Holiday Note Cards Available for Purchase

These note cards are created from my original paintings. They come a generous 12 per box and cost $22 each. Shipping is $5.95 for up to three boxes. Email me for purchase details: ernst.lisa@gmail.com

assortedcards

Assorted Note Cards

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Join Me for a Three Night Retreat in March

This retreat is full, but the waitlist is open and is an effective way to participate – spots often open closer to the retreat.

“Live in the nowhere you come from even though you have got an address here.” Rumi

During this retreat, we will explore the nature of our identity and sense of self we use to live in the world, as well as the wise space of heart and mind that lets go. As we practice meeting all of the activity of self with mindfulness, steadiness, and kindness, our insight and compassion grow. The more we make peace with our ego, the more we dwell in our own boundless, empty nature. These practices also empower and support us in our challenging everyday lives. This silent retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, daily instructions, dharma talks, q&a and meetings with the teacher.

All experience levels welcome. For full info and to join the waitlist, go here.

 

A Phantom and A Dream: Social Media, Connection and Loneliness During the Holidays

OregonCoast

Oregon Rain
photography by Lisa Ernst

As I scrolled through social media the day after Thanksgiving, I saw numerous photos of people celebrating the holiday with family and friends. I shared their joy as they basked in the warm glow of their loved ones. Yet I couldn’t forget the people who had not posted, some who were either alone or lonely.

For the most part, people who share their holiday moments on social media have no ill will or intent to arouse jealousy. Often these photos are quite meaningful to distant family or others who appreciate seeing their friends in joyful times. But because people who feel less fortunate are unlikely to share, a false picture emerges. We can easily overlook that these feeds hardly represent the full spectrum of human experience – we may forget to extend compassion to those who need our kindness or to simply acknowledge that not everyone is celebrating.

Mudita, or sympathetic joy, is the capacity to appreciate the success and good fortune of others without reservation. When I scroll the feeds and see happy, fulfilled faces of friends and relatives surrounded by loved ones, mudita arises in me. But if you are alone or lonely, as I was for many years, it’s not so easy to summon sympathetic joy. Social media can amplify feelings of disconnection with its easy access to images of warm, happy gatherings on the screen, even though not all of these images paint a true picture. In fact, this is a good time to remember Buddha’s teaching in the Diamond Sutra that this fleeting world is but a phantom and a dream.

Having spent many holidays alone when I was younger, I became quite intimate with the seasonal pressure to be joyful and connected. That’s partly why I’m sensitive to those who may not communicate their loneliness or feelings of detachment during the holidays.

Although I wasn’t raised Christian, growing up I immersed myself in the spirit and excitement of the holidays. When I was 13 my mother died in the fall and I moved to Nashville to live with my grandmother. Even with my mother gone I prepared for the season with great anticipation. It would only be Granny and me, but that was enough. When Christmas finally arrived, we started the day with Gran’s whipped cream custard and presents. As the day progressed, however, she fell into grief for what she had lost: her only child and her husband. She began drinking heavily and I spent the rest of Christmas alone in my room, devastated that the day didn’t live up to my expectations.

This pattern would repeat itself for years. My disappointment, at its core, reflected the grief and loneliness that I couldn’t yet face. I unconsciously hoped that the warm promise of the holidays would wash away my pain. When my father died from alcoholism a few years later, my holiday loneliness only intensified and extended well in to the grey, wet Tennessee months of January and February. Often relief came only when the longer, sunny days of spring finally arrived.

After struggling with loneliness and depression for many years, I started to address my losses, aided by meditation and therapy, which helped me untangle from my holiday gloom. The shame of being alone slowly lifted. During meditation, I began to feel a deep heart connection to all that is present, or as Dogen put it, intimacy with all things. In my daily life I cultivated friendships and relationships that nourished me. Slowly, the holidays and those dark grey winters that followed were easier to bear.

These days I’m grateful to have loving people in my life. Yet my heart still touches that deep loneliness from time to time. Mostly I have room for it now; I can feel both connection and loneliness in the fullness of my heart. And I remember that, despite the images we see on social media, some people are lonely and grieving this year. If you’re one of them, may your heart find peace; may you know that you are not alone.

Winter solitude –
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.
-Basho

New Talk – The Dharma of Gratitude: Deepening Connection to Life

The Buddha said these two people are hard to find in the world – the one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful and thankful for a kindness done. When we practice gratitude, we incline our hearts toward generosity and kindness. Gratitude, for both the welcome and the difficult in our lives, also brings us a greater sense of connection, expands our container of awareness beyond the separateness of “I, me and mine” and into a deeper connection with life.

New Year’s Half Day Intention Setting Retreat

The Power of Intention: Clarifying Your Path for the New Year
Tuesday, January 1 2019, 9 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends Meeting
Led by Lisa Ernst

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“One of the Buddha’s most penetrating discoveries is that our intentions are the main factors shaping our lives and that they can be mastered as a skill.” – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Start your New Year on the cushion by joining us for a half day intention setting retreat. At the beginning of a New Year, it is customary to take stock of our lives and the world we live in, to review the previous year and set our intentions for the upcoming twelve months and beyond. Bringing this evaluation onto the cushion, to look with fresh eyes and an open heart, can help us refine and clarify our direction and to live from the truest part of ourselves.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, the morning will include instructions, periods of sitting and walking meditation, dharma talk and discussion. Cost is $50 is due by Friday, December 28. Paypal is here. To pay by check, instructions are here. Additional details will be sent in advance of the retreat to all registrants. A reduced fee option is available for those who need financial support. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

New Dharma Talk: Dharma Lessons from Cloud Mountain

I spent a week at Cloud Mountain meditating and it was wonderful. Yet inevitably, challenges both big and small can arise in the course of deep practice. Some are comical, some poignant. I share a few of these experiences in this talk.

