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‘The way of the Buddha: Meditation is simply connecting to your breath’

At a recent seminar hosted by Apeejay Stya University on the theme “Buddha at work- The Ontological Perspectives”, Canadian expert Wanda Heffern enlightened students on awareness and inner peace

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Wanda Heffern 

Rotaract Club, Apeejay Stya University in association with NSS (National Service Scheme) hosted a webinar on the theme: ‘Buddha at Work- The Ontological Perspectives’ on October 26. The webinar was presided by Canadian Ontological coach Ms Wanda Heffern.

Dr Vijay Kumar, Assistant Professor at School of education, ASU welcomed Miss Heffern and commenced the webinar. Giving the students a brief idea about the purpose of the webinar and its theme he mentioned “The webinar focuses on Ontology or the study of reality. We wanted to focus on spirituality, so Ms Wanda gave us the idea to keep our webinar on the theme: Buddha at work. I hope this webinar helps our students deal with many routine stresses and enlightens them as they gain crucial insights into what Buddha and Ontology stand for.”

Ms Heffern began the webinar by recounting the initial steps of her journey into spirituality. She told the students, “I was introduced to meditation and yoga through my master. She was from Israel.  She taught me to delve inside first and not to be so caught up in the world. In order to understand Ontology, which is the study of reality, we have to first understand what constitutes reality.”  

Ms Wanda then went on to tell students that the word ‘Ontology’ originated in Ancient Greece. It meant the metaphysics of the way of being of the universe. Ontological coaching is the root base of all coaching modalities in the world.  Modern-day terminologies and concepts such as emotional intelligence and many other concepts stem from it.

To break the ice with the students, Ms Wanda posed a simple yet profound question: “What is meditation?”

The students gave a variety of responses. Some of the answers focused on meditation as a process of thinking within oneself, as peace of mind, as an act of balancing one’s senses and as being in the present moment.  

Miss Wanda encouraged the students and replied “Meditation is simply connecting to our breath. That’s all one needs to do.”  She explained to the students that once a person acknowledges and connects with one’s breath, a process of rejuvenation of all body cells and organs begins to take place. She gave the students a very simple two-minute breathing exercise. The students were told to sit comfortably with both feet touching the ground. They had to place their palms three inches below their belly button. As they took deep breaths, they were asked to shift their awareness near the palms and try to be aware of their breathing pattern. The students felt calmer and more relaxed after the exercise.

Ms Wanda said the process helps in grounding one’s self. With regular practice, the exercise empowers one’s thoughts, emotions and language. One begins to feel a strong wave of change within one’s self. She told students to practice this exercise before facing tense situations such as writing an assignment, taking an exam, among others.

Ms Wanda then highlighted to the students the key difference between mindfulness and awareness. She stated that mindfulness is being conscious of the activities of the mind. However, one must get out of one’s head and practice to just become aware. She reminded the students “When we bring awareness into ourselves, we check into ourselves.”

She gave the students the task of writing down three results which they wanted to achieve in their lives.  As the students wrote down their goals, Ms Wanda explained “People must observe what is happening inside them at the level of thoughts. This will help control the outcome in the outside world. We must recognise the thoughts that limit us while taking steps towards our goals. This is a part of the OAR test (Observer Action Results Test)

Ms Wanda added “We must learn to anchor the positive thoughts within us and not get so disheartened about any limiting beliefs. The key is to recognise that limiting beliefs are only thoughts as well.  When we become an observer of ourselves, our listening pattern also changes.  We focus on possibilities and find opportunities while listening.”

In response to a question from ASU student Muskan on how to remain calm during the pandemic, Ms Wanda replied that one must practice the breathing exercise taught today. She stated, “It is a very simple exercise but very effective in the long run. This breathing technique shifts a person on three domains. It shifts the thoughts, moods, and language towards inner peace. By reconnecting to our breath, at least thrice a day for 21 days, you will experience a shift in your way of being. It will help especially those who face stage fright. Twenty minutes of meditation after all, equals four hours of sleep.”

Speaking about the Buddha and his relevance in contemporary times, Ms Wanda told students that the Buddha taught existentialism to the world.  Buddhism is applicable in the modern world and provides answers to many of man’s troubles.  She stated “All Buddha represented was peace. All of us can transcend just by going inside. Buddha, Krishna, Jesus… all the prophets taught us love and peace and the process to go inside of us and connect with ourselves and God. God is everywhere.”

As a concluding thought, she told students “We have to be grounded in ourselves. That will bring us peace, love and mysticism. Meditation can be practiced any time by students even while doing any activity like washing dishes. Connect with your breath, that is all there is to it.”

“Each one of us faces sorrows and sufferings in various aspects of our life. The Buddha tried to explain them scientifically and said sufferings can be removed if we can control our desires. According to him one has to bear the fruits of our own karmas, good or bad, only in this life. So we must be mindful of what we do, speak and think.”

-Dr Vijay Kumar, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Apeejay Stya University

Arijit Roy is a trainee correspondent at Apeejay newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]

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