Riding Free

Its like you’re throwing away your canoe and oars and are riding the waves of emptiness. Its scary at first, you’ve no control. You feel vulnerable and completely without knowledge of where you are going, or even where you are. So you have to surrender completely to the waves when they come. It may take a while. It may take weeks or months or years. You may ask, “what if I drown?” Then I ask you, “who and what drowns? What do you lose? And what might you gain?”

You may decide to climb back into your canoe if you can. But if you’re truly on this path, the water will draw you in again and again until finally you drown and then you’re riding the waves and those waves are you, and you are the waves, there’s really no difference any more, and you arrive exactly where you need to be, where you always have been, but just didn’t know it until now. You are home.

~Lisa Ernst

Morning Beams

Morning Beams

Flowering Lotus Lovingkindness Retreat Recap

Last weekend I led a lovingkindness retreat at a beautiful retreat center in Magnolia Mississippi, a place I’d never been before. Magnolia is a small town aptly named – the minute we entered the city, blooming magnolias were everywhere. Founded by Dolores Watson about 5 years ago, Flowering Lotus Retreat Center has grown considerably and has hosted teachers such as Phillip Moffitt, David Loy and John Orr. Dolores is a remarkable and energetic woman who so obviously loves the dharma. I first met her last November when she attended my seven day residential retreat here in Middle Tennessee. I wasn’t at all surprised that the care and thought she has put into the center shines through in every detail. She has her own bold and unique style, which I loved.

Dolores Watson Meditation Hall The experience level for this retreat ranged from four or five people who had never meditated before to several with extensive retreat experience, and everything in between. We focused on lovingkindness (metta) practice for the weekend, which I always appreciate teaching. Watching hearts open and barriers dissolve, seeing people finally realize its ok to offer kindness and love to themselves, is a deeply fulfilling experience for me. I remember how hard it was the first time I tried it many years ago, how I felt guilty and even selfish spending so much time giving metta to myself. But when my heart finally cracked open, I was able to receive and extend love to all beings for the first time. That has stayed with me ever since when I practice metta. At this retreat, as we moved our metta outward to loved ones, family friends, indifferent and difficult people, some at the retreat got a taste of the heart that is not separate from all beings, the heart that can love unconditionally. This is the realm of true compassion. Lodge at Flowering Lotus May all beings be free from suffering. May they live in equanimity.

You Don’t Have to Believe Your Thoughts

by Lisa Ernst

You’ve probably heard that before, right? It sounds pretty simple and maybe sometimes it is, but at other times, nearly impossible. Why? Because for many of us, certain thoughts appear as unassailable “truths,” specific stories about our lives, about ourselves and others. As long as these thoughts operate below our awareness as stealth narratives, they can’t be seen for what they are, impermanent conditions that arise and pass away. We remain bound by these thoughts and they may lead to significant suffering and even depression.

When we identify with a thought or emotion as “I” or “mine,” our boundaries of inside and outside remain intact. There’s me, and then there is the outside world. This is only a perception, but its so strong as to feel solid and real. Buddha taught that this idea of a separate, inherent self is the root of suffering.

As a practice, try asking yourself, “is this thought me; is this thought mine?” You can do the same with emotions. This exercise is not intended to suppress or push away thoughts or emotions, but to allow you to begin seeing them without personal identification. This opens space to perceive the thoughts and experience the emotions as they are. This practice, reflective inquiry, isn’t a form of analysis. You’re letting the question remain open ended, to allow experience itself provide the answer. As you do this, you are opening yourself to the realm of dharma, where customary ideas and everyday perceptions don’t apply. The good news is, you don’t need them as you experience your thoughts and emotions appearing and falling away. Here you can access the heart’s true wisdom.

“When Ajahn Chah said it was possible to learn as much from stupid thoughts as wise ones, that was such a radically different approach. A wise thought arises and ceases. A stupid thought arises and ceases. A painful thought arises and ceases. A painful feeling arises and ceases. A pleasant feeling arises and ceases. I realized I didn’t have to feel ashamed when there was confusion in the mind. Just let it be and know it for what it is. They are all just states of mind, coming and going. Rather than anxiously holding on or to try to make sense of everything all the time, I got a feeling for letting go and letting be.”- Kittissaro, Listening to The Heart.


Dedicated Practitioner Summer Class

5 Session Course Starting June 18, 2015
Thursdays, 7 – 8:30 p.m. at 12 South Dharma Center
Led by Lisa Ernst


This five week practice and study course is designed for committed practitioners and will allow for deeper exploration of the process and practices of meditation and awakening. Patterned on Sprit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program and led by Lisa Ernst, the class will offer specific teaching and practice approaches based on the Noble Eightfold Path. There will be plenty of time for group discussion and interaction. The basic requirements are that everyone attending has an established daily meditation practice, or will re-commit to one, and has attended at least one daylong or longer meditation retreat. Meetings will be held Thursday evenings at the 12 South Dharma Center, 7 – 8:30 p.m.

The class fee is offered on a sliding scale of $125 – $150. Anything you pay above $125 will help toward our scholarship fund. Two reduced fee spots are available in the case of financial need. A deposit of $35 reserves your spot with the balance due by June 11. To pay by paypal go here. Instructions on paying by check are also available at this link. Please include your email address. Please note that we will not meet on Thursday, July 2 due to the 4th of July Holiday. For additional information contact ernst.lisa@gmail.com.