Experiencing Wonder, Awe, and Magic with Stormy Sweitzer

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

How often do you find yourself wondering? Stormy Sweitzer joins me this week to talk about wonder and awe.

We talk about the power of choosing where to put our attention, how wonder walks changed our lives, and give practical tools for cultivating more wonder in your life.

And in case the benefits of wonder are feeling foreign to you, we share the rewards we’ve each reaped from devoting more time and attention to tuning in and embracing wonder.

Stormy also shares an experience she had one morning on a run that borders on magical and had me on the edge of my seat.

ABOUT STORMY

Stormy Sweitzer (@stormy.sweitzer) is a future-oriented writer, researcher, and guide to the unknown. As a PhD Candidate in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, she studies the practices and potentials of wonder and how complex social interactions lead to phenomena like inclusion and identity development. Having long helped people and organizations navigate uncertainty and change, today she offers vision coaching and strategic consulting through her business Mapping Wonder.

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Alyssa Patmos 0:04
This is Make It Mentionable. I’m Alyssa Patmos and this is the show about being human in a world that encourages us to be robots. I invite you to join me as we journey through the mess, the magic and the mania in between. Because what we can talk about, we can manage. This honest conversation extravaganza includes free flowing conversations and high doses of vulnerability to remind you that you aren’t alone. No topic is off limits, and episodes are designed to leave you smarter, aka more self aware than when you came. I am so glad you’re here.

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Make It Mentionable with me your host Alyssa Patmos and today I am here with Stormy Sweitzer. And I’m super excited about this conversation because we’re talking about wonder and possibility. And as all episodes of Make It Mentionable go, I am sure we will wander other places, but at a high level. So so, so excited to hear some of your perspectives on wonder, Stormy,

Stormy Sweitzer 1:19
I am so excited to be here and to share those, whatever they may be today. That evolved?

Alyssa Patmos 1:25
Yes, yes, it has, I love it. Can you tell people tuning in just a little bit about yourself?

Stormy Sweitzer 1:32
Yes. So currently, I am a PhD student in organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. But prior to this, I had a pretty multifaceted career. In one iteration, I was an organizational development leadership consultant, and coach, I’ve been an entrepreneur in the digital space. And I have done some international development work. And so it’s kind of all over, I like to have multiple experiences and extremely curious. And I find ways to bridge these experiences, which is how I wound up in a PhD program.

Alyssa Patmos 2:16
Yeah, connecting the dots is one of the best things like in the moment, it can be so painful, because we’re not always sure how they’re going to connect. But then when we finally start getting to the place where it’s easier to see, oh, wait, this past experience that I thought I completely wrote off, and I’m never going to use again, actually, it’s really beneficial for

Stormy Sweitzer 2:36
Exactly, exactly. Oh,

Alyssa Patmos 2:39
So how did you end up back in a PhD program?

Stormy Sweitzer 2:42
So part of it is very personal I, I was in a long time relationship. And when that relationship came to an end, I had to sort of figure out what I was going to do when I grew up. And at the time, I wasn’t really clear, I had some ideas about what I could do. I was in, I was doing work that was fulfilling, and I enjoyed it. But I also felt like it was time for a new adventure. And at the time, I realized that I had had this long held dream to pursue a PhD. And in fact, a couple of weeks ago, I found the journal entry I wrote in 2004. That actually said, One day I will get my PhD in organizational behavior. And so I believe in writing things down, they somehow stick with us and helped guide our paths to some degree. But that was it. So I applied to several PhD programs. And I was called for an interview here at Case Western and it felt like falling in love. I don’t quite know how to describe it. Other than every conversation I had throughout the day of my interviews, felt sort of magical. And every person I met in the city, luckily, I went to a restaurant across the street from the Airbnb where I was staying. And I ended up closing the bar down with the owner, some of the staff and some people I met, we spent six hours and they were like helping me make a decision. So there were all of these little things that happened along the way and people kept meeting you were like, you need to do this. And so I went home, I helped sell the house that I had been living in for years, packed my bags, and I worked I moved across country and here I am.

Alyssa Patmos 4:38
I love stories of these moments, because I’ve had a few of them in my in my life, and they’re the most powerful pivots. And a lot of people shy away from pivots but I think they’re the most magical things on the planet when we can lean into them. And so for me, when I quit the Ph. D program, it was almost like the flip but that’s was the moment when I was like, What am I going to be when I grow up? And what am I going to do now, because I had been in a seven year relationship, and his parents were academics. And my parents were more on the business side of things like you know how those worlds sometimes get divided. And so they were a huge influence in my life. And I kept going to more school because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. And then eventually, it came to the point where I was like, Okay, this relationship is coming to an end of the cycle. And I think my time was school is coming to the end of the cycle. And I ended up in Austin shortly after I’m in Denver now. But I ended up in Austin shortly after on a work trip. And I’ve never been, and the similar experience to what you described, where it’s just like, everything was clicking in place, I fell in love with the city, like, I just wanted to be there. I flew back the next weekend, a whole story of events happened where a flight got redirected through there, and it wasn’t supposed to. And I got off the plane instead of going home and then signed a lease.

And then went home –

Stormy Sweitzer 6:07
Sounds like it was supposed to –

Alyssa Patmos 6:11
Told everybody I was moving and moved there two months later, and was there for five months. And then like similar story when I moved to Denver. And so these radical life changes we shy away from at times.

Stormy Sweitzer 6:24
Yeah. Yeah.

