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Hi There,

I’m on “awe alert” this month. Let me explain. In a quest to inhibit hedonic adaptation, I’m intentionally stopping to notice awe-inspiring moments. And during today’s early morning kayak on a mirror-still lake with a rollicking chorus of bird songs, frog croaks and other wildlife filling my ears, I was struck by a modern irony: Awe is diminished when a smartphone camera is introduced into the moment.

This epiphany brought my thoughts back to my 6-month solo backpacking trip through Europe. During the 13-nation tour, I took countless rolls of pictures to document my travels. I wanted to share with family and friends what I was so fortunate to experience: the beautiful architecture, dramatic landscapes, amazing food, and thoughtful moments. Looking back at the pictures and contrasting them against my experiences, I recognized that I had seen Europe through a lens other than my own. It was merely that of a camera, and the pictures failed to translate the emotions in my mind’s eye. Neither the pheromones, the details, nor the subtleties could be authentically captured by that old Nikon.

Marinating on this modern paradox, I paddled the kayak away from my meditation cove, and was struck by a delightful sight: the great grey heron in flight— 3 of them, in fact, which is unusual, as they are typically in a vocal and aggressive battle over territory. In this instance, they landed in the tops of trees (also unusual) and were hanging out with each other like pals.  

As I sat quietly in my kayak, sharing space with these majestic creatures, in awe of their grace and my good fortune, I became amused by my quandary. Feeling compelled to share this scene with the world, I thought to myself, “Will anyone believe what I’m witnessing right now? If I take a picture of herons in the trees, will it stand out as more spectacular than the dozens of other heron pictures I’ve taken in the past?” After sitting on my hands for a while, I eventually broke out of the present and took a picture, just as one heron flew away. The awe was broken, the moment was over.  

Do you find yourself living life through a camera lens? Does your photo gallery truly communicate the details, emotions and nuances of the movie called your life? Consider how you can be present enough to capture the awe-inspiring dimensions of the scenes you create each day, minus the impulse to snap a shot. What would such a mindset consist of?


Deborah Goldstein
DRIVEN Professionals / Forbes / Linkedin