Former New York City Detective Michael O’Sullivan stumbled into the art of meditation by accident.
O’Sullivan was in the hospital for an ankle injury when his doctor discovered he had high blood pressure. As he left the room to pick up his prescription, the nurse told him not to take the drugs, but learn how to meditate instead. He took that advice 36 years ago and never looked back. This week, O’Sullivan is returning to Chautauqua to share his expertise during Week Three of the Mystic Heart Meditation Program.
The Mystic Heart Program is an initiative by the Department of Religion aimed at teaching Chautauquans about the world’s various meditation traditions. O’Sullivan, the senior Dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen and founder of The Three Treasures Zen Center in Otego, New York, will lead participants in Korean Zen Buddhist meditation. His sessions are from 7:15 to 8 a.m. Monday, July 9, through Friday, July 13, in the Presbyterian House and from 12:30 to 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, July 10 and Thursday, July 13 in the Hall of Missions.
“I don’t know how I would have coped with the injury or the things I saw every day as a detective without practicing Zen,” O’Sullivan said. “It changed my entire life.”
O’Sullivan is returning for his ninth trip to the Institution as a Mystic Heart teacher. He said his reason for coming back is to share his experience with participants in the hope of impacting another life the same way meditation has impacted his life.
“I hope participants learn to connect with their true self and learn how to tap into that essence of themselves where true love and compassion sits,” O’Sullivan said.
However, O’Sullivan said, it is not all about bettering oneself. He believes it is just as important, if not more, to focus on using meditation to improve the lives of others.
“It is more than just inner peace,” he said. “I would like people to use the tools and the understanding, that I hope I can give to them, to better those around them whenever they can, to make the lives of other people joyful. That is when we are at our best.”
Even though O’Sullivan is in charge of the teaching, he said he still learns something new with each class.
“Everyone who comes is giving me some kind of teaching, too,” he said. “It bounces back right at me and I am able to become aware, or more aware, of my inner self. Everything after that is simply the joy of sharing that with anyone who will join me.”
Mystic Heart is also offering Tibetan Buddhism sessions throughout Week Three with Khenpo Konchok Monlam.
Monlam is a highly trained and well-educated Lama. He is one of the head teachers at the Kagyu College in Dehra Dun India, where he has taught for over 10 years.
Born in Kham in eastern Tibet, he became a monk at the age of 12 after requesting his parents’ permission to become ordained. After 12 years of formal study in a monastery, including rigorous tests of debate, ritual demonstration and text memorization, he received the title of Khenpo. It was bestowed upon him by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, who is head of the Drikung Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
In recent years, Khenpo Monlam has traveled to teach in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Germany, India and the United States.
During his first trip to Chautauqua, he will teach participants Tibetan Buddhism from 8:15 to 9 a.m. from Monday, July 9 through Friday, July 13 in the Presbyterian House sanctuary and from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 9 and Wednesday, July 11 in Hurlbut Church sanctuary.