Alyssa Patmos 6:27
And yet, I, for people who have experienced this, they’re listening to us. And they’re like, Yes, I know exactly what that feels like. And for people who may be haven’t, I wish it for them. Because there is something so powerful about the moments when you feel so connected. And certain about a decision, even though there are like infinite infinite unknowns around that decision. And so I think this brings in wonder, and I’m entirely sure how, but I’m fairly certain it does. Yes. And I get this. So how do you think it does? Like how does wonder tie in to these types of moments?

Stormy Sweitzer 7:12
So wonder is one way to think about wonder is that it is something that sort of strikes us as novel and unusual, it can often surprise us. Okay, I think when you look at pop culture, we often think of wonder it’s like this positive, happy experience. But it’s not just that that’s like a childlike curious, like, Oh, that’s cool, beautiful, whatever it may be, right. That’s definitely a part of it. But, but I think it can also be surprising. Startling, isn’t positive or negative until we judge it. Okay. And so this is like it when you think about meditation and mindfulness, you know, people say, Oh, thoughts will come into your head, just let them pass. They’re not good or bad. They’re just there. You know, we just are and and I think that’s a good way to think about wonder is that it it can give you, let’s say a cognitive jolt, like, oh, my gosh, what is this, this is different, unique, I’ve not experienced this before. Sometimes it can create sort of the physical experience where you might get chills, or goosebumps, something just strikes you as cool. This is this is different like this. And that was kind of my experience in Cleveland when I first came here to visit. But I think sometimes we have to, we don’t know how to listen, or pay attention to these moments. And we’re so caught up in the everyday the busyness, checking things like the things we pay attention to or not the novelties that pop up or feelings and experiences we have. Instead, we’re paying attention to the notifications that tell us somebody liked our Instagram post, or, you know, we have an email or a boss is trying to get ahold of us, right. We attend to the things that we feel are important, given what we’re doing in a given moment, right, versus paying attention to the things that are different from what we’re doing. I don’t know if that makes sense. But it’s easy to let those moments go by quickly and not even register them. Right.

Alyssa Patmos 9:29
Yeah, that that’s so powerful. We talked in a recent episode of this show with a friend of mine, Amber Ortega. And we talked about the power of intention and attention. And so I love what you said about writing things down because I used to be completely journal averse, like, I hated journaling. As a kid I would rip my diary pages out the next day and put them through a paper shredder that I had in my room. Like what eight year old has a paper shredder but in general So I hated it. And then I cultivated a new relationship with it as I’ve gotten older. And I have noticed the power of writing it down over and over again, like Jeff and I both talked about having a list for the type of person you want to attract. Because there’s so much power in having that intention written down, and then being able to release a piece of it, but also that serves as like a guidepost for where your attention goes, then because you’ve focused on on what you wanted there. And so I love what you’re saying about this, too, is is our attention where we have so much choice in where to put our attention. But we forget that because society’s like, oh, yeah, live by your calendar, just wait for the next notification to pop up work on this, then work on that go make dinner, like we don’t leave the time for those moments to happen. It’s borderline criminal and definitely sad. And, yeah, go ahead. And I’d love what you said about it. Yes, being novel and surprising, but also about it being startling, and, and not having the positive or negative judgment on it. I think generally wonder gets a good rep. Like we think of it as a positive thing. But I love the neutrality that you brought with it, because I think that gives us more freedom. The what ifs can come in, you know, and cause an anxious mind. But there’s something very different about I wonder, like, I wonder if, how can this go? Like, how can I make this an experiment? And then without the judgment? Like it just feels more peaceful?

Stormy Sweitzer 11:43
Yes, yes. And that’s possibility thinking. Right? It’s the what is HTTPS? And how codes and why not the questions that we ask and invite the future in, like, the Those to me are wondering type of questions. And I think that’s actually interesting. Because, you know, when people think about wonder, you can think about it as an act like I’m wondering about something, you can think about it as an experience, like, oh, I experience this moment of wonder, right? Or, as a sense, a sense of wonder, how do we sense wonder, and I think that goes back to this idea of attention. Like, do we have the ability to attend to things in a way that even evokes wonder, right, and once talked with a physicist, and he said, You know, sometimes the objects that you study, don’t want to be known. Right in the way that you hope to know them. And, and you have to develop a relationship with them. And they will reveal themselves to you over time. So if you don’t take the time to develop that relationship with the world around you, and attend to its beauty, or its possibility, and be open to it surprising you, it’s really, really difficult for you to ever get to know this, this otherness, this this possibility, this space that maybe doesn’t want to be known unless you’re willing to pay attention to it.

Alyssa Patmos 13:14
That is so powerful. So so what I’m hearing you say, because it’s something like this, I feel like needs to be said twice. So what I’m hearing you say is that in this conversation with the physicist, he’s like, some things in life don’t, don’t want to be known. And and as we go in, and we’re trying to explore them, it can be, it can we can butt up against it, though, you know, it has its version of the world and what it wants to be seen for. And then we have our agenda around, I need you to fit in this box, or I want I want you to be to be this thing, and that’s those don’t always match. And that’s not always the case. And so we can’t experience it outside of this filter that that we have on at times. And the entire time you were saying that I was thinking about the relationship with our fears. And I think our fears, I like this, I don’t think our fears always want to be known until until they trust that we’re going to have a relationship with them and not push them aside again. And so I feel like they don’t always come to the surface until we give them the safety of knowing, hey, I’m here and I’m going to pay attention to you.

