From Dingy Basement to Refreshing Meditation and Prayer Space

Patricia Oprea

Let’s face it; basements really don’t seem like the place to find comfort, much less peace of mind. Yet the bottom floor of 15 Ruden Street is a bright, clean, and welcoming space; it’s hard to believe that one year ago it had a dirt-floor. With cushions, comfy chairs, and plants, it is truly an ideal spot to unwind.

Photo Provided by Patricia Oprea
Photo Provided by Patricia Oprea

This great result all began with a survey sent out to the University of New Haven student body last September. Students were interested in meditation classes, in having a quiet space to relax, and Muslim students desired an appropriate space to pray during the day. It’s now one year later, and the UNH Mediation and Spirituality Center had its official opening Monday Sept. 16.Faculty and students gathered together in the meditation room to hear remarks on how this vision came about, and what plans are in store for the space. Upon walking through the door of this center, guests were prompted to take my shoes off and put them in a wall cubby; the whole space is footwear free. One significant facilitator of this project, Kara Beth Neike, gave tours of the space, including the foot washing stations, the Muslim women’s prayer space, Muslim men’s’ prayer space, and the mediation room, where everyone had gathered.

Neike was vital to this project from the very beginning. Before coming to UNH, she worked at a religious organization, and while taking charge of this project, she and her colleagues went to Yale to get ideas for developing the center. To guarantee that prayer rooms aligned with meca, the rooms were designed with the assistance of Omer Bajwa, Yale University coordinator of Muslim life.

During the ceremony, representatives from the Halal Club (Jewish organization), Muslim Association, SPELL club, and the International Student association spoke of why this space is important to them, and shared blessings in heir native languages.

Vincent Cangiano, the instructor of the Mindfulness Mediation classes, encouraged people to drop in and see what his class is like. He teaches the guided mediation every Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. through December 12. Meditation is about “focusing to pay attention in the present moment,” which seems to be a vital skill to develop as college semesters become more hectic.

“If you build it, they will come,” said Marty O’Connor, the University Chaplin. While this is from the movie, Field of Dreams, such a saying couldn’t be more applicable in this situation. To gain entry to the center, stop by the Dean of Student’s office in Bartels room 203 for card access.