so what happened Jonah?
Jonah Paquette 29:50
And I’m glad you brought this up because you know most the time when we talk about awe, we are talking about those flashbulb moments of life that we want to remember. But not awe or if you think about back to that definition, right of like, I’m encountering something that’s bigger than me. And it makes me reevaluate what I thought I knew. Like, that’s actually a pretty neutral definition, you can apply that to things that are good or . So negative awe, you know, is actually, it’s the minority of experience of awe that we have. But it is a real thing and has different effects on us, as I’ll speak to about my personal experience on that was, we were in Glacier National Park, that kind of the northern part of the US very beautiful place. Like you said, we were coming around the corner on a trail. And it all happened so quickly, I remember we, We took a blind curve, we looked up the side of the hill to our left, and we saw like the adorable cubs are like, you just want to pick them up the cutest things you’ve ever seen. But then your mind remembers that where there is a cub, there’s a mom. And so sure enough, about 50 feet to the to the left, we saw the Mom, momma grizzly bear, she looked at us, she looked at the Cubs, she measured us up, she looked at the Cubs, and then she came just charging straight downhill directly at me and my wife. And nobody tells you that they run faster than horses, grizzly bears, which is true, I had no idea. So we were about to collapse to the ground, because she was about 10-15 feet away at this point. At the very last second, she just kind of rises up on her hind legs, gives us a big scare, sees that we’re not coming after her cubs, and goes back up. So it’s a bluff charge at the end of the day. But we were completely, you know, terrified, and in awe, frankly, of everything from just the ferocity, the protectiveness, the intelligence, right to sort of do that in that moment, and size us up at the last minute. The breathtaking beauty of this bear, and there was a lot of biting the moment you’re just feeling scared. But there was a difference to me between that sort of experience of just being afraid in general, right, because we can be afraid of all kinds of things, versus being afraid in that experience where there isn’t awe elements. So it got me actually really curious about the rest of the trip, I did not leave the bear spray out of my hand, I was literally walking around with the finger on the trigger. And my wife was convinced I was going to accidentally, like hear a twig snap and get her with the bear spray. So that would have been a problem for a number of reasons, I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. But it got me really interested in like negative awe as a real thing. And there’s been some attention paid to that too. And, you know, that doesn’t have to be from a bear. You can think of things like the Challenger explosion, or 9/11, or, you know, any sort of natural disasters or, you know, we have terrible fires in California. And like, there’s an awe element of like just the speed of which some of this happens that the power the way that as advanced as we are as human beings, we’re still at the mercy of so much of this. So there’s an awe element. And what’s interesting as compared to just like straight negative experiences, the negative awe experiences, they don’t give us all the benefits that we’ve talked about, if like, you’re not going to have all these great things happen to your mood and your inflammation per se. But they do tie back to some of those things that I mentioned earlier, especially around connection and compassion. So people really do feel after these, whether it’s on an individual or more of a collective experience of these negative experiences, do feel the sense of belonging, the sense of community, the sense of looking after each other, far more than if even if it’s just like a negative, painful experience. So there is a kind of a connecting quality and a prosocial quality, even to those negative awe experiences.
Clint Murphy 33:45
The Yeah, even as you even as you describe the Mother Bear barreling down the hill, just the imagery, and you talk about this, and we’ll get to it later. But the imagery that it brings up in your mind, it’s an awe invoking image. And you know, as you’re telling the story and praying it doesn’t end like Leonardo DiCaprio, in that movie where the the grizzly gets a hold of them. Reverent, I believe I believe, Oh, yeah, just a horribly scarring scene from a movie,
Jonah Paquette 34:20
A very graphic scene, actually, very graphic.
Clint Murphy 34:23
They definitely did not spare spare the viewer on that one. And so what I thought we could do now because then for the rest of the book, what you do is you take people through, here’s different ways that you can cultivate awe in your life. And for each chapter, you might offer five or six and I thought, you know, I’d highlight one that jumped out at me and then you can go whichever way you want. You can go deep into that one or highlight a couple that you really enjoy about that area. The first one as soon as I saw awe in nature, the first thought that jumped to my mind was this idea of forest bathing, then I flipped to the next page. And there it was. And the interesting part is, I’ve never actually done it. Now, I live in British Columbia, we have beautiful forests. I do find that when I was trail running, and or when I was running, and then I started to get back onto the trails, there was something about being on the trails in the forest, brought me back to childhood, this centeredness with nature, and it was just, there was this love affair with the forest. But I keep hearing about forest bathing. And I keep hearing about the idea, even while I’m in my mindfulness meditation circles. So part of what I wondered on this one is, what is forest bathing? Can we bring the listeners up to speed and how does nature invoke so much on us? And what are some ways you would throw at people to say, hey, here’s how you can use nature to to get in touch with awe.
