How Rabbi Heschel’s ‘Radical Astonishment’ is Teaching Me to Trust

Funny how these two go hand in hand.

Marilyn Flower
Mar 13 · 5 min read
Sea slugs have regenerative powers! Photo by Kris Mikael Krister on Unsplash

I want to explore the experience Rabbi Abraham Heschel calls radical astonishment. At the same time, I need to deepen my sense of trust — in both its human and spiritual dimensions.

Upon deeper reflection, which often and in this case did happen in the shower, I’m getting the connection between the two.

Experiences of radical astonishment — those moments that take my breath away connect me more powerfully to spirit. And that connection deepens my ability to trust.

I need lots of trust right now! Today! This minute!

My dear friend and long-time church treasurer is moving out of state — tomorrow! She’s committed to passing the baton to our new treasurer, who is patiently standing by to receive it.

The new treasurer is not bashful about letting me know she still hasn’t heard. So I am in prayer to expand my sense of trust that this will happen at the right and perfect time — today! May it be so!

And it’s a challenge!

Not to mention a great opportunity to amp up my prayers and my level of trust. I get to enhance my trust in people as well as Spirit.

My friend is reliable, just overwhelmingly busy tying up loose ends. She has one more live session at the office where she works, given she’ll now be working remotely. I know this morning she worked on getting the church books ready to hand over. But the clock is ticking, right?

From Nail-Biting to Spiritual Confidence

This is where radical astonishment comes in.

Rabbi Heschel coined the term. It refers to mystical moments, moments of transcendence and enhanced meaning, moments where we experience the world in its grandeur…full of spiritual radiance.

For Heschel, to be in awe is the beginning of spiritual wisdom. Our very beingness is awe-inspiring. In God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, he wrote, the immense preciousness of not an object of analysis but a cause of wonder.

The immense preciousness of being!

How often do we, do I stop and remind myself that my very being is precious? That life in all its magnificent variety of forms is mind-boggling in its staggering beauty?

It’s mind-boggling and amazing how the trillions of cells in my body each have their own intelligence and photonic particles filling them with light. They each carry out their life-sustaining specialized function without me having to consciously make it happen!

Yet, I take it all for granted till something goes wrong and hurts. But part of the miraculousness of the system is the warning sign, local pain. So instead of swearing, I could be thanking, right?

Learning from Sea Slugs

Dr. Depok Chopra writes in his book, How to Know God, that if you take a sea slug and whirl it in a blender (please don’t!), and pour the goop into a bucket, the slug will reform and come back to life! Is that astonishing or what?

When I was in the shower mulling over this post, I remembered the sea slug story from Depok. But I did not remember the name of which of his many books the story was in.

But, right when I started that paragraph the name popped into my awareness! This is not an isolated incident with me. It happens all the time. Amazing. Thank you!

Is that proof that my God is an on-time God? Or do I need more?

The Astonishing Healing Power of Sound.

Whales hear each other’s songs 100 miles away.

Music instantly picks up my mood and calms my inner restlessness so I can focus on my writing. Medical people are finding all kinds of ways music heals the human body.

Chiropractic doctor June Leslie Wieder in southern California has figured out that each of our vertebrae vibrates at its own unique frequency, which she has calibrated. She’s created a set of tuning forks that replicate those sounds.

When clients come to her with spine issues, she takes out her tuning forks and sounds the ones that correspond to the client’s affected vertebrae. This helps them heal and re-align. Her book is called Song of the Spine.

The Amazing Story of How I Discovered Her

I’d been reading Terry McBride’s memoir covering how he healed himself from a life-threatening Eboli infection. This was a long process involving 27 surgeries, prayers, and Bible study. His book, The Hell I Can’t, tells his story with humor and grace.

In his book, he explains that Spirit responds to what’s in our minds. Whatever we believe it will take for us to heal, that’s what it will take. I took his statement as an invitation to co-create with Spirit.

So I decided I would like my kyphosis — curvature of the spine — to be cured via music and song — just that simple. When I Googled that, Song of the Spine popped right up!

I called Dr. Wieder to see if she ever comes to the bay area. She does. And she used to live in my neighborhood! I’m looking forward to my tune-up!

Right now, singing and playing music for my spine feels way more important than worrying about church bookkeeping. Especially when my friend’s schedule is not something I have control over anyway.

It’s astonishing. It’s astonishing how focused, how creative, how inventive, and how persistent our minds can be, right?

The only problem with worry is that it’s focused on an outcome I don’t want, and it tends to exaggerate it. What I call prayer in reverse.

All I need to do is flip it 180 degrees. Get it focusing on and imagining exactly what I do want to happen, and expanding on it — pictures to accompany the words of my prayers.

Now I’m relaxing and enjoying the image of these two conscientious souls settling in for a zoom call, sharing information and best-practices to enhance the experience of keeping our books, depositing our donations, and paying our bills.

I’m seeing exchanges full of harmony and cooperation as two amazing minds come together, sharing their expertise.

Yet another experience for me of radical astonishment. Namaste!

Enjoy this reading list of Mystical Poetry

Marilyn Flower writes political humor and satire to delight socially and spiritually conscious folks. She’s a regular columnist for the prison newsletter, Freedom Anywhere, where she writes about faith and prayer. Five of her short plays have been produced in San Francisco. Clowning and improvisation strengthen her resolve during these crazy times. Stay in touch!

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Marilyn Flower

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Writer, sacred fool, improviser, avid reader, writer, novel forthcoming, soul collage facilitator, prayer warrior and did I say writer?

Change Your Mind Change Your Life

Read short and uplifting articles here to help you shift your thought, so you can see real change in your life and health.

Marilyn Flower

Written by

Writer, sacred fool, improviser, avid reader, writer, novel forthcoming, soul collage facilitator, prayer warrior and did I say writer?

Change Your Mind Change Your Life

Read short and uplifting articles here to help you shift your thought, so you can see real change in your life and health.

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