Ep. 155: Awe Plus Wonder Equals Connection

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This week, I was on a morning walk with a friend who told me this story about a man, Dave Hughes, who lived under a bridge in Kansas City during part of the pandemic. He was in his 50s and had just lost his job and was really depressed. 


Dave said one of the things that was hardest for him was not having pets or animals to make a connection. 


Then, one day, he sees this black duck amid some Canada geese and starts watching it. And a few days later, he woke up to find the duck watching him. 


It was like the bird was just staring at him, making sure it was all good. 


She started sleeping when he did and where he did, and in the mornings, they would get up together and she would just hop into the water there and … be a duck! 


This connection he had with her allowed him to realize that they wanted the same things – safety and companionship, which he really needed because it was lonely and scary for him out there. 


Dave and the duck stayed buddies under that bridge for over a year. 


Then, on March 9, 2022, the duck was gone. He looked for her for hours every day, walking up and down the creek. 


And as he did this, he began to get in touch with the other birds that were there. He observed them and learned about their behavior. 


Dave describes this as a gift that the duck gave him. Now he notices the elegance of the great blue heron, or the relationship between two wood ducks. 


You can hear in his entire being how his mind just opened up to an entire world of new discovery and connection with everything around him. 


Mindfulness, my friends. THIS is mindfulness in action, mindfulness in everyday life. 


When we open to the world around us, this whole new world and way of being opens up – magic every day, miracles every day.  


And, importantly, feeling connected to all that is around us. 


If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they’re always there. 


On my first wilderness fast was when I was hunkering down in a lightning storm and so terrified, there was a break in the storm, and I came out from under my tarp and sat staring at the meadow in front of me. There was a mama bear with her cubs and birds in the grass. 


And right in front of me was a little wildflower. It was all by itself, with no other flowers around it. And I realized in that moment that I was also out there by myself with nothing else like me around. But just like the flower, I belonged there, perfectly in place, exactly where I should be. 


That was my first realization that I, as a human, belonged in nature. It was part of my freaking DNA, even if I didn’t even begin to get curious about it till I was 18. 


We belong. And when we realize this through mindfulness and connection, we are much less likely to feel alone and disconnected and we are much less likely to cause harm to other beings 


We are more likely to live in alignment with all that is and not do shit that destroys the planet and our relationships and our own life. 


So, my friends, how can we open up to this miracle around us? How can we expand our awareness to be open to all that is around us? 


For me, I’ve realized recently that due to past trauma, I can have this tunnel vision, where I’m too overwhelmed to take in all my surroundings, and instead have a very narrow experience of life where I’m focused on just making sure I’m safe and making it through whatever it is I’m doing. It can be hard to look around sometimes and see the bigger picture. Thankfully, Alaska is in-your-face about epic mountain views, and Hawaii’s epic blue water and skies help me relax. I picked good places to work on this.. 


More recently, I realized I really hadn’t taken the time to know – with the same intimacy – the trees and animals and landscape here like I had known the Sierras of California, where I felt so safe and nurtured. 


That’s when I began nature journaling here, so I could intentionally get more intimate with my surroundings, more closely see them and learn about them – develop a relationship with them. 


We can open our awareness, expand our awareness – beyond tunnel vision of the tasks of each day and the to-do list in our mind and pause, look around, and just notice…notice the miracles that are all around us. 


You are a miracle, my friend. This life is a miracle. 


You don’t have to be a nature lover to begin. It starts with just expanding our awareness. We can pause a few times a day to look around and notice what is alive and miraculous in our life at any given moment. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the asphalt. The view of the hillside trees from our window. The butterfly that snuck into the office. 


So many miracles. So much magic. Just like you. 


You will learn: 

 // The huge impact of stopping to look at what’s around us 

// How mindfulness can help us experience magic + miracles every day 

// The importance of finding connection with nature in alleviating our loneliness 

// What mindfulness in action looks like 



// Episode 31: Why We Need to Adventure 


// Episode 96: Unplugging in an Uncertain World 


// Episode 134: What You’re Meant to BE 


// Episode 135: Reclaiming Parts of Ourselves 


// Episode 139: Nature and Reconnecting 


// If you’re curious about nature journaling and art, check these out: 

Roseann Hanson 

John Muir Laws 

Adventure Art Academy 


// Listen to Dave’s story here 


// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.  

// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!  


// Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!