I remember the first time I watched a magician’s show as a child at my friend Susan’s eighth birthday party. We gathered around, seated on the floor, as the magician—who was actually a friend of Susan’s older brother—did the seemingly impossible. When he asked for a volunteer, my younger brother Gary immediately jumped up. We gasped at the magician’s sleight of hand as he suddenly pulled a coin out of my brother’s ear. I was enthralled. It was a moment of awe and wonder.
Childhood is overflowing with opportunities to experience these moments of awe and wonder. As a toddler explores the world for the first time, everything is new, marvelous, and miraculous. According to the Great Good Science Center, the experience of awe is self-transcending and shifts our attention “away from ourselves, making us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others. Researchers Jonathan Haidt and Dacher Keltner additionally identified awe as a “collective emotion” that is motivational and inspires people to be part of something bigger than themselves. These micro-moments of awe and wonder elevate and transform us physically, emotionally, and mentally. These are moments of alchemy.
Alchemy is defined as a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. Alchemy was the precursor to chemistry when, in medieval times, people attempted to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir. Today you don’t need to visit a magic shop or obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry to practice alchemy. Instead, whenever you set an intention to become “open to being open” you can awaken your senses in order to begin to experience these micro-moments and joy and wonder that surround all of us 24/7.
After Gary died suddenly at only 35 years old, butterflies served as a synchronistic reminder of him that brought comfort in my grief. So, when the Museum of Natural History announced the opening of a butterfly exhibit, I immediately knew I had to take my family. It was a blustery February day in New York City when my husband and I bundled up our two young sons and walked to the museum with anticipation. Because butterflies require warm temperatures, the exhibit was kept safely through multiple doorways that we had to walk through, shedding our Winter layers as we went.
When we reached the exhibit, we gasped in wonder at the lush sanctuary where butterflies darted in all directions around us. Suddenly, a bright blue butterfly careened right into my cheek where it landed. Dozens of children pointed up at me with delight and wonder, and I felt tears of gratitude fill my eyes.
Gary had bright blue eyes.
Alchemy and synchronicity is all around us. What’s your story? Send it to me in the comments of this post or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m sending you strength and love,