When Happiness Is Awe

Everyday / Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

It is bitterly cold. The tea stall owner is doing brisk business. I am wearing thick gloves and wrapped up in a long coat, but I can still feel the cold seep in through to my bones. My taxi driver, a smiling Nepali who speaks little English, promises me that he will wait, so I leave him there, next to the tea stall, and make my way up. It’s dark, and the only light is from my flashlight. A short climb and I am there with a handful of others. It’s still too crowded for me at the peak. I move away and find a secluded space, away from the tripods and the selfie hunters. I wait. The darkness waits. We wait together. The darkness within me and the darkness swirling outside me. At that moment, I can’t tell you the difference between the two. 

I put my hands deep in my coat’s pockets, shivering. And there it is – a faint light starts to cast its loving gaze over the mountain peaks that I am staring at. The crowd starts to cheer. But then, we all fall silent. The chatter becomes muted. The light comes up more, filling more of the mountains. It’s a bluish light, almost like it is shy at this gathering that is watching. Darkness pauses. I pause, almost afraid to blink, for fear that I miss it if I do. 

Bit by bit. Step by step. Moment by moment. And then, in the most beautiful opening you can ever see, the sun steps out, his curved disc shaping the mountain peak. The silence is almost absolute now. He is not shy. Not the sun! He preens. Stretches. Yawns. And then, almost choking us with his beauty, he casts his long gaze fully over the mountains. 

The Kanchenjunga comes ablaze, bathed in golden light. The Himalayas are lit up with love. Darkness runs away from me and I watch in awe, the cold forgotten. I hear nothing. I feel nothing. Just the utter joy of that moment. 

It’s but an instant and then the day is on us. The crowd comes awake from its stupor, and everyone starts to frantically click their photos. I will too. But not immediately.


I close my eyes, feeling that for a moment that the darkness that is in me is light too. 

I have just seen the Universe in action, and all I want to do is surrender. 

I am awed. I am happy. For that moment. 

That memory from 2013 came back to me today when I received an email from the Greater Good Science Center. Awe, they write, is one of the most significant triggers for happiness. They are right. 

I travel because that sense of awe is most often present when we peer into the unknown. In the everyday mess of our lives, we forget to see the awe. I can remember now and then when I peer into a flower’s face, or I spy a tiny spider make its struggling web. But those moments are far and few. Too often, I lose myself in the petty battles of just living. Move, SM. Get through another day. Please this client. Get that deal. Write that script. Keep doing. Just keep moving. 

I haven’t traveled in a while except to Mysore. But I have forgotten to see the awe in our every day. I have forgotten to say hi to the sun and smile at the darkness even though as recently as in June, that’s just what I was doing – wandering through light and tripping through faith. The email I received today is a gentle nudge of what I am missing in life. I need to be awed. 

We all need to be awed. We may not all travel to the Himalayas for that awe. But we can take a deep breath and be awed at the absolute miracle of us here. At the honey bee that seems so busy. At the song that comes along at just the right moment. At the friend who hugs you. At our health. We can be in awe at the sky, the dark rain, the serene clouds or the raucous rooster. 

Take four minutes from your life and watch this video in full screen with your full attention. Be awed. And tell me what you feel. (I can’t seem to embed it here!)


11 Replies to “When Happiness Is Awe”

    1. Really? These were so not doing justice to what I saw. You know, you should do a sunrise post on your blog – all the different sunrises we have seen and to which I have dragged you to, half-awake. Starting with Pondicherry back in 2004-05.

  1. All hail Mother Gaia who presents us with wonder all the time every day. And hail Smitha who reminds us to pay attention to the wonder.

  2. Sheetal, the last sentence of your comment sums up this beautiful write up of Smitha`s and I feel I need to memorize that line and live it. – we are indeed so free to choose to feel awed in daily life.

  3. Aaawww, you recently was awed by a spotted dog looking at you blank as to why are asking him about life I guess. hahahah
    But good point. I love the lastlines. We are so free to choose to feel awed in daily life.

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