Neuroscience of Awe

Did you know that when you experience the emotion of awe that your default mode network quiets? What is the default mode network? The running theory is that the DMN is linked to our sense of self, and when our sense of self quiets we turn our focus toward social collectives and more altruistic goals.

According to psychology professor Dacher Keltner, research tells us that “awe experienced through nature, contemplation, mindfulness, and even psychedelics reduces activation in the default mode network, meaning that the sense of self starts to be diminished.”

Why does that matter? It seems that when this ‘ego’ network gets quieter in the brain, pro-social attitudes are increased. People become more cooperative, group minded and kind.

What’s even cooler is that inspiring acts of kindness that are witnessed by other humans is one of the most reliable forms of invoking awe in others! So far this may be my favorite type of feedback loop I’ve come across in learning about the brain and nervous system. Kindness feeds awe, which feeds more kindness.

I am super excited to be exploring this topic next weekend with Marjorie Woollacott, a faculty member of the University of Oregon’s Institute of Neuroscience and long-time meditator!

What are some things that inspire the feeling of awe in you? For me, long walks through a quiet forest, taking in the warmth of the sun, noticing the beauty of the mountains, or watching humans be kind to each other are all reliable ways to access it. I’d love to hear about yours!

About Marjorie:
Marjorie Hines Woollacott, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience and Human Physiology at the University of Oregon and has been a meditator for almost four decades. She also has a Masters degree in Asian Studies. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation; it includes research in neuroscience as well as testing the efficacy of alternative forms of therapy such as tai chi and meditation for improving both attention and balance in adults. She has co-authored a popular textbook for health professionals and has written more than 180 peer-reviewed research articles, several of which were on meditation, the topic that motivated her to write her latest book, Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind. She has been the keynote speaker at conferences in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia, and has taught courses not only in neuroscience and rehabilitation medicine but also in meditation, hatha yoga, and alternative and complementary medicine.


Workshop Details

Dates: September 24 & 25 2022


Saturday: 10 am to 1 pm live on zoom (mountain time zome)

Sunday: 2 pm to 5pm (mountain)

Self Study Content: 6 hours self paced video, audio and other self study & practice guides are unlocked upon registration for each module.

Platform: zoom

Phone: 403-701-9567 (text messages are welcome)

Investment: Sliding scale fee $99 – $333*

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*Workshops during the pandemic are being offered at a sliding scale fee. Please feel free to pay what you can afford.


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