Stormy Sweitzer 14:32
And I think that could be a safety precaution as well. Right. Right. If we get constantly shocked by our own fears, like we have mechanisms in us that shut things down for a reason, right? Yeah. And so until we’re ready. It’s really hard to address a lot of the things that are parts of our lives. But I think Wonder it’s one of those things that can kind of rattle us it can shake us up and You know, when we come into the world, we all have worldviews, right? We have a frame a way of looking at the world that’s deeply influenced by how we were raised and our education, the things that we gravitate to, and wonder can turn some of those things on their head. Right? It can make us question what we thought we knew and who we thought we were. And fear. If fear is the first emotion to come up, we might shut that experience down and pack it away, right? If instead we approach it with curiosity, and say, Oh, this is not something I’ve experienced before, or why am I feeling this way? If we’re inquisitive with our fear, and with the emotions that come up, and wonder why they’re there, right? It can lead to some really powerful things. And so I think Wonder is a really incredible experience, process. Sense, however you choose to see it. And I think it’s all of those things, that when we sort of ease into it, and allow ourselves to question and to consider and to take interest in the world around us, we can find answers to some really powerful things. And experience the beauty of that process, right? It’s not always about finding answers. Sometimes it’s simply being in relationship to the thing that prompted us to experience that moment of wonder to begin with.

Alyssa Patmos 16:29
Yeah, and getting to experience different, different emotions, like good and bad, like, right, higher highs, lower, lower emotions that teach us more about ourselves, and, and getting to, to experience more of the full spectrum of life, which is the thing that I’m after all the time. So what is it? I think it’s really easy for people to intellectualize wonder and go to the path of like, thinking about wonder. And I wonder if I think it’s relatively easy for people to understand the experience of wonder they I’m sure listening in that you can think of at least one time you’ve had an experience of wonder, when you say the sense of wonder, I feel like that one might be a little bit harder for people to understand. So what do you mean by sensing, wonder?

Stormy Sweitzer 17:25
So, sensing, like when we think about senses, right, we think about our taste, or touch or smell, and all of these things that we were taught early on, you know, you have five senses, maybe some people think there’s the six, right, sort of intuitive feel, I think of the sense of wonder, as a form of receptivity to things outside of us, right, and a receptivity to something that’s new and different. That requires a bit of openness. And I think, you know, you mentioned earlier this idea of intention and attention, you need to be intentional about where you pay attention. And, and often that means putting yourself in situations where you can get outside of your head, right, going for walks, being in nature, maybe not using headphones at all right, because you get caught up in the story or the music. And instead of like today, for example, I had a really intense phone call. I’m like, it’s sunny outside, I’m going to go for a walk, I took a path that I don’t normally take. And when I came out of the alleyway, there was a huge coyote standing about 10 feet away from me, I surprised it, it surprised me. I just kind of looked at each other for a minute. And it trotted off, and it would look back at me, and then would trot a little bit further and look back at me. Right and and in that moment, it was just me and this coyote looking at each other. And, you know, had I been listening to my headphones have been looking the other direction. I might not have stopped and just had this very interesting encounter with this creature. Right? Had I gone straight back to my work instead of going for a walk. And and taking that time to clear my head, I would not have seen this creature. And so I think we have to make space. And I know it’s very hard. I have not been outside been sick for the last couple of weeks. And so I have barely been outside the house in several weeks. And so this was like my first major walk. And and so I understand what it’s like to be caught up in, you know, the day to day and the work that we do and and not have that opportunity that can be seen as a privilege to actually take that time for ourselves. But even if it’s just five or 10 minutes to sit outside in the sun. I think it’s really really valuable for us as a practice because it allows us to tune in to to sense the things around us to experience the world in ways that we don’t always do, because we’re caught up in the next task rather than simply being open to what’s around us. And so I think we can cultivate that. I think there ways that we can learn how to be in relationship to our environments, and like, I’m not a meditator, I can’t sit still, I cannot close my eyes and sit like that has been the bane of my life. I keep trying, and it doesn’t work. And I actually ran across the idea of walking meditation tick, not Hans work. And I thought, you know, this is something I can do, because it means being in the world, moving in the world with intention, and opening up to the world around us, you sort of let things blur a bit. And you just take things in. And so to me, that’s, that’s the sensing it’s being open and willing to receive what the world around you has to offer.

Alyssa Patmos 21:11
Yes, and I think for, for those of us who go on walks, and I love walking meditations, like walking is my form of meditation. And then I’ve also done intentional ones with where I’m like listening to something guided, as I’m walking to, I’ve done both types. And another episode, there was a, there was a moment with Sophia, who she was talking about the power of walks to, and this like, moment of clear insight came to her on a walk. And, and it’s so powerful. And I think, I agree, it’s something that can be cultivated. And you mentioned earlier about, we’re not great listeners, which is true, like in conversation in general. But it’s especially true when it comes to listening to things that like we might not fully know what we’re listening to. And so I grew up religious, and then I left the church. And now I sort of adopt this framework of like, possibility, Marian, my mom used that word at once. And, and I love it, because I’m like, I don’t, I don’t actually need to know what I’m tuning into. But I do firmly believe that there is something else. Whether it’s collective energy, collective consciousness, whether it’s some higher being, although I’m less inclined to think that one, there’s, there’s something that we can tap into that is outside the filter of our conditioning. And when we can, like hear those moments, it feels so magical. And so what, what are some ways for you? I think, first off, in case we ever made the case for how powerful this is yet, I know that you have lived a very interesting life. And I’ve seen you in a chat before. And just like the stories that come out, I’m like, How does this happen? But like the answer is wonder The answer is like listening to these moments and going with it. So So what are some things? What are some experiences that you’ve had as a result of wonder?