Jonah Paquette 35:56
Yeah, great question. And maybe to contextualize this for the listeners, because I might talk about an example. Or we might talk about a particular approach that doesn’t resonate for a listener and one of my goals in writing that second part of the book, and I run through about 10 different chapters within that section with about, like you said, about 5, 6, 7 different suggestions. And they’re really meant to be like a shopping cart approach for people that something might really resonate for you give it a try, if something else is not your thing. You know, I’ve got a good, good friend that I was just talking to who’s just like, not a museum person, last but cannot get into a museum. And instead of fighting him on that, great, don’t take that suggestion, because that could be a place for some of us to experience awe but you really want to think about like what works for you. So yeah, going through these different kind of what I think of them as like pathways to awe, whether it’s nature and others that we’ll talk about, like gratitude, connection, and others. Within nature, there’s been this really fascinating thing for any listeners that are not as familiar stemming out of this, this movement coming out of Japan called Shinrin Yoku Roku, which translates to forest bathing, and really was meant to sort of originated with this recognition that we’ve become increasingly separate from, increasingly divorced from the natural world, many of us, even those of us living in somewhat close proximity, you know, still spend a lot of our days under a roof with involves looking at screens. And so let alone if you live in a large city, and you just don’t have quite as much access to it. So it was really started from that recognition. And people hear the word forest bathing, like I was at like finding a natural spring and going skinny dipping in the forest. That sounds nice, too. But it’s really more about just being in the forest. It’s just connecting to green spaces, really merging things like mindfulness in nature, but in a way that’s very, it’s not about hiking, it’s not about exercise, that’s great, too. It’s not about getting your steps. And it’s really just about using your senses to connect fully to that natural space. So really feeling your feet beneath, take off your shoes if you can lose your sense of touch and kind of feel the trunks of the trees or the grass beneath you, hear what’s there or not, right, like sometimes the silence of a forest is an incredible sound. Right? At first, it sounds like you’re not hearing anything. And then you start to notice 10, 20, 30 Different concurrent sounds happening. And you’re like, wow, I’m hearing nature, I never hear this. So using those senses to just fully make contact with close your eyes, open your eyes, kind of mix it up, and just connect with that natural world. And it’s been shown not just to like feel good in that moment. But forest bathing, as a whole actually has like a host of other benefits with things like blood pressure, heart rate variability, a lot of benefits that come from just connecting with green spaces. On that note, but before I forget, cool study that just came out looking at doing exercise in nature, because you mentioned running versus doing the same level of exertion, but in a completely unnatural environment. And showing that actually doing it in a natural space in a green space. Kind of green exercise, so to speak, led to not only greater benefits in terms of like the, you know, the level of stress in the body and so forth, but actually greater enjoyment. So it’s another way to kind of make it more self reinforcing.
Clint Murphy 39:34
Yeah, 100% and what I explained to people is when when you’re running on that trail relative to when you’re running on the street, there’s an element of play, there’s an element of bringing you back to your childhood, you gotta be paying attention to the rocks on the trail and the mud pile, puddles and in jumping over a root. And the other thing that really jumped out at me Jonah and maybe it was forest bathing and it was just such a pleasure with our two young boys through COVID. And this’ll sound crazy, they’re 11, and 14. So let’s rewind the clock to maybe three years. So they’re 12 and 10. And we’re walking on the trail with my wife and them and beautiful forest. And they’ve never been in a forest, not on a trail. And so I say to them, well, let’s leave the trail, like, let’s just go in the forest. You know, my wife, she wants to keep walking on the trail, and we say, okay, well, this trail goes in that direction. So we’re gonna meet you somewhere in that direction, and just take the two of them, get off the trail and just walk through the trees and over creeks and navigate around little ponds. And, you know, you’re moving branches out of your way, and they’re snapping back at you, and in just the joy of being in the forest in the dirt. And it’s to your point, it was so strange to me. And maybe it’s my fault as their parents and living in the city.
Jonah Paquette 41:04
It must have been amazing to see them go through that too.
Clint Murphy 41:09
Like the reactions to them being in a forest for the first time. And just the smiles and the joy. And you’re like, Well, why don’t you pick up a pick up a stick so that you can guide your way through the water and just seeing them pick a stick and hold it in their hands as they’re walking staff, you know it in like a bit of a sense of reverence and awe. Absolutely. For the forest for nature.
Jonah Paquette 41:38
I think it sounds like you did some version of forest bathing without necessarily calling it that. Because of have present you all were, how connected you were to the land. I mean, these were things that we just spend very little of our lives fully doing in that kind of real way. And even when we do, it’s like, we’re gonna go on a hike, we’re gonna go on this trail. So to kind of really connect at that deeper level, like you did is amazing. And, you know, by the way, seeing awe in others gives us awe right, so that’s another kind of, there you go. Yeah. So we feel a sense of reverence. When we connect with I’m just showing again, what an interpersonal emotion it is. But also, on a kid angle, I’m reminded like, kids are really good at being awe inspired, maybe not, once they reached their teenage years, but like, they were a little younger at the time, and just seeing, you know, kind of rediscovering in ourselves. For listeners, I think, the sense of childlike wonder where it’s like, we take so much for granted. As we get older, we get so jaded, we get so in the routines, and make up that system and be like, wow, I’m eating this meal that I’ve had 100 times. But like, what an incredible gift. Where did this come from? Let me taste every bit of the flavor. Let me think about sort of how they figured out how to make this. Like I was eating an artichoke recently. And I thought to myself, it’s gonna sound like the silliest example in the world was like, Who the heck figured out how you could eat an artichoke? If you hold one, and you’re like, That was nuts. I would have just picked that up and thrown it away if I was 1000 years ago, but to know what to do. So it’s like getting curious about that is we can kind of do and something we might have seen 100 times in our lives, 1000 times can feel it can be fresh, if we see it through those new eyes.
