Abandon This Fleeting World

The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,
and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.

– Ryokan

Reelfoot Lake Lotus photography by Lisa Ernst

Reelfoot Lake Lotus
photography by Lisa Ernst


Contemplative Photography and Meditation Workshop

Cultivating Clarity, Receptivity and Joy With a Camera

Saturday, October 5, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Penuel Ridge Retreat Center

Led by Lisa Ernst

bluewaterPlease join us for a day of mindfulness as we combine meditation and the practice of contemplative photography. We will use our cameras as a means to reflect our mindful awareness of this moment in its myriad, ever changing forms. This contemplative approach to photography often yields unexpected and remarkable results that differ from conventional shots. There’s no need for expensive equipment or technical knowledge, just a willingness to meet the moment with your camera in an open and receptive state. A simple, yet profound joy often arises in this alliance of mind and heart, camera and surroundings.

Led by meditation teacher and artist Lisa Ernst, the workshop is suitable to beginning and experienced meditators. In addition to morning and afternoon photography sessions, the workshop will include meditation, silence and group interaction. The beautiful retreat site at Penuel Ridge includes many acres of wooded hills, open fields and a lovely, secluded lake.

The retreat fee is offered on a sliding scale from $75 – $100. Two reduced fee spots are available for those who need financial assistance.

A $50 deposit reserves your space and is due by 9/27 (or pay the full amount if you prefer). Paypal is available here. If paying by check, please make it out 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. Be sure to include your email address. Additional details and directions will be provided in advance of the retreat. For more information or to reserve your spot email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

The Joy of Mindful Photography

I originally posted this article last July and decided to re-post it now as I have another photography and meditation workshop coming up on October 5 at Penuel Ridge Retreat Center. If you’re in the Middle Tennessee area, I hope you can join me. Info is here.

As a visual artist, painting was my primary form of expression for many years. It still plays a large role in my creative retinue, but over the last several years I have discovered and fallen in love with mindful photography. This type of shooting, also known as contemplative photography,  is accessible to anyone who cultivates mindfulness in their lives – no special equipment or technical skills are needed.

Many people think of photography as an activity that creates separation from present moment experience because the photographer is always seeking that perfect shot.  From this perspective, the great shot is always in another moment, something to strive and search for. But every good photographer knows the value of training the mind to be completely present and aware in each moment, where great shots often reveal themselves, no seeking required.

When I use my camera in a receptive and open state, my shots reflect how the moment presents itself in its myriad, ever changing forms. I’ve found that this approach yields unexpected results that often differ from conventional shots. Advanced camera equipment isn’t important; being present and open is.  A simple, yet profound joy arises as my sense of “I’” as the photographer dissolves into the alliance of mind and heart, camera and surroundings. When the shoot is complete, I am always deeply relaxed and refreshed.

One of my favorite places for contemplative photography is Reelfoot Lake, in West Tennessee. In mid to late summer the lake is covered, even clogged, with huge yellow lotus flowers. Often the park rangers have to thin the plants out a bit. The endless vista of lotus flowers across the lake is truly an amazing sight. Locally my favorite place is Radnor Lake, just a block from my home. I can go any time of year and enjoy the ever changing weather conditions and seasonal transitions. To me, they are all beautiful although I have a special affinity for foggy mornings and icy winter afternoons.

Although I use my photographs as the basis for many of my paintings, I do most shoots simply to experience the joy of the moment, immersed in my surroundings with a camera. Occasionally  an image stands out that I want to paint, such as this one, “Lotus Lake” from a shoot at Reelfoot Lake a few years ago:

Lotus Lake, Acrylic on Canvas, 48″ x 36,” private collection

If you’ve never experienced mindful photography before, I hope you’ll give it a try. All you need is a camera and an hour or two to shoot.  In September I plan on offering a meditation workshop where we will practice the art of mindful photography in a rural setting. The day will include meditation, photography and group interaction. No special photography skills are needed; any camera will do. I’ll post more details soon.

Reelfoot Lake at Dusk

Reelfoot Lake at Dusk

Dying to This Moment

In dying to this moment,

We lose ourselves,

but gain everything.

And as Rumi eloquently puts it:

When you lose all sense of self the bonds of a thousand chains will vanish.

A Flock of Egrets - photography by Lisa Ernst

A Flock of Egrets
– photography by Lisa Ernst



Incense still lit

 sweet jasmine

invites me to stay.

My body had left

but my heart can’t stray.

Back on the cushion yet

obscured in the clouds

sadness like

 softly falling

 drops of  rain.

So steady and clear

thunder far away

stillness so deep

soon nothing  remains.

As the incense burns out

a smile lights my face.

– Lisa Ernst

Oregon Rain photography by Lisa Ernst

Oregon Rain
photography by Lisa Ernst

The Moon at The Window

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.
Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

He wrote this haiku:

 The Thief

left it behind –

The moon at the window                                                   

Moon on Lake photograhy by Lisa Ernst

Moon on Lake
photograhy by Lisa Ernst


Daylong Meditation Retreat in Nashville, September 14

The Joy of Refuge in This Moment

September 14, 2013, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Led by Lisa Ernst

IMG_0551Please join us at a beautiful and secluded West Nashville location for a day of sitting and walking meditation. We will cultivate appreciation and joy through taking refuge in this moment.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat will focus on developing a quality of compassionate presence that embraces our experience with an open heart. Through this practice, we begin to find true refuge in the way things are.

This retreat is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators; it will include sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, and a dharma talk.

Cost: $50, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. A deposit of $50 reserves your spot and is due no later than September 9. Paypal is available here.  You can also bring your deposit to one of our Monday meditations or send a check made out to One Dharma Nashville to: 12 South Dharma Center, c/o One Dharma Nashville, 2301 12th Avenue South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204. Be sure and include your email address. Directions and additional information will be emailed prior to the retreat.

Please contact onedharmaretreat@gmail.com with any questions.

This Place of True Love

My offering so small, incomplete

and stained with tears

Is embraced by this moment

by the songbird

A wide open place

for a heart

imperfect and broken

But welcome and given

 room to be just what it is

This, the place of

peace, of true love.

– Lisa Ernst

Blackbird in Lotus - photography by Lisa Ernst

Blackbird in Lotus – photography by Lisa Ernst

The Lotus

First blooming in the Western Paradise,
The lotus has delighted us for ages.
Its white petals are covered with dew,
its jade green leaves spread out over the pond,
And its pure fragrance perfumes the wind.
Cool and majestic, it raises from the murky water.
The sun sets behind the mountains
But I remain in the darkness, too captivated to leave.

– Ryokan

Lotus at Reelfoot Lake photography by Lisa Ernst

Lotus at Reelfoot Lake
photography by Lisa Ernst