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Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: Why We Should Make Time for Wonder

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” — Socrates

Dear Friend (a.k.a., you, the Sunday Paper reader),

How have you been? I’ve missed you over these past few weeks. Even though I spent August taking a spiritual break, I found myself missing our weekly connection.

I must confess, there were moments when I found myself wondering whether you missed me as well. But as I stepped back from work for the month (which was way harder than I anticipated), I found that I was better able to realize what I was seeking in my life. (Remember, I said that I wanted to make good on Rumi’s quote, “What you are seeking is seeking you.”)

Turns out, I was seeking less busyness. Less intense thinking. More calm. More connection. More wonder.

Wonder gets you out of your head. It feels less intense than thinking. It feels more stream of consciousness and more creative. It actually feels freeing and it allows one to connect more with oneself and others.

As I set out for Africa with my youngest son Christopher at the beginning of August, I decided that my month would be focused on that concept of wonder.

Wonder is what I felt as I drove across the vast, open Serengeti. I found myself wondering what it might be like to live there full time, either working in the conservation movement or working with the women I met who are trying to overcome deep poverty and build lives that their mothers could have never imagined.

I went to Rwanda and wondered how its people have overcome the brutality of genocide and now live in a constantly evolving state of acceptance and forgiveness. (On the last Saturday of every month, they even come together as one to clean their country – the president and the people, side by side. Imagine that.)

I watched multiple generations living and working together and wondered how we might do more of that here in America, as well as how we might honor the Matriarchs in our society as they do over there. They honor them for their strength, their wisdom and their vast life experiences.

I met young women in Rwanda who were studying to be leaders and who blew me away with their poise and their dreams. I watched other Rwandan women working with backhoes in the fields, planting potatoes and walking with heavy loads on their heads for miles to feed their families. I wondered about their lives and I wondered how long I could really survive living and working the way they did. (Not long, I concluded.)

I climbed into the mountains of the jungle and sat face to face with the silverback gorillas. I wondered about their lives as I watched the mothers nurse their babies, while their other kids played across the tops of the trees.

In my time in Africa, I wondered about all that I didn’t know (which is a lot). I wondered why it is that we (you, me, all of us) spend our time running around trying to amass followers, trying to stay relevant, and thinking that we have to comment on this or that. I wondered why we worry that we might disappear or become invisible to others and to ourselves if we don’t.

Over these past few weeks, I really found myself embarking on wonder and embracing the enormity of it. Unlike thinking, wonder doesn’t force you to come to a conclusion. It allows the mind to imagine, to create, to simply roam free, just like the majestic animals that I encountered in the vast Serengeti.

I know it can be hard to allow yourself the time and/or space to wonder. I also get that not everyone can travel to Africa. But, what I came to realize during my journey abroad and back home was that once I embraced the concept of wonder, I was able to see it everywhere.

It was in my garden. It was in my children’s faces. It was in my friend’s eyes as I shared with her what I had seen and what I had felt.

It was in me, too. Yes, like a child, I found myself marveling at my own life. I found myself marveling at nature, at the beauty of my kids, at the way I felt when I heard music. I even marveled at the way I reorganized my house, throwing stuff out and getting rid of clutter that didn’t serve me anymore.

When I was in Africa, I watched the Academy Award-winning film “Out of Africa.” I wanted my son to see it, as the film had made a huge impact on me when it first came out so many years ago. I remembered feeling a deep connection to the woman played by Meryl Streep, who left her rather uptight upbringing to live more freely on a farm in Africa.

Watching it again, I found myself really struck by a line at the beginning of the film. It’s when Meryl’s character recounts the gift that the love of her life gave to her. He gave her, she said, the gift of seeing “the world through God’s eyes.” That line rocked me.

My short trip to Africa allowed me to see the world anew through God’s eyes. Stepping back and away allowed me to step into life with a new sense of awe and wonder.

I write this to you with the hope that your summer also afforded you moments of wonder and awe. If it did not, then perhaps you might ask yourself how you might incorporate those feelings into your life.

Here are a few tips from me:

Don’t worry your time away wondering about everything going on in the news. (Trust me, wondering whether our president did this or that, or who really wrote that op-ed, or whether the House will become Democratic in the fall, or whether the Catholic Church will right itself…it all just batters the mind. Instead, get calm, get clear and get centered. That’s where your truth lies. Use your voice from that space and place. And, for God’s sake, vote this fall. It’s a travesty not to.)