Clint Murphy 43:22
Absolutely. And for the listeners, what are what are one to two of the ways that you love to use nature to connect with to connect with awe?
Jonah Paquette 43:32
Yeah, so I mean, I’m, I did not just for context grow up as a nature guy. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Yeah, you mentioned that. Yeah. And it was like when I came out to California, remember that for the first time, one of the first places I went, and I didn’t actually get to travel that much. When I was growing up. I love to travel. Now. It’s like a huge passion of mine. And unfortunately, I subjected readers to a lot of those stories as well in the book Awestruck, but I remember I came out here for graduate school, one of the first places I went was Muir Woods, which is like this big Redwood area in little north of San Francisco. And I didn’t even know trees grew to that size. I’d seen buildings that size, right, but but the idea of like a tree that size and then learning how some of them are 2000 years old, and thinking about what was happening in the world 2000 years ago when that tree was a little seedling. And I was just from I was smitten. Like from that first experience. I remember I was like, I can see myself as a nature guy and I was like I maybe I am and then my wife is a huge nature person. So she’s really like, stepped it up and gotten me to the to the next level camping and with hiking and all that but I’ve really for me, nature is one of the places that really does this for me. And, you know, in addition to things like you know, like forest bathing, you know, I think it’s just yes, I love to go to national parks. I love to sort of see these natural spaces but I actually think like, in the spirit of what we’ve talked about, it’s, it’s important to find the beauty kind of like that’s around us. So I have a walk in my neighborhood, which is not a national park. But just noticing like, different colors of subtle changes in the leaves, or watching a hummingbird or like, in other ways you could be in, you could be in a city, and just, you know, any semblance of a green space, just getting curious and kind of feel that sense of connection to that, in ways that maybe are more accessible to a lot of us on an everyday level. So, yes, there’s like the big adventures of life that I think are great to do. But I think, you know, finding more ways, like in a way that’s sustainable for you, to connect to just to the natural world in ways big orsmall sunsets, if you have access to that. Just trees, small parks, animals, I’m a huge animal person. And you know, just realizing that we can have relationships with living animals is like a mind blowing or inspiring thing when you actually stopped to think about it. So yeah, I think if the writing the book has done for me, and by the way, listeners, I’m far from perfect on it. I have to remind myself all the time of this stuff, but I think it has reinforced in me this idea that like, so much of life is wondrous. Our very existence is like, the biggest miracle that you get, like the odds of any of us being here is as close to zero as you get without being zero. And yet, here we are having this conversation. So I think when we look at life from that lens, so much is magical. Even the thing that breathing is magical. Sight is magical. having this conversation in real time through a screen.
Clint Murphy 46:43
Yeah, like electronic components that are pulling us together. Across the world. It’s, it’s all mind boggling. You made me think too, because you don’t think about some of these things until they’re spurred and you know, I live in the city. But the way they design this neighborhoods, somewhere in the 80s, they sold the laneway. So I would otherwise have a laneway and one of the two people that bought it for these long single family homes, they planted trees. And so I have these trees that I can sit on my deck in the summer. And I can see this 60 plus 70 foot plus tree in the neighborhood that just like there’s this sense of awe of like I live in the city yet that tree makes me feel like I’m in the burbs, makes me feel like I’m in my childhood and I’m near a forest, even though there’s not because 20 feet from that there’s a high school and there’s a busy street with shops and restaurants and but that tree makes me think that I’m not in the city. And there’s an art to that. And I thought the the next one that jumped out at me was when we went to this idea of vastness, you talked about Sedona and I was in Sedona six or seven years ago or seven or eight years ago on a on a trip with work. And the guys we’re with we went mountain biking the first day I I fell off my bike hit my head. And so I you know, the next day when they were going back on the bikes, I said I’m gonna take today off, I’m just gonna go for a run by myself. And I went out for a run probably 15 to 20 miles alone.
Jonah Paquette 48:31
I’m already in awe of that, by the way. 15-20 mile run.
Clint Murphy 48:35
Yeah, back then I was a runner, and I was I was I was doing a bit of a run streak and ended up doing some Ultras, it was a fun phase, I gotta get back to it, but I ended up in those red rocks, right, and I know, direction just out, see where I’m going. That heat of Sedona kind of beaming down on you. So I’ve got the sweat going. And just the vastness, like everywhere I looked was just red rock, and like, massive scale it in. There was something you know, it’s not till you think about it when you’re reading about it. But it just, it was about significance, right? Like, I am so small, relative to this vast rock plane, if you will. And you know, another spot where that came up for me was we were Joshua Tree with the family. And we did this little hike with the kids and then they were all going to eat and I said well I want to play in these rocks by myself. So I just started sort of free climbing which was bad because it was much easier to go up and come down and that got scary. But it was that you know that same yeah, cause that you probably not far from you. Right and so, yeah, but But yeah, it also Yeah, but that vastness and so what is it about vastness that brings on that awe? What are some of the ways you like, I mean, you have your telescopes? I know, I know, I know you like to explore the stars. So what is it about vastness that does it for us?
