Growing up, the extent of my preoccupation with religion revolved around a few scattered memories: watching my grandmother wade into a swimming pool wearing a bright blue smock; tagging along to church after a Saturday night sleepover at a friend’s house; stealing a glance during prayer circle at Camp Good News, a Christian summer retreat I enrolled in so I could spend two weeks with my best friend.
Despite (or maybe because of) this ad hoc exposure, one of my favorite things to do is visiting places of worship, especially when traveling abroad. (Reading the central texts of each major religion has also been on my to-do list for ages, but that’s a bit more of an undertaking).
If buildings were therapists, religious structures would be the best kind. There’s something immediately restorative about the vaulted architecture that draws your gaze up and up. In those first few moments after I step into a church, it’s as if all the tiny pieces of myself that have been worn away over time come flying back to make me whole again.
My mom once commented that everyone feels equal in a spiritual space, differences seem smaller. No matter my mood before entering a temple, mosque, synagogue, church, fill-in-the-blank, I always leave in a better one. If ten minutes spent in one of these buildings can make people feel kinder, more patient, more forgiving, and more hopeful, regardless of their faith, that’s pretty powerful.
Next time you walk past a place of worship, don’t—duck in for a bit. Tilt your head back and let your eyes linger on the highest point of the ceiling. If there’s a service going on, sit and listen for a spell. If not, sit down anyway, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. It just might be the most well-spent part of your day.