Meditation center to incorporate spiritual elements

Cooper Munroe, Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh: The Woodlands Foundation broke ground Monday on a 2,000-square-foot meditation center in which architect Tasso Katselas incorporated what he sees as important elements of spirituality: earth, water, fire and sky.

The circular center will have an outdoor plaza, a reflecting pool, a fireplace visible from inside and outside, and a sloped ceiling filled with skylights.

“My hope is that this space stimulates daydreaming, pondering, love, hope and spirit,” Katselas said of the center for the Woodlands, a year-round recreational facility for children and adults who have disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Katselas, who designed Pittsburgh International Airport, is a member of the Woodlands Foundation board and donated his services to the foundation…

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The $600,000 project on Shenot Road in Bradford Woods is expected to be completed in six months.

“When you are really trying to reach inner consciousness, it makes great sense to go to the basics,” the architect said.

The interior and exterior walls will be wood and masonry, and Katselas said the wooden ceiling beams could bring to mind the bones in the hand or the branches of a tree.

On the floor, he has designed a labyrinth of colored concrete.

“A labyrinth is an ancient practice of following a pathway for meditative purposes, and this path will be wide enough for a wheelchair to traverse,” he said.

Peter Clakeley, Woodlands’ president and executive director, said he has seen time and time again how important spirituality is to the people the Woodlands serves.

“So many children and adults with disabilities spend a fair amount of time in isolation. Building this spiritual space will truly enhance the quality of lives,” he said.

“Inner strength is what keeps us going and what makes life important. Whatever brings strength to individuals who are faced with these challenges in their lives is so vital to everything we do here.”

His opinion is supported by numerous clinical studies in recent years, which have concluded that faith and spiritual beliefs have positive effects on those with serious health problems.

“There is abundant medical literature on the fact that those with a strong spiritual commitment have strong abilities to cope and heal from a medical crisis,” said Dr. Donald H. Reigel, chairman of the foundation board.

According to Reigel, five major areas of exposure are critical to the well-being and development of all people and are especially important to those with chronic illness or disability. They are socialization, sports and recreation, culture, nature and spirituality.

With the completion of the center, Woodlands will be able to offer all five.

“It is pretty clear to all of us who have worked here over the past 25 years that strong, positive thoughts and actions come from strong, centered interiors,” Reigel said.

Beth Snyder, director of marketing for the Woodlands, expects the meditation center will be available to outside groups and the community for “major life ceremonies” and other events.

About $480,000 of the money needed for construction has been raised.

The Massaro Co., the contractor for the project, has started to bring in equipment, Katselas said.

“I think this is going to work,” he said. “I just can’t wait to see how it is used because that is the ultimate judge.”

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