A Preview of 2019 Retreats and Classes with Lisa Ernst

Links included for events already open for registration.

The Power of Intention: Setting Your Course of the New Year and Beyond, Half Day Retreat, January 1, Nashville Friends House

A Year to Live: How to Live this Year as if it Were Your Last, Yearlong course meeting monthly. Starting January 2018. Details TBA.

Southern Dharma Retreat Center, Residential Retreat March 14 – 17 Making Peace with Your Ego: Finding Freedom through Letting Go. Register here.

Spring Renewal Residential Retreat, 3 or 7 night option, April 18 – 21, extended option to 4/25, Bethany Hills, Kingston Springs TN

The Power of Contemplative Inquiry: The Art of Embodying Mindful Presence for Facilitators and Practitioners. Four session intensive workshop, Spring/Summer, Details and dates TBA.

Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA, June 21, The Power of Contemplative Inquiry: The Art of Embodying Mindful Presence for Facilitators and Practitioners.

Heartwood Refuge Retreat Center, Residential Retreat August 7 – 11, Finding Peace Where You Are: Befriending Your Mind, Accepting Your Emotions. Register here.

Fall Retreat with Red Clay Sangha, September 26 – 29, Sautee, GA. Details TBA

Buddhist Tour of India, November two week tour including Bodhgaya, Varanasi and Dharmsala. Starting 11/2. Details soon.

Late Fall Residential Retreat at Bethany Hills, Kingston Springs, TN. December 5 – 8 with extended option to 12/10

Several daylong and half day retreats and workshops will be added as scheduling permits.

 

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Volunteer Gardening and Picnic October 13

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Come join us for a morning in a beautiful urban garden!

On Saturday, October 13 from 10 AM – 12 PM we’ll be volunteering in one of The Nashville Food Project gardens. Then we’ll enjoy a potuck picnic at noon. Location: Wedgewood Urban Garden, 613 Wedgewood Avenue.
Small parking lot for volunteers by BBQ joint

Activities may include planting, weeding, composting & harvesting. The Nashville Food project is a full-circle organization, growing, cooking and serving meals, getting food from local soil to local people. Produce from this garden goes into delicious meals served to those with little or no access to fresh, healthy foods. All skill levels are welcomed in the garden, though any child should be accompanied by an adult. Plan to wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Then stay for a potluck picnic at noon and bring a dish. There’s no refrigeration onsite, so bring a cooler if the food needs to stay cold. A grill will be available if you’d like to use it. If you would like to join this volunteer opportunity or just want more information email Julia Thompson at julia@thenashvillefoodproject.org

 

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, plant, tree, flower, grass, outdoor and nature

 

Flip the Switch: How Not to Ignite the Engine of Self

Most times, what we think of as “self” is in foreground, the driver’s seat. Our identity, who we believe we are with our attendant desires, opinions, thoughts and feelings, is often running in a dream state. Usually this orientation operates unconsciously, with little or no awareness on our part. One reason many of us practice meditation and mindfulness to hone our lens of awareness to see through this dream of a separate self.

Through practice, the unconditioned mind, the unborn, as Buddha called it, is occasionally consciously accessed. With deeper practice, it comes forward, it advances on its own. As practice matures, the switch has been flipped for longer periods of time.

When we cultivate smadhi (meditative absorption) our awareness becomes established in the unconditioned mind for a time and “self” may try to come forward but doesn’t easily take hold.

When no-self is foreground, this is the mirror switch. From our mind’s perspective, they are two sides of a coin, front and back. Usually the unborn seems to be at the back, out of our conscious awareness and “self” in the driver’s seat. Of course it is only an illusion but our human perspective will give us a reference point that creates this appearance. So we practice and use tools as best we can to bring us to the unconditioned. This is as Buddha intended.

As a new Zen practitioner, when I had encounters with emptiness and no-self , the experience felt fragile and tentative, like something I needed to hold on to for as long as possible. But of course it always faded away. It took me a while to see the fluidity of this awareness and to realize it wasn’t a problem.

At a recent retreat I was enjoying an extended time of ease and equanimity. Self referential thoughts were not operating at all and the mind was spacious, responsive and awake. During meditation, I noticed subtle thoughts popping up about plans, ideas and self referencing but didn’t follow them. I saw the mind trying to engage, like an engine trying to start but without the fuel of desire and craving, it wouldn’t ignite. The mind of awareness kept the fuel from entering the engine of the self creating process.