Jonah Paquette 50:10
I mean, I’m a telescope and an ocean person. I mean, that’s, that’s another completely tiny. I’ve always sort of been a water person in that way. I love California and Northern California, but I, I do fantasize of like, being in a warm water place someday, it’s like a ongoing basis, that would be heavenly for me. But yeah, to your point to like about the red rocks, and these places to this vastness, both in the like, it’s interesting, because it actually combines both the like, perceptual and conceptual vastness and a sense that, you know, there’s, there’s the physical vastness, like, I’m surrounded just by this infinite Red Rock, but then when you start to wrap your head around, how ancient to this, and it’s like, wow, I’m just this, like, the geologic time piece is impossible to wrap your head around that I get to exist in this moment to be surrounded by this experience. I’m a blip. So you know, to that point, I think one of the things vastness really does to us is, it makes us feel small, but not in a way that’s threatening. And so with awe there’s even this interesting phenomenon, that’s called the small self effect, which is like, when we experience awe we literally feel smaller, but unlike, you know, a person who’s struggling with depression, where they feel I’m small, I’m insignificant in the world around me. When we experience awe, we feel small, yet we feel connected to something bigger. So it doesn’t threaten us in that way. It’s actually like almost a peaceful feeling for many people. Where yes, I feel like a speck in this vast universe, like if I’m looking at the night sky, or looking at the ocean, or whatever it is, and yet I get to be a part of it, how incredible. And these vast places, I think, hammer home that reality and that perspective, more than almost anything does, especially when you can combine just the scale with that sort of more intellectual knowledge, whether it’s how ancient looking at light that’s from millions of light years away, or surrounded by red rocks that have been there for billions of years. This is all just mind blowing, when you pause to think about it.
Clint Murphy 52:18
And so as you say that what really jumps out is the NASA photos that they released earlier. Well, I guess, last year, and I mean, talk about imagery that gives you that sensation of I am a flea in this universe. But to your point, it’s not it’s not an overwhelming nor a negative feeling. It’s it’s almost freeing.
Jonah Paquette 52:47
Yeah, I experienced that. I will say like, some listeners, maybe not. I have a good friend that I when I sent him those pictures from the James Webb telescope, he freaks out, he gets existential dread. He says don’t send those to me anymore. So it’s all a debate, but I’m totally with you. Like, for me, it is this complete perspective shift, where if I’m worried about, you know, you name it, and I respond to that email to that person, where they disrespectful, was I rude, unintentionally, in that situation, you know, stress over money, all these things like, by the way, some of these are real stressed. But at the same time, compared to just the mere, like unlikelihood of existence and us being a part of it. Many of the things that we obsess over and consume over, really lose their importance to some degree. When we do that, and I think one interesting thing that you see with awe is it also helps to orient people towards more meaningful values, right? So it sounds like it makes people like, just become a deadbeat. And like, I just want to look at, you know, it’s like, actually, it’s, it’s sort of primes us to say like, I get to be part of this experience for at least a short period of time. How do I want to live my life in a way that’s meaningful? Right, what matters to me? At the end of the day, how do I not lose sight of that, and I think awe helps remind us of that.
Clint Murphy 54:03
And something that, you know, when we think of the the James Webb and we think of small self effect, it is one of the terms that I that I think I’ve heard that ties to this is it that idea of cosmic and significance, that when we’re seeing this vast we realize how insignificant we are in for some people, like we said, it’s free. It’s like, oh, well, who cares? Like let go. And for other people, it can be just dread, because it’s well, I’m insignificant, and I thought I was everything.
Jonah Paquette 54:35
Yes. Yeah. Have you ever looked at like some of the zoom out images of like, here’s Earth, and then it sort of backs up and you see our solar system, and then you see our galaxy? And then you see our galaxy in the context of 1000s of now, I mean, you keep zooming out and you realize like, how much how many lives have been lost? How many mental energy has been spent time at you know, for sort of things that are really not that important at the end of the day. If we have that sense of, you know, we tend to think whatever’s right in front of us is the most important thing in the world. But I think perhaps for that reason, that’s one of the things that I mentioned earlier how like experiences of awe actually kind of connect us to the larger global community, it makes us more compassionate, not just to the people right around us, but even to people halfway around the world. So there’s even been interesting recent studies looking at which I couldn’t put in the book, because it’s come out more recently, but like, people experiencing awe become more concerned about global things that don’t affect them so much direct effects around the world. So it makes you like a better global citizen, in a way when you see yourself as part of this big interconnected web of life with other humans, with animals with species with everything. So I think that’s a really, you know, yes, you can go to the insignificant space. But there’s also the kind of empowering piece of like, I am one with everything, in a sense, both on Earth and perhaps beyond.
