The Mystic Heart Meditation Program has new blood pumping through its veins for the 2017 season.
Coordinated by Subagh Singh Khalsa, director of Mystic Heart, the daily meditation sessions will nearly double in comparison to previous summers with the addition of a second daily morning session, not to mention a new location. The two 45-minute morning programs will be held at 7:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., both in the Presbyterian House Chapel. A third program will be added from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. program Mondays and Wednesdays in Hurlbut Church.
“We’re experimenting with what works for people,” Khalsa said. “Some people really want to get to it first thing in the morning. Some people want to go for their walk and have their coffee first. Some people just like to sleep a little later, and some people are too busy in the morning. It’s variety.”
The goal of these assorted times is to increase the “retreat” aspect of the Institution, Khalsa said. He hopes that, over time, more Chautauquans will center their visits around the Mystic Heart programming.
“In the back of my mind, (I) have this sense that if we continue to grow, people … will be able to come and have three, maybe more, practice sessions a day or exposure to a teacher where they could sit and get mentored,” Khalsa said. “Then (they would) still have the rest of the Chautauqua experience. That could develop over time.”
The Mystic Heart Meditation Program seeks to look at the core spirituality of a variety of religious traditions. Khalsa acknowledges that each of the approximately 30 people who attend the sessions may not identify with a specific denomination, but are interested in being in touch with the inner workings of their soul.
“I’ve always labeled this as ‘religious and wisdom traditions,’ ” Khalsa said. “Hopefully nothing we do is considered watered down. Grounded in tradition, authentic practice from all kinds of traditions all over the world — that’s our very broad focus.”
Mystic Heart services will commence with teacher Bhante Chipamong Chowdhury, a Theravada Buddhist monk whose programs focus on Theravada Buddhism and mindfulness meditation. Chowdhury’s career as a monk began 19 years ago when he received training in Burma, Sri Lanka, Laos and Cambodia. Since then, he has strived to live a life centered around empathy, hope, active love, forgiveness, healing and compassion. These are the primary elements he hopes attendees will take away after a full week in his courses at Chautauqua.
“I want a participant to understand and see how mindfulness meditation is working, not just in the context of religion, but in the context of understanding situations, helping to be a better person and using techniques of dealing with anger, emotion and love,” Chowdhury said.
Outside of primary mediation practices, Chowdhury plans to teach general philosophy and psychology of Buddhism prior to each session.
“Instead of just sitting for 20 or 30 minutes, you get some hint of the life of a Buddhist monk,” he said. “Many (participants), if not all, have never been to Asia and have never been to a Buddhist country.”
These insights prove popular, as Chowdhury is often invited to Dharma centers, countries and universities. He credits this to his dual love for both “researching and practitioning” his craft.
“I want to bring something meaningful and something good to society,” he said.
Alongside the new afternoon installment, daily meditation sessions will take place 7:15–8 a.m. and 8:15–9 a.m. These gatherings will be held in the Presbyterian House chapel on weekdays.