By SERENA L. KROMBACH | Sideways School

The communities we create are one of the most awe-inspiring parts of our lives. Host Dacher Keltner guides us in a meditation on awe and togetherness in this week’s Happiness Break.

How to Do This Practice:

1. Find a comfortable, safe, place where you can close your eyes and relax. Notice your breathing and begin to take deep, intentional breaths.

2. Think about a community you are a part of – work, recreation, spiritual, any group you’re a part of. Cultivate a sense in your mind of being with that community.

3. Reflect for a few minutes on the faces of the people in this community; bring them into your mind’s eye and notice the details of their eyes, smiles, perhaps even their tones of voice or the sounds of their laughter.

4. Think about this remarkable quality of communities: That all of these separate individuals create one hole.

5. Think about how each person contributes to this community to create that whole.

6. Contemplate how everyone in this community is connected, and how they’re mutually influencing each other.

7. Think about what value unites all these people share, what they have in common.

8. Imagine yourself within this network of connected individuals. Cultivate a sense of what connects you with them, think of them as threads of mutual influence. It doesn’t all have to be good; tension is a part of being a community, too.

Today’s Happiness Break host:

Dacher Keltner is the host of the Greater Good Science Center’s award-winning podcast, The Science of Happiness and is a co-instructor of the GGSC’s popular online course of the same name. He’s also the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

His new book is Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.

More resources from The Greater Good Science Center:

Why Do We Feel Awe?

How Awe Brings People Together:

Eight Reasons Why Awe Makes Your Life Better:

Six Ways to Incorporate Awe Into Your Daily Life:

How Music Bonds Us Together:

Can a Sense of Awe Improve Our Arguments?

We love hearing from you! Tell us about your experience contemplating your communities. Email us at or use the hashtag #happinesspod.

Find us on Apple Podcasts:

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We’re living through a mental health crisis. Between the stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout — we all could use a break to feel better. That’s where Happiness Break comes in. In each biweekly podcast episode, instructors guide you through research-backed practices and meditations that you can do in real-time. These relaxing and uplifting practices have been shown in a lab to help you cultivate calm, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and more — what the latest science says will directly support your well-being. All in less than ten minutes. A little break in your day.


Dacher Keltner I’m Dacher Keltner. Welcome to Happiness Break, a series where we take a short break in your day to try a practice that brings greater calm and resilience and kindness. Today we’re gonna do a practice called the awe of community, that has of course, many benefits, not only from cultivating awe, which can benefit your immune system, your reasoning, your sense of social relationships, but also it really brings in a focus, our sense of being supported and connected, which of course adds 10 years to your life expectancy, shifts your nervous system and brings about all manner of happiness benefits.

It calms the threat regions of the brain. It actually can make us a little bit more altruistic and more civil in our daily interactions.

Let’s now do the practice, The Awe of Community. Find a nice, comfortable, safe place where you can sit or stand in, in a relaxed position with a nice posture. Close your eyes, rest your hands somewhere at ease, maybe on your knees. Just take a nice deep breath in.

And breathing out, following the air through your nose and your throat. Another nice deep breath in expanding your rib cage and your chest. And breathing out.

On this next breath in, just feel relaxation. Settle in, in your face, in your shoulders, in your hands. And that relaxation, as you breathe out. Move to your legs, your feet.

On this breath in, I would like you to think about a community you are part of, a small work community, a recreational community, a spiritual community, a yoga group, whatever it is, some group of people you’re a part of. Get a sense in your mind of being with that community—at work, out at play, in a class.

Now, I’d like you to reflect for a minute or two just about the faces of the different people in this community. Their eyes, their smiles. Maybe you’ll hear their tone of voice, their laughs. We’re bringing into awareness just the images of these people who are part of your community.

Now I want you to just think about this remarkable quality of communities that these separate individuals so different in many ways are really a whole.

Breathing in, imagine how in their own way, each person is contributing to this sense of whole, this sense of community. Some may contribute quietly, others more vocally. Everybody contributes to this community.

Now, as you’re enriching this image of your community, think about how everybody is connected. We know this scientifically. We literally are connected in our physiology and our minds, our thoughts, our feelings, contagiously spreading through community. Develop a sense of how members of this community are connected and mutually influencing each other.

Now focus your attention as we breathe in on the fact that as part of a community, the individual shares something in common with others, right? There’s something about their values or purpose or desires that brings them together. It may be to relax, to reduce suffering, to do some kind of work. Just get a sense of the common humanity of the individuals within this community.

And then finally really having developed this very rich image of community. Just imagine yourself within this network of individuals connected. And get a sense of what threads you share with these other people, how you’re connected to them.

Just feel those threads, what you overlap in interests with others. How you influence them and they influence you. Just get a sense of this interconnectivity. Not always good, can be tense, but that’s part of being a community. We are connected.

It is remarkable as we close out to think about all the ways in which you’re interconnected with others: at work, in family, in communities, like a political community or a spiritual community, walking the streets, going to a yoga class, you’re connected.

The Western mind often encourages us, exhorts us to think that we are separate and different from others. But in point of fact, I think the deeper truth is that we are always mutually influencing one another, and there are all these opportunities to recognize these senses of community that we’re part of as we move through our day. So good practice to remind ourselves that we are part of larger networks that make up our community.

Thanks for joining me. This is Dacker Keltner. This is a Happiness Break. Contemplating the awe of the community, contemplating the awe of community, and how many communities we are part of.


Happiness Break is produced by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and PRX. Thanks for practicing with us.