“The center is an area where individuals can feel like they are connected to something greater than ourselves,” said Shelley Neilson Photo credit: Gabrielle Nadeau

Algonquin College students and staff gathered virtually on March 8 to close their eyes and breathe deeply, meditating in what Aayushi Agarwal, host of the event referred to as a “spiritual cleansing.”

The meditation sessions occur twice weekly—Mondays at 3:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m.— and are one of the many events hosted by the spiritual centre.

Although gatherings and events are prohibited in person at this time, the centre is doing everything they can to offer these services remotely.

The centre is a place to connect. A place where all students and staff, regardless of spiritual background are welcome to connect with their spiritual being.

“The centre unifies people of different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, languages, and different beliefs and allows us to have an opportunity to connect to who we are as spiritual beings,” said Yuriy Derkach, spiritual counsellor at Algonquin College.

At a time where a global pandemic has affected the lives of students and faculty, with the Black Lives Matter movement and other movements in the works, they’ve left people asking big questions about our communities.

Although it isn’t open for in-person visits, the spiritual centre’s staff aims to create a place of serenity for students.

“We aim to be that place where you can find people, beliefs or just things that you can connect with,” said Shelley Neilson, coordinator of the spiritual centre.

Through the many events hosted by the centre, Algonquin College aims to help students to slow down and connect with their spirituality.

“It’s quite beautiful to see that even though we live in these unprecedented times, we are realizing now more than ever that we each have spiritual needs,” said Derkach. “We were challenged to stop, to slow down, and to realize ‘What is my purpose? What is my meaning?’”

In challenging these thoughts, the spiritual centre welcomes students who seek guidance through heartfulness meditation, lunch time yoga, cleansings, bible study groups and more.

“We offer various programs, events, and activities that allow students to take part in and explore spirituality,” said Neilson.

With hopes of guiding students to connect with the spiritual being inside oneself, Algonquin has opened its doors to anyone, being the first of its kind to assure equal resources are provided to all students.

“Algonquin was the first centre of its kind in the Ottawa capital region to open to all spiritualities,” said Derkach. “We work with larger communities in Ottawa, and depending on your faith background, we can help you to connect to all of the resources available in our community.”

The centre is also space for students and staff to pray, meditate, read or sit in silence. It is a space for students to de-stress and to connect to their inner-self.

Spiritual counselling is also offered through the centre, it is a form of counselling that allows individuals to explore one’s spiritual being, solidify spiritual beliefs or bring spiritual perspective upon a conflict.

“It’s a physical space where students can come and explore different types of spirituality, and receive spiritual support, however they may perceive it,” said Neilson.

“People perceive spirituality in many different ways. For some it can be a religious thing, while for others it may not be,” she said.

The centre hosts weekly online events, workshops, yoga and meditation sessions which can be found through the online schedule.

The spiritual centre is located in E-building on the second floor (E211). It is accessible to all students and staff Monday to Thursday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. following COVID-19 protocol.