Kubickas draw happiness, awareness from meditation

What do people need to do to become more aware and compassionate? Well, rolling out of bed and heading to the Main Gate Welcome Center for a meditation session would be a good start.

Wayman and Eryl Kubicka will be Week Five’s meditation leaders for the Mystic Heart Program. The meditations sessions are held from 7:15 to 8 a.m. weekdays in the Main Gate Welcome Center, and seminars are from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Hall of Missions.

The Mystic Heart Program is an initiative by the Department of Religion aimed at sharing meditation techniques from various world religions and wisdom traditions. The Kubickas will be drawing from Zen Buddhism in their instruction, and their seminar theme is “Happiness through Awareness.”

Meditation is seen in Zen Buddhism as the most important activity in developing oneself. It brings a practitioner to a state of what Wayman called “naked awareness” and happiness.

“The problem for human beings is that, in order to live, we need to develop a sense of self,” he said. “This is not wrong in itself; we need to do this as human beings. But in the end, human beings often end up enmeshed in the self to the extent of unhappiness, of total self-centeredness.”

Concentration is the central element of Zen meditation. It frees the practitioner from preoccupation with the self and raises his or her awareness of reality.

Bodhidharma, who founded Zen Buddhism in the sixth century, taught the Chinese that they didn’t need to use scriptures for their meditations, a common practice at the time.

“[Bodhidharma] said, ‘Don’t worry about words and letters and sutras; you just need to turn inward and find your true nature,’ ” Eryl said.

That true nature, she said, is “pre-installed” in every person, and it is fundamentally compassionate.

“This isn’t something you can achieve quickly or even easily,” Wayman said. “But any time you spend on it is worth doing.”

Wayman and Eryl met in Vietnam through the American Friends Service Committee, helping to build a rehabilitation center for war-injured civilians. They married in 1970 and they have practiced Zen for about 30 years with the Rochester Zen Center, where they are both senior instructors.

Although participants don’t have to be Buddhist to attend the meditations sessions or seminars, the Kubickas did say they are looking for a certain kind of person — the kind that has an inkling that meditation or prayer can change one’s way of relating to the world.