True Refuge Retreat, December 6 – 9, Nashville Tennessee

True Refuge Residential Retreat

Steady Mind, Open Heart

7 p.m. December 6 – Noon December 9

Note:  Early start option 7 p.m. December 5

Led by Lisa Ernst

  Please join us for a weekend of meditation at a beautiful, wooded retreat site near Nashville. True refuge is turning toward our experience and finding freedom in the way things are.  As winter approaches and daylight wanes, there is a natural tendency to slow down and turn inward. Yet, in the busyness of the holiday season we may forget that true refuge is right where we are. This silent retreat will focus on cultivating a quality of compassionate presence that embraces our experience with equanimity and insight. Through this practice we begin to pierce the illusion of separateness and taste the joy of interconnectedness to all things.

The retreat will be held at Bethany Hills Retreat Center, near Kingston Springs, TN. There are two start options: 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 5, or 7 p.m. Thursday, December 6. The retreat will end at noon on Sunday.  Retreat cost for December 6 – 9  is $175 if paid in full by November 5; after 11/5 the cost is $200.  If beginning December 5, the fee is $235 paid by 11/5. After, the cost is $260. The retreat fees include lodging and all meals. Full participation is required. There will be an opportunity at the retreat to make a dana offering (donation) to the teacher. Two sliding scale spots are available for those who need financial assistance. Please make your retreat payment to One Dharma Nashville and send to: One Dharma Nashville c/o 12 South Dharma Center, 2301 12th Avenue South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204. Please include your email address.

Lisa Ernst is the founder and guiding teacher at One Dharma Nashville. She began meditation practice in the late ’80’s in the Zen Buddhist tradition, studying closely with two Rinzai Zen  Masters and attending numerous mediation retreats. Lisa has also studied and practiced in the Theravada tradition since the late 90’s. She has been teaching since 2005 and was given full dharma transmission from Trudy Goodman in 2010 in the lineage of the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah.

Dana: According to the Buddha, generosity, or sharing what we have, is one of the central pillars of a spiritual life. In the act of giving we develop our ability to let go, cultivate a spirit of caring, and acknowledge the inter-connectedness that we all share.

Please contact for questions or to reserve your spot.

Rocks and Mind Ripples

What do you notice when you throw a rock into a lake? Most likely you see the ripples created on the surface. The rock is usually obscured by the water itself. The deeper the lake, the murkier the water it is, with nothing visible beyond those surface ripples. Our minds resemble the lake in this way: we usually only see the surface disruption when life throws us a rock. What happened? The rock is present, but obscured by the murkiness of our mind ripples. We miss the rock sinking into our hearts or even deeper into our guts.

This is where our practice serves us well. We need to bring our attention to where the rock has settled inside and let it rest there.  Take a few deep breaths and steady your mind. Gradually the ripples will begin to subside and not pull your attention away.  As you feel how the rock sits in you body, it may seem foreign and uncomfortable, like something you need to remove. But as you remain present, you will begin to see that, like the lake, you have the capacity to accommodate many rocks.  The heart/mind is vast and wide. Rocks won’t destroy you. Gradually they settle into the ground and become part of the terrain.  Like rocks at the bottom of a lake, they  strengthen the foundation of your very being.

A Day of Mindfulness Retreat in Nashville, Sunday October 21

We’re accepting a few last minute reservations for this Sunday’s retreat. Please join us for a day of sitting and walking meditation at the 12 South Dharma Center in Nashville. Hours are 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. We will cultivate insight and lovingkindness through awakening our minds and hearts to the present moment.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat will focus on mindfulness meditation. We will practice bringing mindfulness to the breath and sensations in the body, cultivating awareness of the pleasant and unpleasant states that arise. Through this practice we gradually awaken the joy of meeting all that arises with compassion and friendliness.

This retreat is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators; it will include sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, and a dharma talk. Please bring a sack lunch. Refreshments will be provided at the end of the retreat.

Cost: $35, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. A deposit of $35 will reserve your space and can be paid through Paypal at this link (please use the first Donate button). If you don’t use Paypal, contact to make payment arrangements, or for any questions.

Why Do a Residential Meditation Retreat?

I’m often asked this question by newer meditation students still unsure of the value of taking that “next step,” from home and group sitting practice to devoting three or more days to meditation. Could there possibly be more to it than just sitting and walking over and over again? Each person who decides to take this step will answer that question in his or her own unique way. I can elaborate, however, on some common experiences.

What I hear repeatedly from people after their first residential retreat is how deeply they settled into their meditation periodically through the course of the weekend. Nearly all new retreatants experience some resistance at the beginning of a retreat because the activities seem so removed from everyday life. But once they make peace with the retreat rhythm and lack of external distractions, they find a way of settling in that allows for substantial deepening of concentration (Samadhi).

Through this Samadhi, the door to insight gradually opens. This is where each person’s experience is unique – the fruits of insight manifest in myriad ways. It may reveal the very nature of mind, an opening into emptiness.  Some people will awaken to the endless arising and passing away of phenomena with equanimity. Fresh insights into difficult life challenges are common as well. Some people experience a deep opening of the heart with occasional or extended periods of  stillness and joy. Usually these openings, however they manifest, are exactly what a person needs at the time  – the wisdom of the dharma truly reveals itself through this process. It often differs from the expectations a person brought into the retreat, but letting go of fixed agendas is key to the unfolding of genuine insight.

Returning home, many people feel lighter and less caught in reactive patterns for a while. Others may feel heightened sensitivity because their hearts have opened so fully. Its important to maintain compassion and awareness during this transition back into everyday activities. At some point the after retreat high inevitably wears off, but the mind and heart retain a new depth of insight that can be accessed through continued practice.  Most people experience a greater appreciation for the value of meditation and many make a stronger commitment to their practice.



As I sit for meditation

I’m struck by the morning’s

complete generosity.

It gives all,

holding not a thing

back for itself.

It asks nothing of me

except to fall into its open arms


like a lover’s warm embrace.

The birds sing this song

from my very heart

until the birds and I disappear

and nothing remains

except all that is here.

– Lisa Ernst


Incense close, sandalwood

Just outside insects sing a steady cadence

Dogs bark a few yards down

Cars whisper on a distant road

Each revealing its nature

Full and ephemeral

Like endless breath arising

and fading to nothingness

This moment, perfect moment


– Lisa Ernst