Breen leads Mettã meditation, universal practice for all faiths

As a Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist meditator and Hindu yoga practitioner, the Rev. Lena Breen jokingly calls herself a “Buu-huu — a Buddhist, Hindu, U.U.”

Breen will lead Week Five’s Mystic Heart Program with focuses on vipassana and Mettã — or loving-kindness — meditation. The program is a Department of Religion initiative aimed at educating Chautauquans about various world meditative religions and traditions.

As a former Unitarian Universalist minister and through her social work as a chaplain, rehabilitation counselor, in county jails and with handicapped, Breen has used her meditation practices as a way to stay balanced.

“I’ve come to understand the importance of being able to care and love for myself internally as well as care and love for others,” she said.

Mettã involves the repetition of phrases such as, “May I be happy and peaceful,” and “May I be healthy and strong,” Breen said. From there, the meditator can incorporate bigger ideas, such as, “May all beings be happy and peaceful,” and “May all beings be healthy and strong.”

“There’s something about this refrain and heart-opening practice that really allows me to be less judgmental, more patient, kinder and friendlier,” Breen said. “And I think those are goals for all of us.”

Breen meditates for 30 minutes every morning and 10 to 15 minutes every night. She also practices yoga six times a week.

While Mettã will be the practical focus of her Tuesday and Thursday Meditation Seminars, Breen will also provide knowledge on basic Buddhist principles in her lectures, “The Buddha’s Practice: The Four Noble Truths” and “The Buddha’s Practice: The Eightfold Path.”

This will be Breen’s second season at Chautauqua Institution. She said she admired the platform presented at Chautauqua because of the variety of religions and philosophies represented here, and because of the interfaith cooperation. It’s something she said fits well with both her Unitarian Universalist beliefs, and with her meditation practices.

“In my experience, meditation is very inclusive,” Breen said. “You don’t even have to be religious to be a meditator. You don’t have to use religious words or religiosity to be a meditator.”

The Mystic Heart Program 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. Attendees should bring their gate passes.

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 is held Thursday from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m. in the Welcome Center. People of any religion, spiritual belief and experience level can attend the sessions any day of the week.