Practice Tip: Compassion For Unwanted Thoughts

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Normally when we direct self-compassion toward our suffering or challenges, we find the places inside where we feel stuck, inadequate or hurt. This includes identifying where the discomfort shows up on the physical body. But to do this, we need the capacity to pause and investigate what is happening.

Sometimes that’s hard when the mind is caught in the rapids of thought, rushing ahead, seemingly out of control. Most of us have certain thoughts that get caught on continuous loop, reactive, negative, critical or comparing. In traditional mindfulness training, we’re taught to find the place in our bodies where we feel the corresponding sensations to help us stabilize our attention in the present moment. This is very effective. Sometimes the mind is so busy, though, that finding this stopping point is difficult. Or we may do this briefly then get caught again in the rapids, perhaps thinking, “there’s that thought again, I wish it would stop but it won’t.” When you see this, why not pause briefly and offer compassion to unwanted or unwelcome thoughts rather than try and stop them? This may seem counter-intuitive, but just a moment’s pause can help slow the rapids.

We are simply directing our compassionate awareness to the mental activity that is present. This practice will begin to create a different relationship to the unwanted thoughts. Instead of aversion or over identification, just meet the thoughts with compassion and kindness. Once there is a little stability, you can then begin to expand the compassion to include your body and heart.

Remember that thoughts are not you, but are generated by some aspect of your conditioning. Liberation always begins where you are. Kind awareness, even toward unwanted thoughts, goes a long way when all else seems unworkable.

Lisa Ernst

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New Dharma Talk: Attention is the Beginning of Devotion

As “devotion” is a loaded of a word some, we can also define it as loving attention and dedication. If you’re a familiar with Mary Oliver’s poetry, you’ll recognize “attention is the beginning of devotion” as a quote from her. In the talk I include a few of her poems that so perfectly reflect how attention leads to devotion through even the everyday elements of life and nature. I also talk about how devotion can be a balancing factor of heart and mind.

New Dharma Talk: The Wisdom Trifecta

This talk explores the powerful and illuminating trifecta of Beginner’s Mind, Don’t Know Mind and Inquiry and the concrete ways they support us in our practice and our lives.

Four Night Residential Meditation Retreat in Hendersonville, NC

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Difficult, anxious thoughts and emotions are often considered obstacles to meditation and peace of mind. A wiser view is available! Buddha’s path to liberation is designed to help us face the full experience of embodied human life. Through deep training we can learn how to be at peace with our overly energetic or painful body, our restless minds and hearts and even the most irritating and hard emotions. At this retreat we will learn how to bring acceptance, patience and love for ourselves into the process. We will learn how awareness can intervene, balancing reactivity, releasing identification and catastrophizing. Inner peace emerges (samadhi), so that meditative inquiry can help us learn from our inner lives, discover gems of wisdom and insight — and tenderness for the rest.

This retreat, held mostly in silence, will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, daily instructions, dharma talks, q&a and meetings with the teacher. All levels of experience are welcome. Registration and more info here.

Update – 2019 Buddhist Tour of India

Please join me for an adventure of a lifetime to India. On this tour we will be visiting some of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites as well as many other points of interest. We will meditate under the Bodhi tree, a descendant of the very tree where Buddha was enlightened 2500 years ago.This was one of the highlights for me of the 2017 tour and an experience not to be missed while in India. Pilgrims from all over the world travel here and it is truly an amazing experience to be at ground zero for the awakening of Buddha and Buddhism.

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Resident Monk Meditating on the Rocks Overlooking the Himalayas, Sangha Choeling Monastery, Sikkim, est. 1701

We’ll also visit Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon. Sarnath is close to Varanasi, where the famous Aarti ceremony is held every night at sunset on the Ganges. This is another not to be missed highlight that can’t be fully captured in words. In addition, a tour of India wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Himalayas. This year, we’ll travel to Dharmsala, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community in exile. Finally, there’s an optional two day extension to visit Amritsar and the Golden Temple.

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Young Monks Studying at the Sangha Choeling Monastery, Sikkim

The tour is guided by expert local guides in India, and I will offer meditation and dharma discussions along the way in various locations, from hotel gardens to Tibetan monasteries.

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Enjoying the Sunrise Ceremony on the Ganges in Varanasi

It is a fun adventure and is open to everyone interested in Buddhism and meditation. (No experience required.)

For the full itinerary and cost, go here. If you are considering this tour and would like to talk to me directly, feel free to email ernst.lisa@gmail.com.

2019 Refuge and Precepts Ceremony

If you have been practicing for a year or longer and wish to formally reflect your commitment to the dharma path, I will be offering this opportunity through One Dharma. It will culminate in a ceremony at One Dharma, which we will plan for a time this summer that works for all involved. If you are interested, please email ernst.lisa@gmail.com by March 26. If you have already taken refuge and the precepts and wish to refresh your vows, you are also welcome and encouraged to participate.