Stormy Sweitzer 23:27
Oh, um, you know, I can tell you a few that have been very instrumental in my life. And which also makes the case for wonder not being necessarily super positive. I when I was eight years old, so I lived in a really magical place in northern Utah, conservative religious community. I was not a member of that community. But it was a very interesting place to grow up very safe. You know, we all played outside and in the sunshine, there were wild peacocks. Somebody had pet peacocks, and then they sort of went feral and they’d be out in the trees. And so they would wake us up each morning. I just had this weird QA. And so I grew up in sort of this strange place filled with, you know, fruit trees and wild peacocks and sunshine. And we all foraged for food, like there was wild asparagus that grew in the ditch that watered our neighbor’s garden. And so it was kind of magical in a sense, and one of my friends invited me to a slumber party for her birthday was probably eight years old. And I got up early, turned on the TV and there was this Sally Struthers program, talking about leprosy in what I think was Sri Lanka. It was an issue at the time this was in the 80s and I looked at this and you know, having grown up in This really magical place like we weren’t rich, but we had enough we never worried. And to see these people struggling with with extreme poverty and illness, it just didn’t compute. And it was, it was one of those moments for my my world, my perception of reality was completely challenged. It really started to get emotional even thinking about it. But there was, let’s say, a disruption in the way that I saw the world, it from being highly positive and helpful to Oh, not everybody has these experiences. I went home, I walked straight out of the party, walked home. Fortunately, my dad was one who, who was willing to have these kinds of conversations. And we spent a few hours talking about, you know, politics and the economy and things that he tried to make them accessible to my eight year old brain. And he been in the service and lived in Southeast Asia for a while. And so he was explaining his own experiences to me. So that was a moment that it planted a seed. I didn’t know what it was going to lead to. But I ended up having additional moments throughout my life where, for example, hearing a cousin talk about a friend of hers who joined the Peace Corps, and was doing some work in South America. I heard that and I thought, Oh, that’s interesting, that kind of relates to that experience that I had when I was eight. Right. And I don’t know if I did that consciously, or what, but there was that seed. And ultimately, I ended up joining the Peace Corps. I pursued a career in international economics to begin with. And, and I had just some really interesting experiences. I spent a year in Venezuela in high school. My grandmother had taken me on a trip to the former Soviet Union when I was 11. And I just was determined. I’m going to be a traveler. And, and she, oh, gosh, I’m gonna go all over the place here. I know, but –

Alyssa Patmos 27:10
It’s okay, that’s what this show is –

Stormy Sweitzer 27:13
Yeah, uh, my grandmother was removed from school when she was a kid, right? She’s from Mexico, and her father didn’t believe that. Girls necessarily needed education that you’re going to get married have kids, so why bother. And ultimately, she went back and got her education and became a school teacher when her own kids were in college. And so she could take her summer vacations and go travel. And she was extremely independent, extremely adventurous. And so I know, I got some of this from her. And she took me with her on one of those trips. And again, another Spark, right? Experiencing a world that was so different from my own was like, What is this? How can I experience more of this? Right, it was also homesickness fear and like, where’s my bed, I’m uncomfortable, this is not. So this whole blend of experiences. But anyway, all of those things combined led me to a career in international development. And I ended up doing some research in northern Russia, living in symbolism for a little while, and then taking that experience and enjoying the Peace Corps. And I lived in the Republic of Moldova, where I worked with nongovernmental organizations for a while. In the process, though, I, life circumstances brought me back to the States. And the experience that I think made wonder most salient to me, though, happened about 10 years ago, nine years ago. I had experienced, let’s say depression for several months, both of my dogs passed away in the space of a few months, I lost my father in law at the time. I had some family issues, I was navigating, and I had just shut down my business. And so I was dealing with, what do I do next? Who am I at the stage of my life, extreme grief. So all of these things came all at the same time, and I sort of lost connection with the world around me. And was just kind of getting by and I happened to be at a doctor’s appointment one day, and there was an article and an actress said, you know, every day I start my day with a run and going on this run livens me up, it brings me energy, it helps me clear my head. And I thought, you know, I used to run I gave it up when all this stuff happened. Maybe I should go for a run today. And so I got home laced up my shoes and went outside and it was it was cold. It was like still like in the winter, early spring when that Whether it’s if you stand in the shade, it’s ice cold, and you step into the sun, and it’s beautiful, was that kind of weather and I was running in the shade. And I was just about to turn home because it just did not feel good. When something inside of me said, and this is where the listening comes in, right, and said, Just keep going, just keep going. And I came around this corner out of the shade into the sunlight. I was on a hilltop and so I could see the mountains, I was in Utah, I could see the mountains to the west, I felt this golden hour sunlight 5pm. And as I’m running the blossoms on this tree, I was running by blew off the tree into a swirl around me and then stopped mid air. And I stopped in my tracks and all of the worry, all of the shit came out I’m sorry, like everything that had been plaguing me just like evaporated, right? It just stopped. And I was there completely in the moment. And it felt like it went on and on and on. I my body warmed up, I got goosebumps, I could feel that what felt like tendrils of liquid pulsing through my brain almost like an opening up. And you know, I’ve since studied a lot and wonder through this PhD program I’m in. And one of the things that happens with Ah is that our brain actually has to accommodate these these vast experiences are these things we encounter that are bigger than us that don’t make sense. And I could feel it, like I could feel it. It was so bizarre. And just like that the pedals fell to the ground. And I kept running. And you know, I ran like another three and a half, four miles that day. And by the time I got home, I had a framework for what I’d experienced. And I love to draw, I had a four by eight whiteboard at home. And I like ran through my door mapped out this process. And it’s the process I took to my PhD program. And they’re like, Oh, you drew a model, a theory. Like, oh, is that what that is?

Alyssa Patmos 32:19
Amazing.

