Posted On:
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Updated On:

Coach Tip Tuesday: Seek Out Awe & Enchantment

Stream On:
Apple PodcastsSpotifyBuzzsproutiHeart RadioiHeart RadioPocketCasts

Over the last several years, I’ve become increasingly concerned as I have observed the dissipation of awe from the lives of people who I interact with.  So, so many people are caught up in the “hamster wheel” of their lives that they literally don’t stop and smell the roses.  And, in my humble opinion, it’s killing us.  

What is Awe?

Awe is a “feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder.”  It’s the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world.  And awe - more than any other positive emotion that we can experience - is linked to lower levels of Interleukin-6, which is a molecule associated with stress and inflammation.  Existing in the daily grind and decreasing the number of times we experience awe is literally increasing stress and inflammation in our bodies, which impacts how we feel overall.

When was the last time you experienced awe?  Can you remember exactly what it was, where you were, and when it happened?

Most of us have experienced awe and enchantment at least a handful of times in our lives.  We know what it feels like to lose ourselves in the experience of hiking in nature, listening to beautiful music, watching someone achieve something incredible or with a high level of skill, or viewing masterful art or architecture.  Events and experiences like this all have something really important in common: 

They force us to look outside of ourselves and realize our place in the Universe.  When we see a beautiful painting, listen to an inspiring song, watch someone demonstrate an advanced skill, or witness an athlete achieve a personal best performance, we are forced to shift our perspective away from our own selves.  We feel moved.  We immerse ourselves in that moment without thoughts about our past or our future.  We feel connected to the greater collective “us” of humans and we aren’t just focused on our personal desires and needs.  Without our own ego or self to worry about in that moment and with an appreciation for our existence as part of a greater whole, we feel less anxiety.  We feel free. 

Total Awe

I want to share a recent awe-some experience that took place on Monday, April 8, 2024.  On that day, my home in Baldwinsville, New York (which is a suburb of Syracuse, New York) was in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse.  

Total solar eclipses are not necessarily that rare; they actually occur about once every 18 months or so somewhere around the world.  However, since the path of totality of a total solar eclipse is so narrow (it can range from 60-120 miles wide), it’s uncommon for the path of totality to cross an area that is populated by humans.  (Many total solar eclipses take place out over the open ocean or in the uninhabited polar regions.)  Total lunar eclipses also occur every 18 months or so, but they are visible from vastly larger areas on Earth.  So while most humans will have an opportunity (if not multiple opportunities!) to view a total lunar eclipse at some point in their lives, it’s entirely possible for a human to live an average lifespan without ever having a total solar eclipse occur where they live or even near where they live.

So far in my lifetime, there have been two total solar eclipses that have occurred in the United States of America.  In 2017, I traveled 850 miles to my brother’s house in Greenville, South Carolina; on Monday, August 21, 2017, his house was in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse.  What are the odds that the two of us would choose to live our adult lives in these exact places where two total solar eclipses would take place within seven years of each other?  The odds are astronomical (pun intended), and the odds alone caused me to feel a sense of wonder, awe, enchantment, and gratitude.  

Then we had the total solar eclipses themselves.  In 2017, the weather was perfect in Greenville for eclipse viewing; the sky was clear without a cloud to be seen.  My friend Caitlin, my family, and I were able to see the eclipse in totality, with the sun’s corona on full display.  To this day, it remains the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

The 2024 total solar eclipse in Baldwinsville was obscured by clouds.  While I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see that beautiful corona again, I - somewhat unexpectedly, if I’m being honest - found awe in the experience anyway; the cloud cover enabled us to see the exact approach and ring of the moon’s shadow (called an “umbra”) on the earth.  This was something that we didn’t get to see in 2017 precisely because conditions were so clear.  In fact, I didn’t even know to look for this or realize what I was seeing until I saw the umbra swiftly approaching our location.

During totality, I was completely immersed in the experience of the eclipse.  The sights and the changes in colors.  The sounds (or lack thereof).  The changes in ambient temperature.  The feeling that hovered in the air.  I wasn’t thinking about anything else other than what I was experiencing.  As I looked around my neighborhood, I saw all of my neighbors outside looking up at and anticipating the same thing.  Never in the 13 years that I’ve lived here have I seen all of my neighbors outside like that, let alone participating in the same experience.  It is extremely unlikely that I will see that again in my lifetime.  Feeling part of that greater community collectively sharing that experience was literally awe-some.

For the last nine years, my family and I have been planning for and counting down to these two days.  Really, we’ve been counting down to the four minutes and forty seconds of totality that we would get to experience between these two total solar eclipses.  Nine years of anticipation for less than five minutes.  

Some of you reading this may poo-poo this.  In fact, I have had friends tell me that they don’t understand it and don’t think that the total solar eclipses were anything worth seeking out.  (One of my friends told me he wouldn’t even drive the three miles from his house to the path of totality because he didn't think it would be anything worth seeing or experiencing!)  But I can tell you this: Now that these two total solar eclipses are over, I’m left with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I had the opportunity to witness such amazing and awe-inspiring phenomena not once, but twice in my lifetime.

All five of us saw a total solar eclipse twice in our lifetime!

Stop & Smell the Roses

I’ve written before about how it’s important not to wait until we are past the last time of something to realize how valuable it was.  All too often, wondrous and awesome moments pass us by without us realizing it; we’re too busy, too distracted, too consumed by everything else.  We diminish or even avoid experiences that could be valuable or meaningful because we’re so caught up in the daily grind of existing and what we feel like we “have” to do.