During the retreat I happened to read this passage from Joseph Goldstein’s Mindfulness and found his experience and description nearly identical to my experience of subtle thoughts and self referencing trying to ignite the engine of self:

“On a recent retreat I had a revealing experience of how easily we fall under the spell of ignorance and how, in a moment, we can wake up from that spell. You are probably familiar with the experience of waking up in the morning and then, perhaps, slipping back into a dream state for a few minutes before waking again. This might happen just once or maybe several times before we’re fully alert. On this particular retreat, I was noticing that phenomenon very clearly. Then, later in the day, in times of walking meditation, I began to notice more clearly how often there is a thin layer of background thoughts, images, fragments of stories, floating like a thin layer of clouds across the mind. This stream of thoughts is really the hardly noticed but ongoing creation of the world we inhabit. And almost always the thoughts were self referential in one way or another, memories, plans, likes and dislikes. What struck me forcibly at the at that time was that the experience of slipping into and out of these background thought worlds was the same experience of slipping back into a dream state after being awake. I realized that we are simply dreaming the self into existence. And I found that occasionally repeating the phrase during the day “dreaming myself into existence” reinforced the strong aspiration to stay awake and notice more carefully the dream.”

During retreats and any time we have time and capacity for deep Samadhi, the experience of no-self advances to the foreground of consciousness and we can more readily see the mind dreaming itself into existence – we can observe the “self” grasping at returning to the foreground. Awareness can occasionally catch it before this fabrication takes over our equanimity and spacious great nature. This is not an easy practice and is more likely to be accessible during extended retreat, when distractions and external stimulation are minimized.

So you may ask if there’s any value in this practice when we are engaged in our busy daily lives. Yes, because once the mind has settled for a time in the unconditioned we can return home with fewer hooks, see our lives with new eyes and act from a more skillful, responsive place. Equanimity allows us to see our habits and self referential behavior and not immediately fall back into old, familiar patterns, at least for a while.

Buddha taught that true liberation is the end of craving – unchecked thirst, desire, longing and greed. As humans, we will invariably be driven by forms of craving. To try an eliminate it completely is not a path most of us will take. But we can cultivate awareness when craving is the primary driver that brings us back to self absorption and self referential thoughts. Unconscious craving, when acted on, leads us to drink salt water when we’re thirsty. When our awareness opens to wisdom and we see the futility of this craving, the effort to relieve the suffering of self identity, we have more room for a compassionate response to life.

Compassion is the active form of wisdom, which takes root as we let go of unconscious craving and our usual self referencing perspective, and open the lens of awareness to the truth of our interconnectedness to all of life.

With practice we can put down our craving for “something else, somewhere else,” for a while and instead allow our thirst to be quenched with the clear water of our true mind that is always right here.

Why Sangha Matters

“Sangha is crucial. If you are without a sangha you lose your practice very soon. In our tradition we say that without the Sangha you are like a tiger that has left his mountain and gone to the lowlands – he will be caught and killed by humans. If you practice without a Sangha you are abandoning your practice.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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2018 Fall Retreat with Red Clay Sangha

Why Are Retreats a Vital Part of Practice?

Why Are Retreats a Vital Part of Practice?

Retreats are powerful. They give you a chance to reset, refresh, and de-clutter your mind. They offer time to resolve unfinished things in your heart, to learn to see yourself and the world with eyes of compassion and forgiveness.

Retreats help to attune to your inner rhythms and to the immense current of universal life flowing through you as you. On retreat you can let your guard down, let your heart open and your bodymind unwind. In the safety and refuge of community, you learn to relax and rest in the richness of life as it is. And at the end of the retreat the benefit is visible: whether it’s a day or a week or longer, everyone looks younger, more open, clear-eyed, and radiant.

Take a moment now and ask yourself: is it time for a retreat? Can a retreat serve you? What might be stopping you from taking time to support your being in this healthy way? Retreats can be healing, transformative and profound, so I encourage you to dip your toes in and explore. You’ll be glad you did!