Clint Murphy 55:55
All right, we got to go backwards now, I gotta go back to the mindfulness because because it’s interesting, and you don’t you don’t get there often when you’re meditating. Because one of the interesting parts, I remember, I was working with, I had a Buddhist teacher for a while, and I was working with Casey, and he’d be asking me how I’d be feeling. And it was through COVID. So I’d say, well, I’m feeling a bit anxious. And so we started to explore that together. And he would say, oikay, well, first of all, you know, let’s, let’s, let’s play with labels. You know, let’s not, let’s not necessarily label it anxious. Let’s, let’s talk about your feeling the sensation that you label anxious. Okay, great. That’s good point. And let’s explore how vast it is. And we’re exploring it and and then it’s, well, let’s explore consciousness. Let’s think about your awareness. And let’s meditate on your awareness. You know, how vast is it? And I thought about it for a while and thought, man, busy throwing one of these Buddhist trick questions at me. And I just said, you know, it feels infinite. He said, yeah, there is no limit. And it’s wow. Like my mind can stretch into infinity. There’s no boundaries to our awareness. And when you start to think about that, and meditate on it, in this little tiny, anxious energy in my chest, and he would say, well, how small is that energy relative to your awareness? It’s like, it’s like a flea. Like, it’s nothing. It’s like, Yeah, well, you know, if it gets to an eight, or nine or 10, talk to your doctor, but if, if it’s a three or four, just go through this exercise. Just feel it, feel it in relation to this awareness. And the problem, you know, you can get there when, but so often, we’re meditating. And we’re trying to get to that stillness to that spot where we’re one with the universe. You rarely get there, but when you do, it’s like, oh, yeah, how vast, not only is the world, but how vast is inside of us. And that, it’s like that feeling of awe that makes you want to get back to the mat. And to get back to that.
Jonah Paquette 58:20
That is a beaut. I got goosebumps just listening to that example, because that is awesome. And I think, by the way, I think like so much we can learn from this wisdom that’s been around for so much further than clinical psychology as a field, and just how we can relate to the experiences that we all have, right that you described, without medicalizing it, without medicating it, without pathologizing it and just changing our relationship to those experiences for many of us, is such a better route to take. I love that example. That story.
Clint Murphy 58:57
Thanks for listening. If you enjoy what you’re hearing so far, and want me to be able to get your favorite guests on this show, please do me a quick favor, subscribe to the show. And leave me a rating. The 30 seconds of your time will mean a ton to me. The next area that I’d love to get some of your favorite ones on is you talked about mind bending all in the power of our mind. And as I was reading it one of the one of the things I did to exercise it was my dog was on the couch with me, you mentioned stuff like this earlier in the conversation. And I just looked over at her and this relationship you have with your pet, I just, you know stared into her eyes. And I started talking to her and saying you know, hey Daddy loves you and you’re a good girl. And you know, just that that interaction you have just all of a sudden her tail was just hammering the couch. You could just see like, that eye contact the voice she was like yeah, this bond is I’m feeling it too. And just that all of that relationship and that love you have with your pet. Like that just always blows me away. When it comes to using our mind to generate awe what are some of the freight favorites that you have Jonah that that you use? And what are some of the ones that our listeners can be thinking about?
Jonah Paquette 1:00:22
And I love that example too, because I’m a big animal person. And like with so many things, we just go through life without really thinking about it. And I think like part of the part of the trick is to really pause and really dissect and really get curious about this experience that we’re having every day like, you having a connection with your dog, you’re like, oh, I love my dog, my dog loves me. You don’t think about twice, but it’s like, what does that really mean? To have a conscious sort of connection with essentially an animal like this, that there’s genuine cross? I mean, that’s crazy to think about. And yet, many of us who love animals, you know, experienced that. So I think, you know, we’ve, we’ve talked about the two types of awe of, or, I should say two types of vastness, I think one of the things that we can often do in our mind is really get in touch with that second type of vastness, the conceptual vastness. So you can be on the red rocks, and be in touch with those red rocks. But I think today, sort of then take a step back and think about what are those made of? And how did that get created? How long have they been around, and can even begin to wrap my head around how many zeros that is in terms of like, the number of years since? So, you know, almost taking that curiosity on steroids approach is one way to think about this, but I write about a few other prompts in that chapter, that have helped me really just get that sense of on more of like an internal level. So it’s less about going out and finding things that wow me or finding things but it’s more about how am I engaging in the world? What is my approach? What is my mindset, and one of the things I write about is that unlikelihood of existence, right? Right? If you really stop and think about, like, we were to calculate out the odds of all of our ancestors living long enough to pass their genes along, the opposite, none of them would have died in childbirth, none of them would have died in warfare, none of them would have died a fan and none of them would have died in the black death. I mean, you keep going of all the unlikelihood of every link in the chain getting to this point, the unlikelihood that that particular egg and sperm get together, right? Like, we are basically if you were to play that out, we should not be here. None of us should be here. And yet, absolutely none of us are. And that’s absolutely incredible to think about just how unlikely that is. So that’s one way that I sort of definitely think about it, the other that time perspective, right, like, you’re in the redwoods and you think about 2000 years, you’re gonna red rock rocks, and you’re thinking a lot more than that. But if we think about just how long Earth has been around, and how long Homo sapiens been around, you know, as if it was like a long, you know, stretched out ruler. And as a little spotlight, I borrowed this from, I think, Richard Dawkins in the book, but you know, that that light is hitting just at a particular moment, everything before us is dark, everything behind us is dark. And yet we get to exist in this moment, right here and right now. What again, and really kind of get in touch with that unlikelihood of not just existing period, but existing now. So those are like a couple of ways that I that I really try to at least remind myself of this this gift, which again, is a intention that I said it’s a reminder that I need because there’s plenty of days, right listeners where I’m like, not remembering half of this stuff. But I think if I can get 1% better at remembering it each step of the way, then I’ll be on my way. I’m 90.