Unfollow people or publications online that inflame, irritate or agitate you. I did that in August and it truly helped me get clear and calm.

Instead, open your eyes and challenge yourself to see the world through God’s eyes. Look at yourself with compassion and kindness — use a loving voice, not a critical one. Look at that person sitting next to you in the coffee shop and wonder about their life. I’ll bet their dreams and their struggles are a lot like yours.

Look into the eyes of your child, your partner, or others that you love and wonder about their inner lives. Make an effort to get to know them and to connect with that part of them.

Embark on “walk and talks” with friends. Notice how they make you feel. (I’ll bet they make you feel connected.)

Join me and start hosting your own Sunday dinners. Gather those you love and invite over those whom you’re trying to get to know, or who you know could use some company. Sunday dinners broaden one’s sense of family. They create bonds. They can unite generations. They build community. They promote love, and yes, they inspire wonder. (Send me photos from your Sunday dinners and we’ll share them here in The Sunday Paper.)

I continued my Sunday dinners in August and I’m so glad that I did because, on one special evening, my cousin Christopher came over with his new girlfriend. We laughed, reminisced about our childhood growing up (which was insane), remarked how much we loved each other, and shared how grateful we were to have each other. We also spoke about how blessed we were that our kids were friends. I told him how proud I was of his work in the sobriety space and how many lives he had helped along the way. I’m so glad I had this dinner because just this week — when he was so looking forward to his life — Christopher suddenly had a massive heart attack and passed away. He was my age and his death has rocked me. He is my third close friend to die this year, and I wonder why.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of anxious time and energy over the years wondering why I am here and what it is that I’m supposed to really be doing. Am I supposed to be a journalist? Am I supposed to be an activist? Am I supposed to run for office? Am I supposed to cure Alzheimer’s? Am I? Am I? Am I?

I realize now, though, that perhaps it’s all much simpler than I ever imagined. Perhaps we are here to simply serve one another. Perhaps we are all here to see ourselves and the world through God’s eyes. To look out and see the world with compassion, with love and wonder, and then pass that gift onto others so that they, too, can see themselves through God’s eyes. What an awe-inspiring concept. What an act of love. What an act of service to give that to another human being.

Today, I hope you’ll imagine your life 10-15 years down the road. What will allow you to feel the way you want to feel? What will bring you relief? What will let you breathe in deeply and know that you lived your own meaningful life and that you allowed others to do the same? Imagine someone saying about you, “He/she helped me feel loved and see the world through God’s eyes.”

When you look back, I doubt you’ll count how many likes you received on social media. Instead, I bet you’ll recount all the people you touched, as well as those who touched you. I bet you’ll reflect on how you honored your dreams, and who stood by you along the way.

So today, go ahead and take a small step towards your truth and let me know what you think. Better yet, let me know what you feel.

I hope your August was wonder-filled and wonderful! Here’s to more days like that together ahead.


Dear God, please help me to see the world through your eyes. Please help me to appreciate myself and all that your majestic world has to offer, and to then share that love, that wisdom, and that beauty with others. Amen.

P.S. On another note, I want to extend a warm thank you to everyone who rode, walked and raised money this weekend as part of Team Maria and the Best Buddies Challenge at Hearst Castle. Your efforts will help provide jobs and friendships to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. To learn how you can get involved wherever you are, or to get your kids involved, please click here.

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The Architects of Change below will inspire you and make you think

Martha Beck Shows Us How to Release Control & Move Forward with Ease & Wonder

We all wonder what the future holds in this unpredictable thing called life. So in keeping with this week’s theme, our Sunday Paper Columnist Martha Beck reminds us to mindfully “plan the route as best you can, but always come back to what’s happening now.” 

Entrepreneur Lewis Howes Wonders with Me about the Meaning of Life

This past week, I was a featured guest on Architect of Change Lewis Howes’ podcast, “The School of Greatness.” My conversation with the former professional football player, now a successful author and entrepreneur, had us both wondering about humanity, self-growth and the meaning of life.

SP Editor Susan Pascal Explores Bullying & Wonders How We Can Add More Kindness to Our Culture

According to the Anti-Bullying Institute, “one in seven students in grades K – 12 are either a bully or have been a victim of bullying.” In this stirring essay, Sunday Paper Editor Susan Pascal relates her own bullying experiences in middle school and explores how we can all – children and adults – make positive change on this front in our society. 

