Compassion has followed Lena Breen throughout her career. As Week Three’s Mystic Heart meditation leader, she will focus on practicing and teaching Mettā — or loving-kindness — meditation.
“The mind is the forerunner of all things.”
Paul Lukasik was studying this proverb when he was invited to lead the Mystic Heart Program during Week One — which, he soon found out, would cover “Our Elegant Universe.”
“What great timing,” Lukasik thought to himself. “What created the universe? Nothing other than the mind.”
Michael O’Sullivan stumbled into Zen Buddhism through a sprained ankle. While he was in a New York City emergency room having his twisted joint tended to, a doctor discovered that O’Sullivan had high blood pressure. When the doctor left the room to write a prescription, the attending nurse turned to O’Sullivan and said “Don’t take the medicine, learn how to meditate.”
O’Sullivan will lead the Mystic Heart Program during Week Nine. He will lead the daily morning meditation sessions and the semiweekly afternoon seminars on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said it will be his fourth time facilitating the Mystic Heart Program.
The word “Sufi” is derived from the word “sofia,” which means wisdom. The practice and tradition of Sufism is about developing a deeper knowledge and understanding about life.
“It’s actually about finding the wisdom in life and everyday life, not just off in a cage,” Sharifa Felicia Norton said.
During Week Seven, Norton and her husband, Muinuddin Charles Smith, a professor, will return to Chautauqua to lead the Mystic Heart Program in the meditation traditions of Sufism. They will lead the daily morning meditation sessions and also the semi-weekly afternoon seminars Tuesday and Thursday. The afternoon seminars will focus on the Week Seven religion theme, “Creating Cultures of Honor and Integrity.”
The Golden Rule — to treat others as you would be treated — threads its way through most faiths, but the Bahá’í faith takes the maxim one step further.
“Bahá’u’lláh says prefer your neighbor to yourself,” Linda Gillette said.
There are times when we are asked to sacrifice our personal desires for the common good, Gillette said.
“We don’t really think of it as a religion — it’s a way of life,” she said.
Gillette will facilitate the Mystic Heart Program during Week Five with a spiritual focus on the Bahá’í faith. Mystic Heart teaches meditation techniques from different world religions and wisdoms. The season’s traditions include various religions, Buddha Dharma, Sikh Dharma and Yoga.
Subagh Singh Khalsa has looked a whale in the eye and lived.
While kayaking off the southern tier of Mexico, Khalsa spotted a whale blowing a mile in the distance. After determining the direction of the whale’s travel, he paddled his boat to intercept the creature. When the whale was a mere 20 feet away from Khalsa’s vessel, it surfaced, blew and then dove 10 feet below his boat.
“We maintained eye contact until the moment it dove,” Khalsa said.
Some of the most powerful and profound moments in Khalsa’s life have taken place while he’s been immersed in water.
Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple, the spiritual center of Sikh Dharma, emerges from the watery depths of the Sarovar reservoir, its golden turrets resplendent, its four doors pointed in the cardinal directions. It is the embodiment of Sikh Dharma, a faith that welcomes all.
“The Guru, as we call the scripture, is available to all, and because there are no clergy in Sikh Dharma,” said Subagh Singh Khalsa, co-director of the Mystic Heart Program. “There are seen to be no barriers between any person and the Divine. Sikh practices are open to all.”
Dariel and Michael Woltz will return to Chautauqua Institution this year to lead the first week of the Mystic Heart Program.
The Woltzes, both experts in the yogic tradition, will share teaching responsibilities. Dariel, a registered yoga teacher and a certified movement therapist, will lead the daily morning meditation sessions. Michael, a physician’s assistant with 40 years of yoga experience, will facilitate afternoon seminars on Tuesday and Thursday.
Dariel has been practicing yoga for more than 40 years and teaching it for 34. In the 1970s, when faced with the pressure of a high-stress job, she turned to yoga to relax. Dariel said she soon became a devoted student, and the activity became much more than just a relaxation technique.
Forty years ago, Subagh Singh Khalsa and his wife, Subagh Kaur, co-directors of Chautauqua Institution’s Mystic Heart Program, stumbled into the practice of Kundalini yoga and meditation at a lecture given by Yogi Bhajan, one of the Western world’s foremost Sikh yogis.
“We went to that talk, and here’s this guy,” Khalsa said. “I really didn’t know what he was saying, I really couldn’t get it — but I knew there was some important connection.”
As an adolescent, George Welch thought he would become a monk. Throughout his youth, he spent many hours at the local Carmelite monastery.
“I was in high school, and I would spend my days with them, painting and doing odd jobs around the monastery,” Welch said. “But then the other thing was that we would spend an hour in silence every day when I was with them.”