Stormy Sweitzer 32:21
And so that happened years later, like I went to study women’s leadership, and I just off the cuff mentioned, by the way, I have this interest in this weird thing called wonder. And they’re like, well tell us more. And when I explained it like, well, that’s interesting. Why aren’t you studying? Okay, obviously, I meant to come here. Because if people are willing to let me study this crazy experience I had, there’s something to that I need to listen. And so yeah, so there are points along our lives, I think where we have things that sort of connect with the truest parts of ourselves, or that bring out parts of ourselves that we didn’t know, were there. And we listen for signals that point us to ourselves, so to speak, right? Things feel right, or we pay attention to them. And we can’t figure out why. And it’s probably because it’s tied to something that we experienced early on, and then forgot. Yeah. And it’s only in making sense of it in retrospect, but we realize, oh, that’s been there all along. And I just didn’t know to pay attention to it.

Alyssa Patmos 33:31
Yes. And and it’s that moment of figuring out, okay, are we going to pay attention to it? Do we have the space to bathe? And sometimes if we don’t, I think it’s really, I think we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Because it can feel like, oh my god, this moments gonna escape me. But I believe that if it’s truly meant to be there, like if we ignore it once it’s going to come back around, yeah, it’ll come back around in some way. I am amazed by this experience, I’m so happy that you shared it. What how incredible. And I think each of us has had something like that in our in our own way. And, and the trick is not doubting it. And doubt is, doubt is hard. It’s hard. It’s a hard thing to overcome when it comes to, to listening. And I talk pretty frequently about how I have OCD, which is very often like the doubting disease. And so for me, I have this like very intense belief in these moments of awe and these moments of wonder, and of listening to our intuition, and then also have this thing that like, loves to try and get me to doubt every single thing. And I think a lot of us have that to some degree. And so So when it comes to cultivating a sense of these things, one thing that I have learned there was a there was in National Geographic article a while ago that talked about all walks, and it talked about going out and recognizing just the different shades of green and the trees and recognizing the different color of reds and brick, and just being intentional, intentional, intentional about recognizing different things in our environment. And it talks about the impact of that for seniors on things like Alzheimer’s and dementia, which is incredible. And I think it goes back to what you said around stretching our brains to see new things in in ways that like we previously didn’t even understand to accommodate for. So what are some other ways that you have learned that we can cultivate this this sense in this this experience?

Stormy Sweitzer 35:46
Sure. You know, so travel comes to mind is a very obvious one. And it’s because we go to a place that’s quite different from what we’re used to. Especially if you’re going out of the country to a place where the culture is very different, right? Maybe they’re a night culture instead of morning culture, like you’re used to, or people eat things that are quite different. You know, when I was a kid, the toilet flushing in the opposite direction was like a fascination not so much these days. But, you know, it’s like, oh, wow, okay. There are parts of the world that are very different. But I don’t think we have to go far afield to find these things. And, you know, sometimes just going down a path that you typically take at a different time of day, and noticing the change in the sunlight. Right? Is it warmer at this time of day, or at this time of year than it is when I go you know, this other time of year, looking at the shadows, and how they fall when when it gets closer to dusk. Getting up and watching the sunrise and and seeing how it’s different every single day and wondering about the mood of the weather and why you know, today, it’s just all gray. Maybe it’s got a you know, its own issues, who knows. But But posing those questions to ourselves, they’re playful, they’re, they’re silly sometimes, but I think they can be useful. I have taught a class in the past with a local Audubon group, and I invite people to spend 10 to 15 minutes in the same place every day. They can choose different times of day, they can, you know, take a different perspective and say, you know, how, how is that bird looking at me or seeing me in this moment, right and wondering what, what they might look like, to this other creature, because we always see things from our own perspective. And so it takes a bit of a leap, to try and put yourself in this other space and this other way of thinking and seeing, but I don’t think it’s impossible. Even just noticing that the bird that you sometimes see comes at the same time every day, you know, does nature have its own schedule? Looking out to see that, oh, when I actually pay attention, there’s a rabbit that also lives in the yard, right? Those are all really fascinating things that may not seem big. But they start to tune us into our own local environment. And I think we become most immune to our local environment, because we’re in it all the time. Right? our homes, our office spaces, the people we interact with. I think even asking unusual questions if the people you work with or see regularly, because we know what people share with us. And often they don’t share with us unless we ask. And so you know, just becoming more curious about others, and asking different kinds of questions, not just about their work, but about, you know, what they see in the world. That’s fascinating right now. I think it can open up a very different kind of conversation. And so that’s, to me, that’s the cultivation. It’s like, how do you put yourself into a different perspective, or position to see something that feels usual, but to see it in an unusual way for you?

Alyssa Patmos 39:20
Right, which admittedly takes conscious effort. So it has to be something that we start being committed to –

Stormy Sweitzer 39:26
Correct.

Alyssa Patmos 39:27
The benefits of it, though, are huge. For me, I have an orchid that someone bought me for my birthday, and I’m very proud of keeping her alive. For people who listen to this show frequently. They know I named my plants. So her name is Olivia. And she’s gone through the entire process of losing all of her flowers and she’s she’s grown in entire new stem, and it has like eight that are about to bloom right now. And for me, I think experience I would classify this as a experiencing all, like I come out every morning, and I’m excited to see like the subtle things that have changed. And, and even like, just the size of the bud, I’m like this is way bigger this morning things that we wouldn’t normally notice unless we’re giving our attention to that. And, and it sounds so silly and simple, but the feeling that it gives me is is, I don’t know, it’s peaceful, it’s joyful. It just like feels, it’s something so outside of myself, and we’re so used to being inside of ourselves, that it it just is a different sense of peace. And I, I love it. I love it.