Trudy Goodman
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I can certainly attest to the power of retreat in my own life. One week after my first time on a meditation cushion I attended a daylong meditation retreat. It was challenging and much of the time I had no idea what I was doing. But as I walked to my car at the end of the day, I felt a clarity and lightness that I had never known before. I knew right then that I would make retreats a priority in my life. They became an oasis of calm and lucidity during a turbulent time in my life. I continued to retreat regularly as my life settled down – they served as vital maintenance for my heart and mind. They still do.

For the committed practitioner, meditation retreats are not a luxury but an essential part of deepening their practice. Concentrated time spent away from daily distractions allows access to parts of our minds and hearts that are normally out of reach; retreats help us contact our deepest evaded realities.

Retreats of various duration are available year round, anywhere from half day or daylong retreats to 7 or 10 day retreats (or more). If your life situation prevents you from traveling afar or carving out chunks of time for retreats, take advantage of nearby half-day and daylong retreats as often as you can and shorter residential retreats that only last a weekend. But do make them a priority as you deepen and sustain your practice.

Lisa Ernst

Ichi-go Ichi-e: One Chance in a Lifetime

Each moment is unique and precious because it will never come again. Buddha recommended contemplating impermanence so we can better appreciate and wake up in this moment, our only moment. Out of this awareness of the fleeting nature of life arises deep gratitude. The Japanese call it Ichi-go Ichi-e, one chance in a lifetime, never to come again.

At Home in Beginner’s Mind Awakening to the Boundless Possibility of This Moment

Saturday, October 27, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Nashville Friends Meeting, Led by Lisa Ernst

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” Suzuki Roshi

When we look at situations through the lens of our past conditioning, often expectations and fears mislead us. Meditation practice helps us to see with clear eyes and an open heart, meeting each moment as an open field of possibility, unstained by past conditioning. This is the beginner’s mind that refreshes our view of life and how we connect with the world.

In this retreat we will return to the simplicity of breath and body, then gradually open our awareness to include all that is appearing and passing away in this moment. Spiritual freedom arises through this capacity to touch our ever-changing life with a fresh heart that sees no ultimate separation. All levels of experience are welcome, from those new to retreats to experienced practitioners who wish to refresh and return the home of beginner’s mind.

Led by Lisa Ernst, the retreat will include sitting and waking meditation, instructions, dharma talk and q&a. Please bring a bag lunch. Cost is $50 plus dana (generosity offering) to the teacher. A reduced fee scholarship spot is available in the case of financial need. You can make your payment by Paypal here or by check, mailing instructions are here. An email will be sent in advance of the retreat with more details. For questions email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

 

December Residential Retreat at Bethany Hills

Intimate with Life
Awakening with Breath, Body, Heart and Mind

Retreat Full, Waitlist Open

Thursday Evening, December 6 – Sunday Noon, December 9. Extended option to December 11.

Please join us for a rural retreat near Nashville at the Bethany Hills Retreat Center. In this retreat we will stabilize attention and deepen concentration through the breath and body, then gradually open our awareness to the boundless space of mind and heart. The retreat will include mindfulness, open awareness and compassion practices. These practices help us cultivate a quality of compassionate presence that embraces even our most difficult experiences with equanimity and insight. The practices also empower and support us in our challenging everyday lives. As we awaken from the illusion of separateness, we experience intimacy and interconnection with all things.

This silent retreat will include sitting and walking meditation, instruction, dharma talks and private meetings with the teacher. Retreat cost is $265 if paid by November 6; $290 after. The five night option is $425 if paid by November 7; $450 after. A $100 deposit holds your spot. Please indicate if you will be attending the three or five night option. The retreat fee covers lodging and all meals. The teacher is compensated separately through the practice of dana (generosity) from those who attend the retreat. There will be an opportunity at the retreat to make a generosity offering to the teacher. A scholarship spot is available if you need financial assistance. To join the waitlist, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

You can make your payment at the Paypal button below (paying the either the deposit or full amount) or by check, made out to One Dharma Nashville and mailed to One Dharma Nashville, P.O. Box 158533, Nashville, TN 37215.

Lisa Ernst is a meditation teacher in the Thai Forest lineage of Ajahn Chah, Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman. She leads classes and retreats nationally. She is a visiting teacher at Spirit Rock meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.

Dharma Talk: Lovingkindness and Interconnection in Challenging Times

How do we keep our hearts open and remember interconnection even when so much of our world is polarized right now? This talk explores these questions and focuses on what the Buddha recommends about kindness and compassion, even for our “enemies.”