Clint Murphy 1:03:47
Yeah, well, it’s like every, it’s like everything. There’s so many things that we should do. We could do. We want to do, we should drink more water, we should wake up at this time, we should meditate. There’s only so much time in the day. If we hit these, periodically, we’re in good shape. And when you when you talked about that exercise of contemplating human life, and I don’t I don’t know if you’ve ever heard they they talk about the one of the concepts in Buddhism is there’s the four thoughts that turn the mind to Buddhism and you have this idea of the preciousness of human life. And it’s exactly I do the same exercise you do where, well, my father had to meet my mother. And their parents had to meet each other and their parents. And what if just one of them in that chain, never met all the way back to cave people. I wouldn’t, we wouldn’t be here. And so everything that had to happen for you to be here, just the preciousness of that life. And then you immediately go to number two, we won’t go into three and four. But number two is impermanence. None of none of what’s here will be here. Your house, your possessions, your family, your wealth, that’s all going to be gone. And so just that going back to that cosmic insignificance in the smallness of self, one, the power of being here, two, we’ll all be gone. And when you look at those two, there’s just so much on those two alone, that it just blows me away. And, and then as you were talking there, I started to have awe at what you were saying, which ties to the next chapter, which is this idea of genius and courage and inspiration. the fact that we can watch the Superbowl and you can see a pass and you’re just, you know, you’re all texting each other, did you guys just see what Patrick Mahomes did, or, you know, on a broken ankle and just this awe of athletes, or Rihanna at the halftime, or so what is it about this awe of a genius or athletic prowess that that brings us all in and how can we use that in our daily lives?
Jonah Paquette 1:06:14
Yeah, we’ll just say as a Buffalo Bills fan, Patrick Mahomes. I have conflicted relationships with him. But But that aside, he is very awe inspiring. Yeah, actually, you know, it’s interesting. Around the world, so if you look kind of globally, in terms of awe has been studied in around 4550 countries at this point, that I’m familiar with, actually, the number one source of all around the world that people report on average is actually other people. In the US, it’s nature. But, you know, on a more global scale, it’s other people, which would be things like I’m in awe of that person’s ability, I’m in awe of that person’s courage. I mean, awe of that person’s convictions, their strength, their resilience, you know, and we can think of, you know, the people that we read in the news that we learn about in school, kind of on one end of that spectrum, but I think also just getting in touch with the, the courage and strength of people that we encounter on a much more humble level, like the people fighting battles that no one else knows about. Fighting internally, there’s an incredible awe that we can feel that has to do with that, like moral beauty. John Height, called it elevation, right, it’s sort of this idea of like, for lack of a better term, like moral law. So it’s like different from the all that I feel looking at the mountain, but I’m in awe of that person. On some level, it elevates me, it kind of brings me up on that in that way. So, you know, I think what I try to get at in that chapter is there’s so many sort of examples, through people, through fellow human beings, that can inspire us to do better that can, you know, kind of show us what’s possible when people have conviction. And that could be, by the way, like watching a great basketball player or football player do their thing, to be a great musician, it could be an incredible artist, it could be an actor whose performance just blows our mind, it could be a leader who’s you know, fighting to make the world a better place, you know, at great risk to themselves. Like there’s countless examples of this, both in the present and in the past. And I just encourage readers, you know, in that section of the book, to get really curious about that, to think about, like, who are the people that we can see the best of humanity and to both boost us in that moment, in, you know, show us what’s possible, but also inspire us to whatever that looks like in our corner of the world, to pursue excellence to be at our best to, you know, be the best version of ourselves that we can become over time.
Clint Murphy 1:08:48
And you, you know, you talk about the idea of goosebumps, and there’s something that for sure about when when you see whether it’s American Idol, or just a video online and you see someone saying, and I’m pretty tone deaf, but when I get goosebumps when someone’s singing, I know. Wow, that’s good.
Jonah Paquette 1:09:11
Yeah, and goosebumps often are like a little clue that oh, this is one of those moments. Yeah, in fact, behind cold temperature, awe is the second most common source of goosebumps, oddly enough, that makes sense to me. I have an experience but yeah, you know, we know that the hair on the back of our neck stands up we feel as goosebumps, there’s something about that experience that you know brings those chills down your spine in a way that very few experiences do it’s like we’re witnessing something that’s magical that we can’t quite put the words to it but we know it’s special.