I think that this is a profoundly sad thing.  And I think that it’s time that we collectively stop and smell the roses more often.  I think that we should actively seek out experiences that enchant us and make us feel a sense of awe.  Doing so may be challenging, especially when things (such as screens and apps) are literally designed to capture and monetize our time and attention and when we have so many people (bosses, parents, spouses, friends, etc.) telling us what we have to do or what we should be doing.  (And yes, I understand that this might sound a bit hypocritical since I am now one of these people encouraging you to do something that I think you should do!)  

We first need to become aware of when we are engaging in behaviors or activities that distract us and decrease our ability to be awed and enchanted.  And then we have to do perhaps the hardest thing of all: Carve the time to give ourselves the opportunity to experience awe and enchantment.

Katherine May provides a wonderful definition for enchantment in her book Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age

“Enchantment is a small wonder magnified through meaning, fascination caught in the web of fable and memory.  It relies on small doses of awe, almost homeopathic: those quiet traces of fascination that are found only when we look for them.  It is the sense that we are joined together in one continuous thread of existence with the elements constituting this earth, and that there is a potency trapped in this interconnection, a tingle on the border of our perception.  It is the forgotten seam in our geology, the elusive particle that binds our unstable matter; the ability to sense magic in the everyday, to channel it through our minds and bodies, to be sustained by it.”

How to Seek Out Awe & Enchantment

We don’t need to (and shouldn’t!) wait 20+ years for the next total solar eclipse to come to the United States before we have an awe-some and enchanting experience.  Opportunities to be awed and enchanted abound every day in our normal lives.

One of the easiest ways to experience the effect of awe is to get outside.  Research shows that people are significantly happier when they spend time outside than when they are inside.  Despite the positive feelings that arise from doing so, Americans are currently spending less than 7% of our waking hours outside and in nature.  Something as simple as going for a walk, going for a hike, or sitting by a lake can prompt us to feel awed.  We are able to connect to the planet we call home and - using all of our available senses - experience something greater than our own selves.  We can notice how the buds on the trees are ever-so-slightly showing green as they prepare to bloom in the Spring.  We can see the shifts in the ripples of the surface of the water on the lake as the wind changes directions.  We can hear the different calls of birds communicating with each other.  We can feel the warmth that comes from an object (the sun) that is a whopping 93 million miles away.  We can look to the sky at night and see other planets, galaxies, and stars and contemplate what life out there could be like.

If getting outside really isn’t your thing, you can do things such as visiting a museum, going to a concert, or watching a musical.  Since they are immersive, all of these experiences can have anxiety-reducing effects and can help shift our perspective away from our own selves, our day-to-day issues, and our day-to-day grind.

Cultivating Awe-some Workouts

I am constantly encouraging my athletes to seek out experiences in their training and racing that will evoke a sense of awe.  Choosing different routes to complete workouts on, doing a new type of workout, or selecting a race that you need to travel to are some of the easiest and lowest-friction ways to do this.  Doing something new forces presence; we can’t go on autopilot when we are doing something that we are not familiar with.  Forcing presence keeps you from becoming distracted, either from outside forces or from the depths of your own mind via internal wandering.

Another one of my favorite ways to encourage athletes to slow and and shift their perspective is to plan workouts that are “just for fun of it” for the athletes I coach on Performance Coaching and on Custom-Built Training Plans.  The only “plan” for these workouts is literally “Have fun!”  Some athletes thrive with these workouts, while some athletes really struggle with them.  I have even had athletes tell me to take away “Just for the Fun of It!” workouts because they don’t know how to function without planned durations or parameters and it causes them anxiety not to have firm guidance on what they should be doing.  If this sounds like you, then my humble opinion is that you need to be doing a lot more workouts just for fun; doing so will broaden the mental skills in your Athlete’s Toolbelt.  Not every workout is about metrics or should be about metrics.  Not every workout needs to be a certain amount of time or a certain distance, and quite frankly, not every workout should be.

Sometimes whether or not a workout was successful or good is measured by its impact on your soul.  And this isn’t true of just workouts, it’s true of any experience in our life; the most meaningful things in the world are things that we cannot measure tangibly.  Awe and enchantment are intangible sensations that cut right to our souls and remind us of the most basic element of our existence: Our humanity.

The Bottom Line

Don’t get so enraptured by the daily grind, productivity, meeting deadlines, responding to emails, and posting on social media that you lose sight of your humanity and what is actually important.  Seek out opportunities to be awed and enchanted so you can broaden your mind, shift your perspective, remember what it is like to be truly human, and have gratitude for this amazing life you’ve been given.


Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May

Brain Wash: Detox Your Mind for Clearer Thinking, Deeper Relationships, and Lasting Happiness by David Perlmutter, MD & Austin Perlmutter, MD

Allen, Summer. “What Awe Looks Like in the Brain

Stulberg, Brad. “The Original Natural Remedy for Burnout: Nature


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

Read Biography

Check out our other
recent Blog Posts

Start Your

Coaching Today

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Start Your

Coaching Today

Have a question or ready to get your TRAINING started?

Fill out our Contact Form to the right and we will get back to you shortly!

Check - Elements Webflow Library - BRIX Templates

Thank you

Thanks for reaching out. We will get back to you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.