Stormy Sweitzer 40:36
Yeah. I think you mentioned anxiety earlier, and we didn’t go deep into it. But I honestly believe that anxiety and wonder are probably on two ends of the spectrum. And in some cases, because when we’re anxious, and we ruminate, and we get stuck in our heads, having something that jolts us out of that can be extremely helpful because it helps us shift perspective. And so I think, wonder, if we think about it as an open experience as a reconsideration of what we think is or how we think things are, it gives us the opportunity to even look at our thoughts differently and say, Oh, maybe it could be otherwise.

Alyssa Patmos 41:17
I completely agree for me anxiety, this brings back the conversation we were having about possibility and for me anxiety. It’s a false sense of possibility, because it wants you to go to all the constructs that you can currently think of for the future. What if, what if, what if, what if, but it’s all the things that you can think of usually based on fear? Yes. And it’s very constricting and very constraining. Whereas wonder, is true possibility. Wonder is, is an opening, at least it is to me, I’m curious feel goodness, me, it’s an opening. And it allows for the possibility of the answers that we couldn’t normally think of, on our own, it allows us to see things differently. And so there is like, if we can consciously make the commitment to tuning into wonder more cultivating that sense, I do think it can help with with anxiety at times, or at least helping us know that there’s something on the other side of it.

Stormy Sweitzer 42:16
Right. And I think those wonder walks are really helpful for that. You know, and I think we’re all guilty of it, I’ve had to make a decision recently, or consider the possibility of making a big decision in my life. And, you know, when the possibility for showed up in my life, it was like, Oh, this is interesting. I wasn’t looking for this, but it sounds really cool. And I would love to do it. And then the next day, I like went online, did all this homework, like, what’s the practical side of this decision? Right? And I’m like, Oh, heck no, I’m not going to do this. There’s no way this is too complex. It’s too much I can’t do it. And and we can talk ourselves out of things really easily. And a friend of mine, we’re both coaches and we we sometimes get together and say okay, let’s help you know, like, I need your help. And and it boiled down to I’m letting my brain make a decision for something that I really need my gut to tell me is the right decision. And by focusing too much on the logic and and what’s getting in the way, I’m not allowing myself to listen to myself, and what feels true or not. Yes, it might make sense to take this path however, do I really want to what else could this invite so so that listening in that openness and that wondering about what else could it be it doesn’t have to be just all these really scary things right? Or difficult things, it could also be all these really amazing things and it’s just difficult for me to see when I get in my logic mind and only focus on the practical aspects of how do I get through this for six months? Versus I know what once I get past that this could be really amazing.

Alyssa Patmos 44:07
Yeah, that happens when we’re starting new things like when I did from from copywriting and brand strategy into the story coaching business coaching and then into relationships. The starting over each time was like really like really I’m pivoting and and and there was so much fear to like keep pieces of the old but it was keeping the pieces of the old that kept getting me stuck and because it was the practical and I wasn’t allowing myself to see the upside on on the commitment to to a decision. And when Sophia was on the show, she she’s a researcher at Fordham, and she studies human flourishing. And we we talked about how she studied two groups of leaders and in one group of leaders, they they mostly focused on rational mind and making decisions from that place, but in the other group, but she called the mindful leaders, they were focusing on there were like five different ways of knowing. And there were five forms of processing that they were using. And we live in a society that encourages us to just go to the logic. And, and even those of us who are more on the alternate the woowoo side, like mysticism, whatnot, open to more of whatever. It can be so easy to snap to that side, and, and, and, and fall back into society’s view of like, No, this is the standard, like, if it’s not logical, why am I doing it? Instead of trusting these other like, very strong ways of knowing? Yeah, because our body will come back and communicate with us if we ignore it.

Stormy Sweitzer 45:48
Yeah. Uh huh.

Alyssa Patmos 45:50
Yes.

Stormy Sweitzer 45:53
In, in really angry ways sometimes, forceful ways maybe.

Alyssa Patmos 46:00
Yeah. And so I love for me, it’s I love making these things mentionable because the Practical Magic is what is what I love, like, how can we translate these things that are unknown, but like, make them accessible enough to our logical minds that we can adopt them into our lives more often? Because I feel like they’re so much of life opens up when we can do that. So I know you’re studying organizational behavior, right? Yes. So what are you looking at in terms of bringing wonder into organizations that are so driven by hierarchy and systems and rational priorities, like rational mind prioritization?

Stormy Sweitzer 46:47
Well, recently, so this is really interesting. And this speaks to possibility. As a leadership coach, I have had opportunity to work with people who are CEOs of small businesses, growing businesses, and I seem to attract people who have that sort of Wu orientation, right? They want to be stewards of the world and the earth, they believe in developing people, and they are willing to engage in imaginative visioning alternative processes in order to access what is most true for them as a leader, and to be able to best serve the people, the customers, the staff, the partners that they work with. And and so for me, I blend wander into my coaching practice, and help people really develop that that process for themselves, like tapping into vision for themselves and asking those questions and entertaining surprises as learning opportunities. But I honestly think and I have yet to fully embrace this, but I think this is where I’m headed with my research. To really look at the power of wonder within a collective because I think one of the things we don’t really think about is that wonder can be experienced with people, right? We often think about it, like, with regard to nature, or maybe a new idea. People experience wonder in childbirth, and maybe children experience it. I think adults, as with the mature wisdom that we have, are actually great with wonder because we can actually use it. Right? We can, we can cultivate our ability to sense it, we can engage in it and ask the big questions. And we can let it fuel where we go, right, and use it as part of the work that we do. Artists do it all the time, right? They, they try to evoke a sense of wonder in people. That’s what spectacle is all about. And so I think in groups, I think there is real possibility of evoking wonder, in the way people connect with each other. And, and seeing difference and being surprised by it. Right? So I think that’s a big part of it. But I think also in processes of innovation, right? You cannot be innovative and discover new things if you’re not open to new possibilities, if you’re not open to having your assumptions challenged, if you’re not open to asking questions that take you to places that don’t seem like the best place, but ultimately help you wind up exactly where you need to go. And so, I think in processes of innovation and creativity, and group work and how we relate to each other, I think Wonder plays an integral role. I even see it in the research I do and I studied digital. Okay. I studied the way that people interact with each other on social media for my dissertation, and the way that imagery evokes responses in people, right? We respond to visuals that that sort of jar, our imaginations, that what’s the word I’m thinking of here? Like, it’s quite possible that you’ll be scrolling through your your social media feed, and you’ll see an image of something that you didn’t think existed, or that you’ve never thought about in a particular way. And it’s one thing for people to describe it to you, but when you see it, it becomes real. And and it can prompt you to imagine, and that imaginative process, that playful process of putting yourself in the shoes of the person in the image, or sending that image to a friend and saying, Hey, let’s do this, or this could be us, right? That those kinds of practices are, I think, evidence of wonder, or somebody saw something. And it evoked this response in them that was unexpected. And they needed to share it with somebody. Okay, so it’s a relational process, we want to share these experiences, if they bring something positive to us.