Clint Murphy 1:09:44
Yeah, it’s it’s a it’s a good way to describe it because otherwise I had no idea why these goosebumps are here but I know I like that singer. And so the last one I want to talk about in then people can go read all the amazing adventures themselves is this idea of habit and something that really jumped out at me for this one is I don’t know, if you’ve done a heart rate variability training as one of the things on your on your journey, that I it’s very fascinating. I love it because it’s, I almost refer to it as quantitative meditation and so for those who are listening, you know, this could be pseudoscience. Sure, but you have a device that measures your heart rate and how it varies. And there’s this idea that you can get into what they refer to as a state of coherence. And now someone will say to me, well, Clint, like, how do you how do you know it’s right? And then you’re that you’re in a state of coherence. And all I can offer Jonah is that, when it says, you’re in coherence, the feeling that you have in that moment, or moments, while you stay in it are extraordinary, you think to yourself, this is this is how I want to feel all the time. And so one of the things that you’ll do to get to that state of coherence. So you might, for example, do box breathing. And then while you’re doing it, you may you you conjure an image, or a memory that you have, that put you into that sense of happiness. And to make it even better, you try to put yourself back into that memory. So so for me example, my oldest son is 14. But this is probably back when he’s three years old. And we’re we’re back home where I grew up, and I’m teaching them how to ride a bike. And he’s afraid of hills. But he lets me let go of them. going down a hill, he trusts me for the first time and I’m running beside him, I’m training, I’m fit at the time. And he just turns to me, and he has the biggest smile on his face. And it’s sunny, and he’s screaming, like, Daddy, I’m doing it, I’m doing it. And he has this like, look of love and happiness on his face, the happiest I’ve ever seen him in his life, in the ways yelling, that is pure joy. And I just I bring back that memory and just the awe of that day in that moment. And I’m able to get back to that sense of on that sense of in that heart rate coherence. And so that for me, is my like, what’s my habit to get me back to awe is to just bring back that memory and go into it? What are some other ways we can use habits and in our daily lives to conjure that all back into our life?
Jonah Paquette 1:12:43
Well, I think what you said has such an important lesson, I mean, on on many levels, but I think it’s a really good point to sort of arrive at, because I don’t think we’ve we’ve mentioned it yet. But essentially, you know, we spend a lot of time, as humans like looking for the next really good experience. We’re kind of constantly on the lookout, let me let me feel something different. Let me experience something new. And some of these new experiences are great, don’t get me wrong, but I think we spend a lot of time in our heads thinking about and replaying and reliving the painful parts of life. And it hits the pillow at night, like what are we often ruminating about. But we know that for good or bad, when I’m really deeply connecting to a memory, thinking about it feeling in my body, my nervous system, my brain even is responding in really similar ways to when that thing actually happened. We do that unfortunately, it’s like a superpower. But we do it for bad a lot of the time. You know, people like Rick Hanson talk a lot about sort of the importance of resting our attention on the good moments, right, and sort of that process of neuroplasticity, getting there. But I think with all odds, it’s a very similar thing. It’s like, I’ll say one thing I love to do is just, you know, it’s a balance, you don’t want to be like behind your camera 24/7. But finding ways like when you have these magical experiences to hold on to them, so you can re experience them 5, 10, 15 times, right, maybe it’s a memento or a souvenir, maybe it’s you take one picture just enough to kind of prompt you. Maybe you got out of your way to talk about the experience with someone else who you shared it with and kind of re remember it together in that way. Years back I got this like digital photo frame that would just kind of be on my desk and it would cycle through I got it for like at a clearance racket at a target but it would cycle through different sort of memories from travels, beautiful moments that I maybe hadn’t thought about in two years and then I would see that picture would bring me right back. So prompts or intentions or journaling or just finding the ways that work for you. So that these beautiful moments. They’re great if they happen once but we actually have some control over, finding ways to reconnect to re remember to get back in touch with those moments, even after the fact, and maybe it’s not gonna hit you as hard as seeing it for the first time. But you can actually incorporate that experience and that emotional memory much more into our lives than we often do sometimes,
Clint Murphy 1:15:21
And even as you say that, you know, just the idea of reading the book and reading about awe and then as I went through the chapter saying, Well, what’s something that in this area, sparked on me in remembering it and thinking about it, and having a conversation with you about it tonight, there’s just a, my mood or my, you know, go back, we talked about our, our, our sense of life, there’s just, there’s a lightness, there’s a calmness, there’s a happiness, that, you know, long day, it’s end of the night for both of us, we’re both on the Pacific Time Zone. And but there’s a there’s like an energy and a joy that I’m gonna go back in the house in the next couple hours, I’ll just be really light. So there’s something beautiful about having those conversations about all that that permeates through us,
Jonah Paquette 1:16:18
I feel that as well, you know, long day, six o’clock comes or whatever it was, and we’re like, I’m feeling tired. And then you start talking about this sharing these memories, hearing your stories of these moments that you’ve had yourself or with your family. And it’s like, I feel a little bit of that just picturing what you’re describing, and vice versa. Just having this at top of mind for both of us. Yes, you know, it shifts, everything that’s happening in your mind and your body. It’s a really, it’s a great gift we can have for ourselves to just find more of these wow moments, even small ways. Whether we’re going out and finding them or finding ways to reflect on them a little bit more than we do. I think just to have a bit more of this sense of wonder and amazement in our lives, we’d all be a little bit better off for it.
