A Dharma Lesson from India

During my recent tour of India, I was reminded over and over that one definition of dukkha is unreliability. India is a truly magical place of great beauty and spirituality but travel can be challenging at times. When Westerners first encounter this, it can be unnerving as we expect systems to work consistently. But when this unreliability is met without our usual expectations of a specific outcome, we no longer suffer. In India, when our group was able to flow with the nature of the unknown, especially in relation to travel, we didn’t suffer. Indians learned this long ago and I observed how they meet this unreliability with equanimity. So in this case there was no dukkha. And we also observed impermanence when the challenge of travel led us into spectacular scenery and magical new places to see and experience.

After returning home from Nashville, I was driving to Tuesday night meditation when I encountered a major traffic jam on 1-440. I decided to take an alternate route via West End and Murphy Road. But many others had the same idea. West End was jammed with cars and I had to sit through four cycles of the light at West End and Murphy, each of which took nearly four minutes. I watched as the clock ticked away knowing I was running later and later. As I’m a punctuality freak, this was a little unnerving. But just as frustration was about to set in I remembered the lesson of unreliability from my travels in India; I exhaled and relaxed. All was well. When I arrived at One Dharma, about 15 minutes later than usual, I jokingly told our opening volunteer that I had turned over a new leaf and had thrown punctuality to the wind!

Here are a few words from Joseph Goldstein about dukkha as the inherently unreliable nature of things:

One way we experience dukkha, the unsatisfying, unreliable nature of things, is through the direct and increasingly clear perception of their changing nature. Many people have been enlightened by this one short teaching: “Whatever has the nature to arise will also pass away.”

But because this statement is so glaringly obvious we often ignore or overlook its deep implications. On the conceptual level, we understand this quite easily. But in our lives, how often are we living in anticipation of what comes next, as if that will finally bring us to some kind of completion of fulfillment? When we look back over our lives, what has happened to all those things we looked forward to? Where are they now? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves or enjoy pleasant experiences. It just means we need to remember the very transitory nature of that happiness and to deeply consider what our highest aspirations really are. Excerpted from “Mindfulness, A Practical Guide to Awakening.”

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Our New Meditation Space

Here are some photos of One Dharma’s new Nashville meditation space. Its spacious, serene and quiet. We also love the raised ceiling and skylight. If you live in or near Nashville and haven’t come by yet, please come see the space in person and join us for meditation. We meet Mondays, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Directions and additional info here.

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Low light for meditation.

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The Raindrops Are Perfect

Oregon Rain photography by Lisa Ernst

Oregon Rain
photography by Lisa Ernst

The raindrops are perfect
because they’re not.
They fall without ideas
of size and sound
how long or how much.
They just fall,
they touch what’s
exposed and open
and not under cover
like a heart without
a veil or a shield.
It rains in my heart
until we entwine
like lovers
who no longer know
where one ends and
the other begins.
A smile, a tear,
a heart drenched through.

2015 Spring Renewal Meditation Retreat Recap

One Dharma just completed our fourth Spring Renewal Residential Retreat at Bethany Hills. Each April I especially enjoy our time in this beautiful and natural setting where our hearts can open in tandem with the flowers and leaves after spring rains.

Ferns by the Pond at Bethany Hills

Ferns by the Pond at Bethany Hills

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Altar Flowers by Frankie Fachilla

I appreciate all of nature’s seasons but spring is my favorite. In my twenties, during some of the darkest, loneliest years of my life, immersing myself in spring each year gave me a sense of possibility that my life could be more than the sadness and grief I lived with daily. As I witnessed newly leafed trees growing greener each day, purple wild iris opening along the water’s edge, and birds breaking into a melodious but raucous symphony every morning as the sun rose, I allowed my heart to open completely, to release my armor and touch the warmth and vulnerability of new life. This tenderness of heart nourished and fortified me through this otherwise long and lonely season of my life. Slowly, as the years passed and I reached my 30’s, the possibility of renewal that had once seemed so removed from the rest of my life blossomed at last. This awakening enabled me to live my life more fully, to move through my grief and find friends and love again. Thank you spring for sustaining and warming my heart when I had no other way to touch this moment with love and gratitude.

Double Web

Double Web

These two lovely poems, speak to the retreat experience of opening heart and mind in this moment. Both were written by attendees at our spring retreat.

Water Meditation

Water extinguishes fire
Takes away the angry,
burning desire to eat
everything in its path.
Be water,
drown in this moment.
Watch the world and its stories
pass like waves.
They aren’t yours to grab.
Try to grab them and
they disappear like
scattered stars,
reforming later, still
constellations of emptiness.

Instead, let the waves
crash over you,
their powerful fingers
tear at you then recede
into foamy nothing.
Crash and recede, crash and recede.
Nothing to do
but feel the sun.

– Andrea Hewitt

Cattails by Pond

Cattails by Pond

The retreat ended, rain stopped.
The geese have landed at the lake,
Sun shining thru clouds, I see clearly.

– Jeff Miller

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Clear Skies Reflected in Pond