Alyssa Patmos 51:26
Being obsessed with relationships in the way that I am, I love getting to think about things as relational processes, because we don’t exist in a silo. And we don’t understand ourselves in a silo, we understand ourselves by being in relationship to other things. And by seeing those differences. And so wonder becomes a huge portion of that to with what you said, it’s not always positive. It’s not always negative, it’s the neutral and it’s seeing the differences, and then allowing ourselves to sit with it, and then maybe making a judgement about it. But like that was before the judgment, I feel like holds so much power for how we’re able to shift our worlds. Yes, one of the things that’s important for me in my work is making it safe for people to explore their fears. Because it’s the things that run under the surface that end up influencing our relationships and controlling our lives. And so one, one thing that happened for me, and I’m an NLP trainer, and so I use a lot of visualizations, like we process things in images. So I love what you’re saying about seeing, you know, things on social media, and how that influences us. Like, in general, we process in, in images. And so for me, there was this one time that I was going through a visualization, someone else was leading me through it. And it was around the concept of love, which I think invokes wonder for people a lot of times. But it was around the process of love. And I was having to make a big decision. And I went back and I, this whole story played out, it was guided. And so I’m being asked to like, what images are coming up in this, this whole story came up around, I felt like I was in the crowd. And it felt like it was, I don’t know, their Royals were getting married in front of so people were up on the stairs, she had the bride was wearing this long gown, it had a super long train behind it. They were walking up the stairs, and they were just very happy and getting married. And there’s this crowd cheering for them. And I was in the crowd. And, and I couldn’t see myself and I didn’t know who was standing next to me. But I could feel I was holding their hand. And there was something around like in my body in that moment, watching them get married, I didn’t have any envy. I didn’t have any jealousy. I had this pure sense of happiness, because in this visualization, I knew, like what that true love felt like, yeah. And it was one of those moments sort of for you. It sounds like to me with the pedals flying around. Because in that moment, I felt something different in my body. I’m visualizing this whole thing. Obviously, this hasn’t happened to me, and but I’m visualizing it and I’m like, wait, like, this feels different. And I could feel it could feel what that felt like. And it hasn’t left me since. And so then when I’m a few months later, it might have only even been a few weeks later. I’m walking through the park, and Jeff my partner, we pass each other and we smile, but we both keep walking. Yeah. And I walk to Whole Foods. He continues on to the park. I walk back and he’s still in the park, and he has the courage to come up to me and ask if he can walk with me. And in those moments, those are the moments where we say yes. Or we say no, we choose to, like, go about our responsibilities or take the risk. And I said, Sure. Now granted, I was like, I don’t think I should walk back in the direction of the apartment. I’m temporarily staying in here. Like, do you want to talk in a park? I don’t know if you’re a creek. And so we ended up on this impromptu date talking in park and and while Ah, here we are later. But those two experiences tied together in the in the third one in between was I had written a list. After that visualization of knowing true love, I then went and wrote a list and I was like, what does it feel like? What do I want? Yeah, what do I expect? And then he appears, and I have the, I decided to say yes, and go Miss random Park adventure. And then, and then I plot the list a little bit later. And I’m like, wait, it all math just. Yep. And that, and that, for me has been like the most recent like big, big, big one, but the power of the planting the seed like you were talking about, and, and we can do it outside of ourselves. But sometimes when we can tap in and listen, there’s so much wisdom held within our body and the things that we can dream up, if only we give ourselves long enough to pay attention to them.

