‘Love yourself before loving others’ holds true in Vipassana teachings



“You could search the entire universe for a person more deserving of your love, and that person is not to be found.”

Though Buddha preached this more than 2,600 years ago, Paul Lukasik still believes the quote holds truth today.

“You, yourself, are the person who is most deserving of your love,” said Lukasik, who will return for his second year as a teacher-in-residence during Week One for the Mystic Heart Program, an initiative within the Department of Religion.

Founded by Subagh Singh Khalsa, the program offers Chautauquans exposure to meditation practices within a variety of world religions and traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Sikh Dharma and Sufism. Lukasik has practiced Vipassana, also known as mindfulness or insight meditation, for more than 25 years.

“Mindfulness is a wonderful technique that has a lot of therapeutic value,” Lukasik said. “[It] can lead to one of two potential benefits. One is this sense of calm, relaxation and concentration. And then the other is this sense of insight, or Vipassana, or wisdom that can arise from this type of practice.”

It’s a practice he said helped him get through the end of his undergraduate career at the University of Buffalo, where he earned a degree in occupational therapy. He went on to earn a graduate degree in counseling psychology and became a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. In his professional life, he uses mindfulness for therapeutic purposes, and with patients who experience chronic pain.

Mindfulness takes on a more spiritual role in his everyday life. That’s what Lukasik will focus on as he leads the Meditation Seminars on Tuesday and Thursday. He said themes will center on developing a “wise spiritual friendship” first within one’s self on Tuesday, and then on “wise loving relationships or friendships” with others on Thursday.

Buddha also said, “Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.” Lukasik will help students connect with themselves on a deeper level — focusing on their bodies, sense of vision and the amount of sounds and sensations they can take in at once. He will instruct them to analyze and accept their present moment, so they can acknowledge and open up to whatever emotion they are feeling, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant or a sense of neutrality. Lukasik said the accepting of this present moment is what brings about wisdom and compassion.

“It’s not about repressing any experience, emotion or thoughts or any sensations that are coming up,” he said. “It’s about being able to meet them with a sense of acceptance and a real kind of inquiry about how these things are coming to be in the present moment.”

His second seminar will teach students how to apply their inner wisdom to the world around them. “[We will] then expand this out to your family, your friends, and we’ll include everyone at Chautauqua. It grows out to include the whole world and beyond,” he said.

Even though Vipassana stems from Theravada Buddhism, meaning “the school of the elder,” Lukasik said he does not consider himself a Buddhist. He doesn’t align himself with any secular religion, but instead calls himself a spiritual practitioner. He believes that Buddha lived by principles that are universal, and people of any faith can identify with them.

“When I end a teaching event, I usually say to go back to the religion that you’re currently practicing in and see if you can find this contemplative or this meditation aspect in your own tradition,” he said. “Because I know it’s there.”

Mystic Heart holds daily, guided meditation sessions Monday to Friday from 7:15 to 8 a.m. in the conference room of the Main Gate Welcome Center. Meditation seminars, which include more in-depth instruction and discussion, are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. in the Hall of Missions. A silent meditation, or centering prayer, is held Thursday from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. in the Welcome Center.

People of any religion or spiritual belief can attend the sessions, and can attend any day of the week, regardless of previous or no experience with meditation practices. Gate passes are required to attend the morning meditations.