Editors’ Note: Jake Zuckerman is the 2015 Interfaith Lecture coverage reporter for the Daily. Part of his beat, including attending and writing about each 2 p.m. lecture, is the Mystic Heart Community Meditation Program. Zuckerman will attend Mystic Heart meditation every Monday and share his experiences in the following day’s Daily.
Most teachers of the Mystic Heart Community Meditation Program have one week to run their program and to make a dent on those who come to practice. Subagh Khalsa, however, started his second week Monday and will be back again for Week Six.
Khalsa is this week’s teacher and the co-coordinator of Mystic Heart, leading the class in the Sikh Dharma discipline. The program hosts meditation sessions every weekday at 7:15 a.m. in the conference room at the Main Gate Welcome Center. While Khalsa is teaching a familiar discipline to those who attended his Week Two sessions, he has changed and narrowed his focus.
“I go into it with just a bit of an idea about what I want to emphasize,” Khalsa said. “This week, I want to emphasize two things: One is a more of specific technique around breathing and posture. The other thing I want to emphasize — the words that came into my own mind about it — is ‘radical contentment.’ ”
Explaining the term “radical contentment,” Khalsa said it’s something that can be reached when one forgets his or her hopes, desires, fears and attempts at control.
“Instead, it’s all about really paying attention to our own experience at any given moment and really being able to be perfectly willing to allow the experience one is having at any given moment,” Khalsa said.
The more and more I find myself practicing meditation, the more and more success I find myself having. While this sounds like common sense, it’s something more profound to me. The deeply ingrained sense of skepticism that I grew up with regarding spirituality isn’t disappearing, but suffice to say it’s slowly withering away.
Khalsa broke the class into two meditations, pushing two different focuses for each. The first was fairly straightforward. After calling for improved posture, Khalsa had all the attendees close their eyes and look up toward the backs of their eyebrows as they repeated the mantra “ong namo, guru dev namo.”
The second — and livelier — session featured much more neck exertion than I’d have assumed. The meditators recited the mantra “wahe guru,” the first word being said while facing left, the second while facing right. This repeated over and over as my neck grew sore from swiveling 180 degrees every two seconds.
For me, the result was something closer to a chant than to a meditation, and oddly reminiscent of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I, along, with a few other members who spoke up during the subsequent Q-and-A session, found the practice a bit too herky-jerky and stimulating to be conducive to relaxing.
To Khalsa, however, there was method to his madness.
“Practice, practice, practice,” he said.
Khalsa offered a hopeful output to mindful meditation.
“We are developing the ability to listen,” he said. “To really listen — to a friend or to a stranger — to a pleasant person or a horrid one, requires stillness approaching the moment without ideas or preconceptions and prejudice.”
In addition to the sessions, Mystic Heart hosts seminars at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays that serve as a forum to discuss some of the techniques and ideologies mentioned in the class.
“In the seminars, what I do is not just say here’s something to think about, but really explore with people,” Khalsa said. “There’s a lot of give and take back and forth.”
Looking at all the counsel Khalsa offered during his classes, while I see myself improving, I don’t know where I’m headed. Am I fully “allowing my experience” to occur? Am I learning to listen? Am I ever coming close to muting my thought processes?
As Khalsa would say, “Practice, practice, practice.”