A Lightning Flash Or A Dewdrop

straightstrikeTo what shall I compare this life of ours?
Even before I can say
it is like a lightning flash or a dewdrop
it is no more.

– Sengai

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Middle Tennessee Fall 7 Day Retreat in November

This retreat is on and general registration is open:

Sunday Evening, November 9 – Sunday Noon, November 16, 2014

Bethany Hills Retreat Center, Kingston Springs, TN

Led by Lisa Ernst

IMG_6143Please join us for a rare opportunity to participate in a seven day meditation retreat in Middle Tennessee. Week long retreats offer a sustained opportunity to unplug and move deeply into the silence of heart and mind, where we access insight and compassion. We also enrich and revitalize our daily lives through this gift of extended retreat.

The retreat is offered on a sliding scale basis from $425 – $550, which includes lodging and all meals. Teacher compensation (dana) is separate. A $300 deposit will reserve your spot, with the balance due by November 1.

Lisa Ernst is a Buddhist Meditation teacher in the Thai Forest lineage of Ajahn Chah. She is the founder of One Dharma Nashville. In her teaching, Lisa emphasizes both transformational insight and everyday awakening as an invitation to embrace all of the path’s possibilities. She regularly leads classes, daylong and residential meditation retreats.

Deposits can be made through Paypal here or mailed to One Dharma Nashville, c/o 12 South Dharma Center, 2301 12th Ave. S. Nashville, TN 37204.  Be sure to include your email address.

For questions email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

Last of The Light

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The door of the heart opens slowly

then opens wide

into a warm summer night.

Last of the light as fireflies blink

and cicadas pulse the air

with all their might,

sink into my bones

shake me up,

show me who I am.

Living and dying each moment

in silence and sound

twilight passes,

night settles in.

 

 

True Nature, No Nature or Buddha Nature?

“The luminosity of the mind, the nature of clarity of the mind, is something that I cannot simply explain in words to you. But if you undertake this kind of experiment on your own, you will begin to understand.” – Dalai Lama

After practicing meditation for 25 years I rely less and less on words to describe the awakened state, such as “Buddha Nature” or “True Nature.” In reflecting on this, I find I’m not satisfied with any word that conjures up an idea of this unconditioned, unnameable experience. There is often some taint of fabrication that tends to accompany these names. That’s inevitable as its how language works: words and ideas mingle and no matter our best intentions, create an inevitable separation from our actual experience.

So what happens when you experience deep peace and interconnectedness, when you encounter incomparable clarity and luminosity? Usually the mind will quickly weigh in with names and labels or try to create a context for the experience. That’s what the mind does; it usually happens so fast we don’t even see it until the clarity and luminosity are obscured. This is actually a matter of capacity – when we first encounter this luminosity, it is so far from any previous experience we’ve had that our mind quickly veers into fabrication. Only after practicing for some time can we simply dwell in this unobstructed peace without trying to label or contextualize. Our capacity to abide without words or labels grows.

“If you’re primed to look for innate natures, you’ll tend to see innate natures, especially when you reach the luminous, non-dual stages of concentration called themeless, emptiness, and undirected. You’ll get stuck on whichever stage matches your assumptions about what your awakened nature is. But if you’re primed to look for the process of fabrication, you’ll see these stages as forms of fabrication, and this will enable you to deconstruct them, to pacify them, until you encounter the peace that’s not fabricated at all.” – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The key is to be alert to the mind’s tendency to construct and conceptualize. This is another, more subtle stage of mindfulness, to see when we obscure our experience with ideas about Buddha nature or emptiness. As your practice deepens, you’ll begin to see how readily the mind creates names and fabrications, even for that which can’t be named or classified. The awareness will help you to release any clinging to words or explanations and abide in this mind, clear and luminous beyond words.

 

 

Dharma Talk: Suffering and Freedom From Suffering

This is a dharma talk I gave at One Dharma’s 2014 Spring Residential Retreat. I focucs on the First Noble Truth of Suffering and finding the way out of suffering. This talk is about 20 minutes in length.

Fall Three Night Residential Retreat in North Georgia

Cultivating Clarity thorough Living the Questions

Thursday Evening, September 18 – Sunday Noon, September 21, 2014

Sautee Lodge, Sautee Georgia

Led by Lisa Ernst and Sponsored by Red Clay Sangha

sauteelodge

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and learn to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Unanswered questions, intractable situations often appear to stand in the way of living from our deepest intentions.  At times we might feel blocked even from knowing what our true priorities are.  During this weekend of sitting and walking meditation, we will have the opportunity to practice opening our hearts to our unresolved inner dilemmas.  These questions contain a rich source of insight; learning to live with them brings about a radical shift that opens the door to clarity and equanimity.

Cost is $150 and includes all meals and lodging. Teacher dana is separate. The retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, dharma talks, optional meetings with the teacher, practice instructions and Q&A. Please go to this link for additional details and registration.

Functional Identity and No-self

Every morning we put on clothes that allow us to function within our daily activities and obligations. For early exercisers, workout clothes are the first clothing of the day. Others begin the morning with work clothes or simply day clothes. We all wear clothing that gives us a functional identity in the world, whether a standard uniform, jeans and t-shirt or more formal work clothes.

In the same way, we take on functional identities in our lives to fulfill needs, aspirations and obligations. We may be a parent, a friend, a spouse, a programmer and an artist, all in one day. We may also be a meditator and yoga practitioner. Take a look at what you do each day and see how fluid your identity is based on your activates and interactions. I call this functional identity because it serves a purpose but is not fixed; it is subject to change over hours, days, weeks, years and decades. If you cling to identity as concrete and unmoving, you will suffer through the inevitability of change and impermanence.

Most of us don’t cling to our clothes, at least not for long. We change them as needed and realize they aren’t who we are. We recognize the impermanence of any particular set of clothes. If only we could view our perception of self in the same way, our suffering would decrease significantly.

When you realize experientially that the identity you cling to is subject to change and impermanence, that there is no fixed self, you will taste liberation. Your functional identity serves a purpose and doesn’t need to be denied or eliminated, but it is ultimately a kaleidoscope of change over the course of a lifetime. It’s no more permanent than your clothes.

What is your true nature, what is your mind? When you let go, you will find joy and equanimity in this very moment. You will begin to wake up from the illusion of a fixed self and know freedom within the endless flux of experience, of activity, of living and dying.

“I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide Earth, the sun and the moon and the stars.”
~~ Eihei Dogen

This Very Place

lotusbacklit2

How boundless the cleared sky of Samadhi!
How transparent the perfect moonlight of the Fourfold Wisdom!

At this moment what more need we seek?
As the Truth eternally reveals itself,
This very place is the Lotus Land of Purity,
This very body is the Body of the Buddha.

– Song of Meditation, Hakuin Ekaku Zenji