Igniting Wonder, Sparking Joy

Life offers so many moments of distraction, anticipation, and uncertainty. Life also offers us the present moment, allowing us to hold space for hope, faith, and love.

Apparently there was a 4.0 earthquake in Eastern Massachusetts this morning, but I didn’t feel it. I was walking in the woods on a glorious quiet, fall Sunday. Last week my little corner of the world was covered in heavy snow, with tree branches bowing to the earth and showing off their flexibilty. Today the woods glowed with what yellow and rust leaves remain on the birches and oaks. In a few weeks the trees will be bare.

Everything changes.

I was walking my usual path and reflecting about the phenomenon of creating upward spirals for a short meditation talk and wondering what I could offer. Then, as if the angels heard my question, I happened upon a miniature woodland house made of pebbles and bark and moss. The little structure was resting on an old well cover next to a stone cottage built in 1902, as if this new handmade treasure was its most recent descendant.

Ohhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhhhh. Wow.  

I knelt down and looked at all the details with amazement and gratitude.  With a silly grin and a spring in my step I kept on walking. On my return trip I took a different path, and behold, there was another little woodland dwelling. I stopped to scan the edge of the woods and the fields of grass. There was another. And another. My heart felt as if it could burst with joy.  Like a child on a scavenger hunt, I began to search. Eight little houses in all (that I could find).

The researcher and writer Brené Brown wrote, “The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”  I imagined that some students and an intrepid teacher created this miniature wonderland for me, and whoever else might be out for a walk or a hike, just to stop us in our tracks and pause with child’s eyes.

What a gift to strangers to evoke such delight and enchantment!  These architects are creating an upward spiral of goodwill with each suprised being who happens to wander by.

Fact: Emotions, attitudes, behaviors are contagious. Whatever we insert into our social networks, whether online or offline in our daily lives, spreads.  That’s the “three degrees of influence” rule.  Positive or negative, what we put out there, spreads: from me to you, you to your connection, and so on. Knowing this means we can be intentional and take responsibility for what we say and do. That’s powerful. 

Let’s simply breathe into this power.  

What we pay attention to grows stronger. What we practice becomes habit. What inner strength or capacity do you want to spark? Is it love, kindness, courage, respect, connection, social justice, wonder or delight? 

When we want more love or joy or kindness in our lives, we also need to purposely experience them by noticing what pleasantries arise spontaneously, and also by creating opportunities to evoke those positive states.

Notice. Create. Enjoy. Repeat.


Let’s begin with a few moments of attention to the breath.

Find a comfortable posture, feeling your body supported by a chair or the floor, with a quality of relaxed alertness. A sense of a strong back and open heart. 

Place your hands on your lower belly, in your lap, or gently on your heart,  and know that these touchpoints can also serve as an anchor for your attention rather than the breath. 

Close your eyes, if you like. Or gently gaze at your hands or on the floor.

As you do so, you may like to shift your body posture ever so slightly, such as a leaning-in with a tilt of the head, which can enhance feelings of care and compassion.  

Begin to notice your breathing, and where you find the breath most easily accessible. 

Breathe in, down to the bottom of your lungs, and notice your belly begin to expand.   

Exhale and release the flow of air. 

Let your body breathe you.

Follow the rhythm of your breath and body , noticing the subtle rise and fall, rise and fall. 

Let yourself feel an inner spaciousness of presence. 

Witnessing your moment-to-moment experience with curiosity.

May you spark goodwill as you walk upon the earth today.

When we love life fully, we leave heartprints on another’s soul. Love is like that. Love is the mother of all positive emotions—awe, amusement, compassion, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, joy, serenity—and love ignites an upward spiral for positive change. Just like these mysterious woodland elves sparked an upward spiral of delight for me.

This dose of kindfulness will nourish me for days.

Let love lead.

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.

Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Perhaps someday I will learn who created these woodland homes. For now, I will relish in the mystery of human ingenuity.

These photos were taken at the Eustis Estate, now a Historic New England Museum. It is open to the public to enjoy the wonder of the Blue Hills Reservation. This area was once the land of the Ponkapoag tribe.

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