10 Colleges With Impressive Meditation Spaces

Thanks to growing awareness of the mental and physical health risks associated with stressful situations, many colleges have started reaching out to its strained student body by opening up their own meditation rooms. But encouraging wellness through thought, prayer, breathing exercises, stretching, and other contemplative actions is nothing new to campuses across the country. Despite its religious origins, the art and spirit of meditation work just as effectively in atheists and agnostics, and one does not necessarily require a designated space to practice. Sometimes, a troubled mind, and this can come from any student studying in college – whether it be a nursing, health, counseling, medical coding and billing, psychology,etc. – requires little more than especially beautiful or environments to reset itself. The following list represents a mix of particularly notable meditation spaces at schools unaffiliated with any one denomination, some dedicated exclusively to thought and (when applicable) prayer, others boasting some notably unique or breathtaking settings that just might work for some enrollees.

  1. Sam Houston State University:

    In 1982, Old Main, a Sam Houston State University administrative building from 1889, caught fire and burned to the ground despite the grueling 17-hour effort to save it. But the ruins remain, dubbed the Old Main Pit, with steep stairs and lush greenery winding around what’s left of the scorched stone walls. Many Bearkats head here on graduation day to snap photos of themselves standing near the richly-textured brickwork or inside the famous (on campus) archway. When there aren’t any events going on or drunk freshmen making out in the grass, it provides a curious, quiet space to contemplate life, the universe, and why the Huntsville natives hate you so, so much.

  2. University of California at Berkeley:

    When students of faith requested campus space to practice and pray, the school responded by opening up the Tilden Room at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, previously set aside for conferences and lectures, as a temporary solution. And it works. Muslim enrollees in particular congregate here for Salah, but anyone holding a valid University of California at Berkeley ID is allowed to enter and meditate. The school will be establishing a permanent, interdenominational worship space at the Lower Sproul Plaza, but Tilden Meditation Space (as it’s currently called) still provides a wholly appropriate atmosphere. With its high windows and giant stained-glass window featuring stylized angels and a cool, calming color palette, students of all religious and non-religious backgrounds are definitely not complaining about its efficacy.

  3. Richland College:

    Richland College, part of the Dallas Community College District, provides a lovely outdoor meditative space gardened specifically as part of its Mind-Body Health Program. Near the campus lake, students, faculty, staff, and visitors seeking silent solitude walk a winding labyrinth constructed of gravel, stone, and shrubbery. Its design hails from the one found at Chartres Cathedral and takes an estimated 15 to 20 minutes to fully cycle around. As the school proudly points out, the concept of using labyrinthine structures as tools to induce a contemplative mental state dates back to ancient eras and left indelible marks on Buddhism, Christianity, and other faiths. Other schools, such as University of St. Thomas in Houston, have popularly found inspiration in the Chartres structure as well.

  4. Redlands College:

    Few colleges take their unofficial or official meditation spaces as seriously as this California school. It boasts one of the first dedicated rooms devoted entirely to meeting the growing demand for quiet places to think, pray, relax, and spiritually punch life’s little migraines in their smug little faces. Redlands College provides yoga mats, soft cushions, and kneeling benches in addition to the usual chairs, and the decor features flowing curtains, high ceilings, and a color scheme picked especially for maximum calming potential. Many professors even book entire courses in the meditation room and base their syllabi around challenging students to explore what the practice has to offer, no matter their religious inclinations. Whenever school is in session, locals and students alike can sign up to take free, guided classes in several different meditative disciplines and styles.

  5. Cornell University:

    Sometimes, the best meditative spaces aren’t explicitly designated for deep spiritual inquiry; they inherently possess relaxing qualities many will find absolutely perfect when they need to retreat and think. For outdoorsy types who seek peace and clarity through hiking, exploring, or the simple pleasure of sitting beneath a shady tree, chances are high they’ll find something to their liking in Cornell University’s 25-acre botanical garden, 150-acre arboretum, and/or 4,000 acres of “ecologically important sites.” Known as Cornell Plantations, these on- and off-campus features host over 5,000 different plant species and boast enough space for meditating alone or in a group without accidentally interrupting any other visitors. It serves as a strikingly gorgeous, natural reminder of the wonders our planet offers.

  6. University of Maryland at Baltimore County:

    Although located in the Women’s Center, University of Maryland at Baltimore County’s dedicated meditation/lactation room is open to any student wishing to relax or think in a safe, quiet space. It also holds regular yoga classes for those wanting to learn more about the discipline or preferring group meditative efforts. More independent types who still prefer some degree of guidance can visit the building’s small library to check out books or recordings to walk them through a contemplative session. Soft, warm lighting, cozy pillows and couches, and a red-and-brass aesthetic create an overarching atmosphere of love, peace, and security.

  7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

    Practitioners of all faiths and, of course, individuals who identify with no faith at all are welcome at the MIT Chapel. The undeniably original structure often plays host to interdenominational events, but more often than not provides a quiet, minimalist interior ideal for sinking into a book or thought. When the famous pipe organ isn’t filling the space, of course. MIT Chapel’s cylindrical shape lacks windows, as visitors are meant to turn their contemplations and inspirations more inward than they would if nature and sweaty or freezing undergrads phased in and out of their sight. Unless nature and sweaty or freezing undergrads are their personal Bodhi tree equivalents, in which case they’re kind of up Dawson’s Creek without a paddle.

  8. Normandale Community College:

    This Minnesota college experienced a splash of controversy when the designated meditation space adapted itself to meet the needs of Muslim students, to the point ACLU’s Minnesota chapter ended up launching an investigation. Islamophobia has yet to start blanketing the Japanese Gardens, however, so they remain a safer, less-than-incendiary option for visitors of all religious perspectives seeking peace of mind and prayer (if they pray). Co-operated by Normandale Community College and the Japanese Garden Committee, it features peaceful lakes, stone pathways, and painstakingly cultivated trees, grasses, flowers, and shrubs merged with artistic and architectural structures inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics. Because the scenery so seamlessly integrates the manmade with the natural, meditators easily focus on their interplay and the overarching philosophical questions it nurtures.

  9. Oberlin College:

    Because of its private school status, Oberlin College enjoys greater flexibility when it comes to addressing the diverse spiritual and religious requirements of its student body. And because it does not align itself with any denomination, the school famous for its social justice participation has done an excellent job of making sure everyone accesses the meditative and prayer spaces they need. Christian students have Fairchild Chapel. Jewish and Muslim students prepare food at the Kosher Halal Co-Op in Talcott Hall, which also opens up its weekly Shabbat dinners to anyone of any faith wishing to attend, as well as Shabbat services. Muslim students practice Salah in the dedicated Muslim Prayer Room in Wilder Hall, though during other hours anyone may enter and quietly read, pray, or meditate. Also in Wilder Hall is the Meditation Room, which – like many of the others listed here – serves an interdenominational (even nonreligious) community of anyone seeking their own personal happiness and peace.

  10. Yale University:

    The majestic Welch Hall provides housing to Yale University freshmen enrolled at Davenport College, but it also hosts the popular Breathing Space initiative. Visitors enter through Entryway C and find themselves in an interfaith room specifically meant to conduct creative and contemplative mental and emotional states. Each religion organization on campus is allowed an hour or an hour and a half of studying their preferred texts. Other activities include art and meditation classes, with plenty of open quiet time (laptops, cell phones, MP3 players, and the like are completely banned) available in between scheduled events.

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