WATCH: Why Pray Outside?
It’s hard to deny the divine, unearthly feeling looking at the high ceilings and bright, colorful windows of churches like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. And as I ran my hands along the pillars of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or reverently walked along the ruins of Israel’s ancient synagogues, I felt a tie to the many generations who’ve worshipped before me, and who will worship well after I’m gone. Houses of worship are indeed homes — beautifully decorated places where people with the same traditions and values pray, experience joy and sadness, ask questions and receive answers, and grow in their faith.
But what if we were to break down these walls and step outside? Can we gain something even greater by worshipping under the heavens?
Worshipping outside is a familiar practice for Rabbi Katy Z. Allen of Ma’yan Tikvah. Not only does she lead a Jewish congregation that worships entirely in nature, but she makes outside prayer a regular practice for herself as an individual. And last week we were lucky enough to talk to her about why praying in nature is so important and how we, as novices, can learn how to do it.
“For me, being outside and praying have the two combinations together to deepen both my experience of the natural world and it also deepens my prayer experience,” said Allen.
During the course of our conversation, Allen described the benefits of praying outside. Not only does she feel a tie to Jewish tradition and Isaac meditating in the field when she prays, but she also has cultivated a deeper and stronger relationship with the Earth — a love that makes her want to protect it. Making nature her house of worship has instilled in her a connection with the traditions and values experienced by all creatures of creation.
“It’s because of love,” Allen explained. “That’s what I’ve finally come to understand. It’s about a relationship. It’s about a relationship I have with the Earth and the love that I feel for the Earth, for this creation, for this incredible, incredible planet that we live on.”
Most of us want to develop the same relationship Allen has with the Earth. We may care about the planet and want to protect the environment, but we may not have developed that feeling of deep love and respect for nature — the joy and love of being outdoors. Opening your heart in the practice of prayer outside can foster this kind of love. And the beauty of making the outdoors your house of worship is that nature opens its doors to all faiths and spiritual practices. Can you imagine if all people started viewing nature as their home? Can you imagine us sharing the same environmental values and traditions?
Check out the video and learn how you can deepen your relationship with the Earth by praying outside. Allen offers helpful tips for praying on cold, winter days, and noisy cities, as well as advice on how to get started.
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