About the Refuge Ceremony
Taking refuge means relying wholeheartedly on the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to inspire and guide us toward a constructive and beneficial direction in our lives. The real taking of refuge occurs deep in our hearts and isn’t dependent on doing or saying anything. Nevertheless, we may wish to participate in the refuge ceremony by requesting a dharma teacher to formally give us refuge. The refuge ceremony is simple: we repeat the passages after the teacher and open our hearts to make a strong connection with the Three Jewels.

About Taking Precepts
Precepts are a joy, not a burden. They aren’t designed to keep us from having a good time and to make us feel deprived. The purpose of taking precepts is to give us internal strength so that we won’t act in ways that we don’t want to. Having understood that killing, stealing, selfishness and so forth only lead us to harm ourselves and others now and in the future, we’ll want to avoid these. Taking precepts give us energy and strength to do so. Therefore, it’s said that precepts are the ornaments of the wise.

To help people overcome their disturbing attitudes and stop committing harmful actions, the Buddha set out five precepts. During the refuge ceremony, in addition to taking refuge in the Three Jewels, we can take any or all of the five precepts, and become a lay Buddhist.

The five precepts
1. I observe the precept of abstaining from the destruction of life.
2. I observe the precept of abstaining from taking that which is not given.
3. I observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
4. I observe the precept of abstaining from falsehood.
5. I observe the precept of abstaining from intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause carelessness.

The refrain “I observe the precept of abstaining from …” which begins every precept clearly shows that these are not commandments. They are instead codes of conduct that lay Buddhists undertake out of clear understanding and conviction that they are good for both themselves and for the world. If you have any questions about these precepts and what they mean to your everyday life, please inquire. (You aren’t expected to become a vegetarian unless you are already inclined in that direction. However, reflecting on and taking actions to reduce harm is at the heart of the first precept.)

 

 

New Dharma Talk: Engaged Non-striving

Life is a balance of effort and letting go. This talk explores how we engage in our practice without over striving and find the sweet spot of the middle way.

Hatred will Never Let You Face the Beast in Man

This is a post I wrote in 2016, and it is just as pertinent now.

Hatred Will Never Let You Face the Beast in Man
Lisa Ernst

Buddha taught us that we must cultivate compassion for all beings, without exception. This doesn’t mean that we stand by passively while people trample over us, compassion isn’t incompatible with firm boundaries that declare, “this is not ok.” But if we begin to justify holding hate in our hearts, we become no different from those we feel in opposition to. The Dalai Lama understood this, even as he was exiled from his homeland of China. And Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.”

Thich Nhat Hanh has been one of the most eloquent voices advocating that we always remember interconnection and that we love our enemies. Not that it’s an easy easy path. We have to overcome habitual tendencies to create the divisions that naturally arise out of fear.

Recommendation is a powerful poem in which Thich Nhat Hanh encourages compassion for all, without exception.

Promise me,
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
promise me:

Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
remember, brother,
remember:
man is not our enemy.

The only thing worthy of you is compassion –
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.

One day, when you face this beast alone,
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,
untroubled
(even as no one sees them),
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.
And those who love you
will behold you
across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

Alone again,
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.

This poem was written in 1965 in Vietnam for the School of Youth Social Service. This group rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centers, resettled homeless families, and organized agricultural cooperatives. They worked with the Buddhist principles of non-violence. Thich Nhat Hahn was banned from his homeland in 1966. He has never become bitter or let hate fill his heart even as he became a great teacher for the world. If he had not had this heart of great compassion and interconnection, its doubtful he would have risen to the stature he has. His mind and heart were bigger than those who created division, destruction and war. May we all remember to keep love and compassion in our hearts, even in the most difficult times.

Mindfulness Meditation Workshop for ADHD and Anxiety

Saturday, January 19, 9 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends House

Lisa Ernst, meditation teacher and founder of One Dharma Nashville, and Terry Huff, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of Living Well with ADHD, will offer a workshop on meditation for adults with ADHD and/or anxiety. The workshop will include lecture, practice, and discussion and will address the following:

1. Why meditate for ADHD and anxiety?
2. Basics of practice
3. Different practices for
a. selective attention (focusing)
b. open awareness (expanding)
c. compassion (for self and other)

Research shows that mindfulness practice improves concentration, attention regulation, self-observation (of mental activity), working memory, and emotion regulation.

The workshop will be held at The Nashville Friends House, 530 26th Ave N. Cost is $60 and is due by the January 15 registration deadline; after $75. A reduced fee option is available to anyone who can’t afford the full fee.

Payment can be made by Paypal  here. If paying by check, instructions and address are at this link. Please include your email address.

Contact tmhuff@comcast.net or ernst.lisa@gmail.com for questions. Terry’s book is available at terrymhuff.com.