Pulleyn Leads Mystic Heart with Zen Buddhism

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John Pulleyn doesn’t believe in nostalgia. In fact, he said, he’s happier now than he ever was in his youth and it’s all thanks to meditation.

Once a self-conscious young man who thought he needed to be great in order to be happy, Pulleyn said, over time meditation taught him to stop worrying about what other people think and focus only on who he was and what’s in front of him. He no longer felt a burning need to be incredible.

“When I was young I worried about how people were picturing me and that’s gone away,” Pulleyn said. “If Zen does nothing else, it will get you to see what’s in front of you and stop making pictures about what other people are seeing.”

Pulleyn will lead the Mystic Heart Meditation Program for Week Six, guiding Buddhist meditations from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday at the Main Gate Welcome Center. A senior instructor, head of training and assistant to the abbot at the Rochester Zen Center, Pulleyn will focus on learning to address reality.

In accordance with this theme, Pulleyn will teach seminars Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, the first of which is called “Establishing a Zen Meditation Practice Doing What We Love Even When We Don’t Want To.” He said the title encapsulates what meditation has taught him about life. Constantly striving to have a different, happier life actually makes people less happy, Pulleyn said.

“That’s kind of the secret to Zen, not doing what you want, but wanting what you do,” Pulleyn said. “Once you get over wanting things to be different, which is basically quarreling with reality or, in Christian terms, fighting with God. Once you put that aside, then you can really enjoy your life.”

In other words: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

In meditation, Pulleyn said, people are often too concerned about reaching some grand experience of enlightenment. Pulleyn encouraged people to stop worrying about what comes next or has or hasn’t happened, and instead concentrate on just meditating and being aware.

“Awareness is giving attention to whatever is in front of you, and that’s kind of the secret to life,” Pulleyn said.

Jason Mast

The author Jason Mast

Jason Mast covers the Interfaith Lecture Series, Mystic Heart Program and Abrahamic Program for Young Adults. Northwestern University class of ’18.