Clint Murphy 1:17:03
Absolutely. Enjoying it. Do you have time for the rapid Final Four questions we throw at everybody? All right, let’s do it. So what what has been one of the most life changing books for you in your life?
Jonah Paquette 1:17:14
I would say what I would say is probably been the most meaningful book, which now is gonna sound like a bad pun but it’s probably Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Clint Murphy 1:17:24
Yes, of course,
Jonah Paquette 1:17:26
If I can claim it as a mental health psychology book, I think it’s much bigger than that. But I would say of all the books in my relative field that is like the one that I would have on a desert island that I try to reread every few years.
Clint Murphy 1:17:38
Well, the and I’ve said it before, is, you know, a lot of the self help the work as we refer to it as that, that I’ve done in my life has been to specifically to increase the gap between the stimulus and response, so that I can be a better father, a better husband and a better human. And the way he talks about it as where the magic happens in that moment, it’s just, even, it’s just that one line.
Jonah Paquette 1:18:08
Speaking of awe like to have that wisdom, having gone through that experience, that always gives me a sense of awe every time I read it to have absolutely from hell, humanity and to see the beauty of life is amazing to me.
Clint Murphy 1:18:25
Victor, and then, you know, James Stockdale, a bit a bit of a more stoic response to being a prisoner of war, but just listen, like reading both of them coming out of those two experiences, and could live the rest of their life super jaded. And yet they put out the literature that they both did, so that we can benefit from it in our lives in our everyday lives just so meaningful. Great choice, great selection, what’s on your bookshelf right now, what are you reading right now?
Jonah Paquette 1:18:58
What am I reading? So, I am actually reading right now an auto biography of Bo Jackson, the football and baseball player, my commercial hero so awe inspiring in a different way.
Clint Murphy 1:19:15
Yeah, don’t know Bo. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah. I loved his you know, so sad when he got injured like he was he was just larger than life when I was growing up,
Jonah Paquette 1:19:29
And I was in a in a book came out not long ago that sort of dives into everything from his childhood and his origin story, if you will, is like a superhero practically. And then I’m only about a third way through but very much enjoying it at this point.
Clint Murphy 1:19:44
Yeah, sounds amazing. The What is something that Jonah has bought recently for under $1,000 that you’ve thought to yourself, wow, I should have bought this earlier. It’s really made a big impact on my life.
Jonah Paquette 1:19:57
That’s a fantastic, these are great questions. I wish I had time to prepare for your rapid fire questions, because then I would probably have better answers. The first thing that came to my mind was a really good bottle of wine that I got in Sonoma wine country.
Clint Murphy 1:20:11
Nice. Nice. That’s always a good selection.
Jonah Paquette 1:20:13
Not not too not too long ago. You know, this is gonna sound like a very silly answer, but I am talking to you, I don’t know, I won’t wrestle with it too much. But after years of this pandemic, doing a lot more work on the computer, with the computer lying on my desk, I finally got a stand for my computer to rest on that I can look comfortably ahead. And it sounds like a very silly answer for 25 bucks. But considering how my neck was often feeling when I would be kind of looking down versus how it feels when I’m ending the day looking straight ahead like this. I’d probably say that actually, I got that a couple months ago.
Clint Murphy 1:20:50
It can often be something small. I mean, my wife, she had me, she ran she influenced my answer when I was on a podcast and they asked me and it was it was the paper cloth that you buy that you wrap your cheese in. Oh, yeah. And apparently it makes the cheese last much longer. And it’s simple to use. So for us, it was our cheesecloth.
Jonah Paquette 1:21:15
I might be inspired to get some of that myself.
Clint Murphy 1:21:17
The last one for you on that is what’s one mindset shift habit or behavior change that had the most impact for you in your life.
Jonah Paquette 1:21:29
This will sound I think a little cliche just but since I write so much about it, I would say when I was in grad school, starting to really learn about the many benefits of gratitude, have gratitude and like kind of really getting into a gratitude practice. I think you know, I used to just associate it with oh, you know, Oprah and whatever. You know, when I really found myself making that shift from focusing on you know, what I don’t have, what I wish were different in my life to really this like deep felt sense of, let me notice the good around me, let me notice the beauty, let me feel, get in touch with the things in my life that I really feel are special, right? Because it’s so easy to lose sight of them. I would say for me that’s been one practice that’s just been with me ever since and that I try to really with intention stay in touch with some days better than others. But that I think mindset creates such abundance in our lives psychologically emotionally and otherwise to notice what’s right.
Clint Murphy 1:22:33
Yeah and it’s you know, you can definitely never sounds cliche to me on that one because even even when I talk about you know, three areas that I usually talk about psychology success and finance, being a CFO for the last 20 something years, what jumps out there is people don’t realize the power of of what you just talked about is the focusing on what you do have versus what you don’t have and how gratefulness helps you with that because when it comes to your money, yeah, it’s you have enough as soon as you realize you have enough yes, if you if you never practice gratitude, and you’re never grateful for what you already have.
Clint Murphy 1:26:17
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