Buddhist monk holds meditation workshop at College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Bhante Sujatha, a Buddhist monk from Chicago, led a meditation workshop at ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation on Thursday. He encouraged focusing on breathing and observation. (Jessica Zook/DD)

Buddhist monk Bhante Sujatha led the first Mindfulness Meditation Workshop at the ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation on Thursday.

The workshop was one of 13 Sujatha has scheduled during his two-week stay in Arizona. He travels across the nation, leaving his Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple in Chicago to lead mindfulness sessions.

“I’m excited, and I’m not normally an excited person. Always (something) I love — the most wonderful thing in my life is seeing other people get the happiness,” Sujatha said. “It makes me happy, it makes me content. When I see people happy, I think, ‘Life is short; I should do more.’”

Sujatha, originally from Sri Lanka, spent the first hour of the workshop speaking with the 13 participants about the meaning of meditation. He then guided the group through mindfulness practices for an hour.

He encouraged focusing on breathing and observing everything. He dispelled ideas of “oms” and clearing the mind during meditation.

“True nature of mind is all function. If yours is quiet, I think you are dead,” Sujatha said to the group. “Quieting the mind is not mindfulness. Just observe.”

Plans for the event and for another session at ASU on Feb. 1 were set in motion last November.

ASU alumna and donor Ann Van Slyck met with Nursing and Health Innovation Dean Teri Britt Pipe, and they discussed their common interest in meditation.

Slyck, 66, met Sujatha three years ago and kept in touch throughout the years. Sujatha usually comes to Arizona and planned to stay with Slyck and her husband this year.

She mentioned this to Pipe, and the two began planning. Pipe enlisted Sharon Lee, executive assistant to the dean, to coordinate the event.

Lee worked with several departments to create and mail flyers, reserve the room and record reservations.

Slyck said ASU’s willingness to host Sujatha’s mindfulness workshop a “perfect example of ASU opening its arms to the community.”

“I hope that the attendees are able to take whatever it is they need to take” from the workshop, Slyck said. “They go to take a journey. I don’t know why they chose, but whatever reason, there is no doubt in my mind they will receive something.”

Pipe, who has practiced mindfulness for six years, attended Sujatha’s session and said she enjoyed it. She added that meditation has helped her distinguish who she is as a leader and a teacher.

“One of the things in health care is to focus on the patient, and so if you can bring awareness and observation and sense of presence — strong, focused presence — to the health-care encounter, you have a lot better chance acting on that patient’s behalf,” Pipe said. “It can improve the patient’s safety and improve communication between health-care providers.”

The next session at ASU will be focused specifically on healing. The session costs $30 for adults and $10 for students. All proceeds will benefit Sujatha’s monastery.

Contact the reporter at alicia.m.canales@asu.edu


  1. I can certify from my experience over last 9 years that ‘Focusing on breathing’ is a simple and doable technique to train the mind to focus on the present. This practice makes the meditation enjoyable and fruitful. After a few months of this practice, the mind becomes remarkably more obedient and focused. I found that the focus on breathing can be dramatically enhanced by using the fingers to track the breaths. One such mode using the tips of the fingers described below.

    **** TIP MODE: Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Breathe in and out three times, counting in the mind, every time you breathe out. During the first out breath count ‘one’, second out breath ‘two’ and during the third out breath ‘three’. Repeat the same steps at each of the next three finger tips. When you are at the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and breathe three times. Then switch to the other hand and repeat the same process. Continue practicing, switching the hands. You will feel its calming effect, by the time you complete 4 to 6 hands, which takes 2 to 3 minutes. You can use this mode, anywhere and anytime to avert potential stress or dissolve built up stress!****

    For five other modes of ‘focusing on breathing, Segment mode, Counting mode, Feeling mode, Staring mode and 911 modes, please visit this page http://countingbreaths.com/fob/relax/how-can-i-do-it/

    I have been using ‘focusing on breathing’technique throughout the day, using one or more of the modes. During my daily meditation, initially, I count my breaths in sets of three and when the mind becomes less distracted I switch to my mantra. After about 9 years of meditation, and simple stretching, I now feel like I have a new mind and body!