SP Ambassador Lizette Brockland Shares Reflects on Her New Life as an Empty Nester

That monumental occasion when your last child leaves home can leave you with a mixed bag of emotions. In this poignant piece penned by Sunday Paper Ambassador Lizette Brockland, she offers her own heartfelt experience. 

On National Grandparents Day, Author Jane Isay Reflects on the Joy and Challenges of Modern-Day Grandparenting

The inclusion of grandparents in our lives adds a profound dimension of love and support to the familial experience. In honor of National Grandparents Day today, we are sharing this insightful excerpt from author Jane Isay‘s book, “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today. 

This Week, We Shine a Light On… The Child-Mind Institute

Architect of Change of the Week: The Child Mind Institute and its founding president, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz.

How They’re Moving Humanity Forward: Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17.1 million have or have had a mental health disorder — more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. The Child Mind Institute gives these children access to the best, most effective treatments when and where they need it most.


1. Starbucks Opens New Store Run Entirely by Staffers Ages 55 and OlderWorking in conjunction with the National Institute for the Elderly, the coffee giant Starbucks is now spearheading a program of labor inclusion. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE

2. Why Fathers Need To Speak Out More About Mental Health: This is an informative piece sent to me by my daughter & Sunday Paper Associate Editor Christina Schwarzenegger. It reveals why it’s so important for men to be open about mental health issues, as “they are determining the collective lessons for the future, for their children, for their sons.”

3. New Book by Bob Woodward Exposes Turmoil in Trump Presidency: Troubling details are revealed in Bob Woodward’s latest book, “Fear: Trump In the White House,” which is said to paint a turbulent portrait of the Trump presidency. The book by the legendary journalist is based on hours of in-depth interviews with administration officials. 

4. New York Times Publishes Revealing Op-Ed From Senior White House Official: On the heels of Bob Woodward’s book announcement, the New York Times published an explosive op-ed written by an anonymous senior official who declared that there is active resistance within the administration.  The White House slammed the op-ed, as did first Lady Melania Trump, who called it “cowardly.”

5. How to Raise Optimistic Kids During These Pessimistic Times: Many of us may find it tough these days to imbue our kids with a sense of optimism, which is why I love this piece by Dell’Antonia, author of “How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.” 

6. ‘Cosby’ Actor Speaks About the ‘Dignity of Work’ After Being Shamed for Working at Trader Joes: I’ve always believed in the dignity of a strong work ethic, regardless of the job. Former “Cosby” star Geoffrey Owens, who was recently photographed bagging groceries at a Trader Joe’s, offered a positive response this week to job-shamers. WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW


“On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old” by Parker Palmer: I read this book over August and just adored it. It’s an easy read and is filled with profound insights. We shared an excerpt from this book in July, which many of you enjoyed. I encourage you to read the full book now.

“Maverick and Me” Board Book Edition by Katherine Schwarzenegger: As a proud mom, I’m excited to announce that my daughter Katherine’s children’s book “Maverick and Me” was released this week in a board book edition. It makes the perfect gift for any child (and animal lover) in your life. I love this book, I love its message and, of course, I love her. Get it on  and


This weekend, people of all ages, races, faiths and backgrounds have gathered together in remote Utah to marvel at the world’s largest living organism, Pando. It’s a remarkable symbol of unity and the pilgrimage is led by my dear friend the Rev. Ed Bacon. I was supposed to be there with them on this journey, but after my cousin’s sudden death I had to stay close to home. I so believe in what the Pando Pilgrimage is doing, though, which is why I wanted to share it with you this morning. Watch. Rev. Bacon’s special video message for you above, and


For this week’s reflection, I thought I would share a poem I wrote based on my own musings about the meaning of “wonder” and how it affects us all. Enjoy.


Good for You, Your Mind & the World

Visit the shop on to get Maria’s book “I’ve Been Thinking,” her coloring book for Alzheimer’s “Color Your Mind,” the Maria candle, Rivet Revolution bracelets benefiting The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, her new Maria BrainHQ program, and more!


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The Sunday Paper elevates the voices and ideas of those who are seeking to make a difference and move humanity forward. To that end, we proudly support the work of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, which is making a difference by fighting Alzheimer’s and working to change the future for all minds.