The Rich Mountain Meditation Room located on the third floor of the Plemmons Student Union has been recently remodeled to get rid of the meeting room style environment and instead create a more hospitable place for those wishing to break away from a busy schedule to practice any form of religion, meditation or spirituality.
The meditation room, which promotes the well-being of faculty, staff and students, is one of the few quiet places on campus. The room is open to individuals or even small groups. It has a capacity of holding about 10 to 12 individuals, said Dr. Elaine Gray, president of Still Point and first-year seminar instructor.
“I believe students need a place that is still and quiet so they can be with themselves or with their spirituality,” Gray said. “As an institution we have to create an intentionally-designed hospitable place where reflection and introspection can occur. My students have told me the loudness in dorms and the stress of their academic life really begs for a space of repose and reflection.”
Still Point is an organization made up of faculty and staff that was recently recognized as official by the university. They meet three times per semester and have about 12-15 active members, although participants vary depending on personal circumstances.
The organization supports and facilitates contemplative pedagogy and inquiry. Contemplative pedagogy is a first person approach to teaching methods designed to create deepened awareness, concentration and insight, according to stillpoint.appstate.edu.
Still Point collaborated with the Student Meditation Club to redesign the room, which now has hardwood floors, softer lighting, stackable chairs, newly painted walls and meditation cushions stored in cabinets.
Stephen Hardee, sophomore finance and banking major, said he first started using the mediation room halfway through last semester for about an hour once a week. He also used the room to hold his fraternity’s weekly Bible study.
“I love the fact that it does not discriminate against any religion, rather it is open for everyone to practice however they please,” Hardee said. “Truly the only problem I had with the room was size. As our weekly Bible study began to grow, we had to look elsewhere to accommodate our numbers.”
Without the six desks that were in the room before the renovation, there is now room for movement for those performing expressive arts such as yoga, breathing work, deep listening exercises, mindfulness meditation and reflective journaling, according to stillpoint.appstate.edu.
The renovation process was headed by Jenny Koehn, associate director of student programs, and was fully funded by the Plemmons Student Union. Ginger Bryant, administrative support specialist of student programs, said she chose paint color, flooring, decorations, accessories and gave input on policy information.
In order to make renovations, they had to follow campus regulations and make the room inclusive and considerate of various religious and spiritual practices.
Bryant said after the renovation they put a message box inside the room for people to leave notes on how they use the room and if they have any suggestions.
“So far we have received notes thanking us for the renovations and the existence of the room,” Bryant said. “Also information that the room is being used for daily meditation, personal yoga practice, Islamic and Christian prayer and more.”
Gray said one of the reasons Koehn was so supportive of the changes was because they were changes that needed to be made anyway and were possible to make.
“Everything I asked she said ‘yes,’” Gray said. “I was thrilled. I was amazed that she was able to accommodate what we asked and more. She went above and beyond our vision and made it even better.”
Currently, the system works on a daily sign-up basis located just outside of the room. The room remains unlocked and available for prayer and meditation only during weekdays from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and may remain open for longer if the room is not reserved for other use, according to studentunion.appstate.edu.
Eventually the organization would like to see an app developed that allows people on campus to book the room from their phone. As the demand increases, Still Point would ideally like to see other mediation rooms be set up at the library and in all the dorms.
“Quiet hospitable spaces are really hard to find on campus,” Gray said. “Some of my freshman say they sit in the stairwell to get some peace because the dorms are so noisy. Even the third floor of the library can be noisy because all you hear is the clicking of keyboards on computers.”
Story by: Chamian Cruz, News reporter