Stormy Sweitzer 56:22
Right. Or if we pay attention to those signs or those signals, right. And I know a lot of people say, Oh, that’s “woo-woo”, whatever. But the reality is, we are setting ourselves up for moments of recognition, right? When we are clear about what it is we want, when opportunities come up to move in that direction. They feel familiar, because we’ve already envisioned them. Okay. And that is one of the magical things about writing down your vision, and writing down what you want. I was very, very fortunate to have a 10th grade English teacher who asked us to write our own obituaries. And at the time, and I later learned that she got a lot of flack for this. But I found that to be one of the most magical experiences in my life. And I didn’t, the thing is, I didn’t remember it for almost 25 years, I wrote this, this, this thing, I put it somewhere in a journal. And then several years ago, I was invited into a leadership retreat. And we were asked to write a vision from the future write a letter from the future as if it had already happened. And I thought, I remember doing something like this many years ago. And I found this obituary, and lo and behold, most of the things like I said, I was going to live to be like 108, and die in a skiing accident on like Mount Fuji or something crazy. But in it, I had articulated that I wanted to be an author, and an entrepreneur and an inventor and like all of these crazy things. And I have done them all. By the time I found this thing. And I for whatever reason, I was sharing in that obituary, all of the things I dreamt for myself, and I was just playing a game, I was being imaginative and letting myself write whatever because she told us to. And it turns out that those were seeds of something or signs, maybe it’s something that was in me, that needed to be expressed. And so I express them. And so I truly believe that writing these things down, happens. And I had a very similar experience with my partner, right? I wrote a letter from the future, and said, these are the qualities of the person that I’m with. And I wasn’t dating anybody at the time, I wasn’t planning to I was like, I got work to do. And when it happens, it happens. And I showed up in an event. And here’s this person, and totally unlike anything I’d like I pictured in my mind. But exactly how I hoped they’d be if that makes sense. Yeah, and we’ve been together ever since. But it was that moment where I’m like, this is the person and and I was very assertive. “Let’s go for drinks like this week.” He’s like, “Who are you?” But, but it was that moment of recognition where I’m like this, this is the person I don’t know how I know that but but again, finding the list or the letter or the thoughts like oh, these are the qualities that I hoped for. And when I found the person that had those qualities, I recognized him because of it. Because I’ve taken the time to write down my thoughts

Alyssa Patmos 1:00:00
I love that, I haven’t heard it articulated like that before. And it, it’s, it’s gonna stick with me the setting ourselves up to be recognized and for the recognition. And I mean, that’s why athletes do it. That’s why athletes visualize it for my very practical people I know you’re out there. This is my athletes visualize their race beforehand, and one so that they can see the when they can see the success too. So that when it happens, they already know what it feels like in their body, and then your body is supporting you moving forward. And there’s a lot of research out there, like scientific research on on why athletes do this, but But what you’re saying is the exact same thing to me, where we’re putting it down on paper, or putting it on a vision board or writing a new story. One of the things I’ve done is have people write in their life story in a different way so that they can see a different version of themselves. And, and I love I just I love what you said about that sets us up for recognizing it. And it sets us up for for other people recognizing, recognizing the vision to and wanting to help us achieve it and take part in it. That’s so so so, so beautiful.

Stormy Sweitzer 1:01:09
Yeah, yeah. And it doesn’t always happened the way we expect. I’ll throw that caveat. Right? Or along the timeline we expect. But yet, not everything can happen all at once. i Yes. For somebody who believes like I sometimes want everything all at once right now. I know that’s not possible. Maybe it is in some multiverse, but like –

Alyssa Patmos 1:01:36
Yeah, the season, there –

Stormy Sweitzer 1:01:37
Yeah, we just have to like be patient sometimes.

Alyssa Patmos 1:01:41
Yes, the patience can be hard. I’m in a season of that right now. And it. It’s excruciating at times, but it’s okay. It’s okay. Well, I, I love this conversation and to, I want to leave people with something, I think relieving them with his brick recognition part and writing it down is one of the most powerful things we can leave them with. But if someone wanted to embrace wonder today, you’ve given a few different things that someone could do. But what what In summary, what if someone wanted to go out and embrace wonder, for a short period of time today? What’s something they could do?

Stormy Sweitzer 1:02:23
Go out today, spend five minutes in a part of the place where you live, wherever that may be down the street, you know, from your apartment, in your backyard, wherever you live. And just look around? Notice things spend five minutes, what have you not seen before? Right are just walked by and not noticed before? Is there a bird’s nest now that the leaves are gone? Is there something that’s tunneled into the ground? Right? Just pay attention? What are the things that that are there that maybe you hadn’t noticed before? And just start opening up to newness?

Alyssa Patmos 1:03:02
And what is something that people might expect from that? So if they’re like, Okay, I’m gonna go try this. And then like, start seeing new things like, Well, how many times do they have to do it or wear something that they might expect?

Stormy Sweitzer 1:03:17
Well, if you start to do this regularly, and maybe you start to do this with the people in your life, and you’d start noticing things about them that you hadn’t noticed before, you might begin to appreciate and develop a sense of gratitude for for who those people are, what that space contains, that you had taken for granted, or not seen before. And so I think it’s a real opportunity to see people in places in ways that we don’t always take the time to,

Alyssa Patmos 1:03:48
Oh, I love that it’s so convenient for us to see things the same way. Like we take in so much stimulus, we have two brains, otherwise it would be exhausted, we have to put things in boxes. But it’s such a gift from a relationship perspective, when we don’t require our partner to be the same person that they were yesterday. And the exercise that you just described. I feel like he’s really simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple way to start opening that up. And the connection that can ensue from that level of curiosity is just great. And intimacy and bookings. Beautiful. Stormy, thank you so so much for being here I am. I love this conversation. I’m so glad we got to talk about wonder two.

Stormy Sweitzer 1:04:36
Thank you for inviting me. It was really fun.

Alyssa Patmos 1:04:38
You’re so welcome.

And thank you for tuning in. And if you want to continue the conversation, come join me in the free community, Alyssapatmos.com/community where we have all sorts of discussions around topics like wonder and other things that need to be mentioned that we don’t talk about in every day. In everyday settings, so come join us. And I will see you for a next episode soon.

You’ve just finished listening to another episode of Make It Mentionable with me, your host, Alyssa Patmos. If you’re looking for more in between episodes, then sign up for The Peel. It’s my free newsletter that gives tips for how to navigate whatever life dishes and it’s also the place where I share the juiciest of stories. To check it out, head on over to Alyssapatmos.com/thepeel. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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