A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if it Were Your Last

Meeting Once Monthly in Nashville, January – December 2019

Course Full email for the waitlist, ernst.lisa@gmail.com

Led by Lisa Ernst

In our death adverse culture, few of us reflect on the inevitability of our death or that it could happen at any time. Yet the Buddha recommended that we use death as an object of contemplation, not to frighten us, but to help us awaken to the fragile, fleeting, and precious nature of our lives.

Contemplating death as part of our meditation practice and inquiring together in community encourages us to be more real, more clear about our priorities, less self centered and more courageous. Paradoxically, many of us discover that contemplating our mortality is vital to putting us in touch with a deep sense of gratitude and a way of living that is more fully in alignment with our values, bringing forward our best, truest self.

We will meet once a month for 12 months to explore the values most vital to us when we recognize our time is limited. Each monthly class meets for 2 hours and is organized around a theme – from looking at our ideas and beliefs about death, to reflections on impermanence and emptiness, to writing a life review, to re-imagining our life purpose, to preparing for death, and most importantly, fully engaging our lives here and now.

This course is inspired by the book, A Year to Live, by the late, beloved teacher Stephen Levine. The book will be our guide, supplemented by source material, inquiry, meditations, deep listening, and writing exercises.

You will participate in a setting where everyone can safely explore their views about mortality and feel supported by compassionate, wise community. Guiding teacher Lisa Ernst will oversee the course and participants will have an optional chance to prepare and present some of the material. During this year we will have the opportunity to rise to the level of our deepest aspirations. Please join us!

Cost: Sliding scale $375 – $575. Please pay at the highest level you can afford so we can support those who need to pay less. A deposit of $100 reserves your spot with the balance due by 12/30. Please indicate the total amount you will pay. Paypal is here. Scholarship rates and payment plans are available in the case of financial need. An existing  meditation practice is required to join this course and a commitment to participate for the full year. For questions, email Ernst.lisa@gmail.com.

March 2019 Three Night Retreat at Southern Dharma

Making Peace with Your Ego: Finding Freedom Through Letting Go

March 14 – 17, Southern Dharma Retreat Center, Hot Springs, NC

Led by Lisa Ernst

“Live in the nowhere you come from even though you have got an address here.” Rumi

During this retreat, we will explore the nature of our identity and sense of self we use to live in the world, as well as the wise space of heart and mind that lets go. As we practice meeting all of the activity of self with mindfulness, steadiness, and kindness, our insight and compassion grow. The more we make peace with our ego, the more we dwell in our own boundless, empty nature. These practices also empower and support us in our challenging everyday lives. This silent retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, daily instructions, dharma talks, q&a and meetings with the teacher.

All experience levels welcome. For full info and registration, go here.

 

Kidness

Much needed today and always.

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

 

An Opportunity to Help from India

This is from Brad Stroup, a long time meditator who sits with us in Nashville and who has helped many in India. Archana is the wife of his adopted grandson in Bodhgaya:

Archana Kumari urgently needs surgery to remove her gallbladder, which is now enlarged and very painful. Estimated costs for the surgery and after-care will run over 300,000 rupees or, at current exchange rate of 75 Indian rupees to a $1, about $4000. Her husband has been able to raise about $200. Such an operation in rural India is challenging.

archana

Archana is 34 years old and her husband is Bablu Kumar, 35, is my adopted grandson. I found him, and he found me, in the village of Bodhgaya in 1998 while I was on a pilgrimage. Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened as the Buddha (5th c. BCE) in Bodhgaya and is the most sacred site on earth for Buddhists.

Archana and Bablu are Buddhists living in Bodhgaya in the poorest state (Bihar) in India. They have two children, 8 and 6 years old, and when Archana became ill, Bablu became full time caretaker while continuing to work. They have operated the JBS School Welfare Trust (see Facebook), a private school for impoverished children, in Bodhgaya for many years.

Bablu urgently needs funds to cover Archana’s operation and recovery, which may take several weeks. While India claims to have medical insurance for citizens, most Indians end up paying for costs out of their own pockets.

You may give directly by going to www.xoom.com to sign up, a secure site operated by PayPal. This site converts dollars into rupees at current rates. Bablu’s complete address there is:

Bablu Kumar
NEW TARI DIH BODHGAYA
POST BODHGAYA, DISTT, GAYA
DISTT, GAYA, PIN CODE 824231, Bihar
India

Bablu can be contacted on cell phone +91-8507693838 or by email bbluraj@yahoo.co.in. or jbgrandsonstroup@gmail.com.

If you hold loving kindness and compassion for sentient beings everywhere, please help Archana with $5, $10, $20 or more. Any donation will help.

May you be well, may you be happy, may you be at peace. – Brad Stroup