Stepping Away from Routine to Find Increased Awe

Many faiths and cultures observe the Sabbath, or Shabbat, a day of rest that is separated from the other days by intention and consciousness. Sabbath/ Shabbat can result in a heightened sense of awe and connectedness, which is aided by the act of stepping away from the norm. Far from a period of deprivation, Shabbat is meant to be joyous, relaxing and pleasurable. It can be a wonderful time to connect with family or self; nature, food, art or beauty.

This week we experienced a super blue blood moon lunar eclipse (pictured). Special cosmic events are certainly occasions that induce true awe. Sabbaths, or any conscious break, allow us to slow enough to let wonder in, even during weeks without a lunar eclipse. In reading about the holiday, I found this quote from Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a prominent Jewish philosopher and professor of Jewish mysticism.

As civilization advances, the sense of wonder almost necessarily declines … Mankind will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. – Rabbi Abraham Heschel

This is another beautiful quote from Rabbi Heschel, which comes by way of Rabbi Michael Lerner, Jewish activist and spiritual leader:

(Shabbat) is, Heschel once said to me, greeting the world not with the tools we have made but with the soul with which we are born; not like a hunter who seeks prey but like a lover to reciprocate love.

This quote speaks to me about the heightened sense of respectful communion with all beings and phenomena that can come from stilling our minds and bodies. It’s about co-existence, rather than dominance, which in turn prods the ability to appreciate beauty and wonder all around us.

But, why should we care about awe? In addition to providing pleasure, awe produces a host of spiritual, cultural and personal benefits, say the folks who study awe at the Greater Good Science Center. These range from personal discovery to increased altruism and improved health. And, even though religious traditions offer a pathway to awe, wonder and discovery can happen anytime, if we borrow from those traditions and create sabbaths, or time-outs (even mini ones), for ourselves.

Photo: Public Domain

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