To develop a wise and balanced practice, we need to cultivate both emptiness and compassion. Tipping too far into emptiness, our hearts can close to the suffering of the world; tipping too far into compassion we may become overwhelmed by suffering because we because we can’t see emptiness at the core. This talk explores the balance of the two.
The radical teaching of Buddhist mindfulness is cultivating presence when the mind wants to turn away. We begin to remember that all emotions and moods are sankhara – impermanent conditioned states and not our identity. This is a doorway to freedom.
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.
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.
In this dharma talk, I share my experiences visiting the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas and how dashed expectations were converted into a fulfilling dharma experience.
This dharma talks explores finding ground in groundlessness and why its important to keep our hearts open to compassion for all. This includes lessons from my own personal experience and from spiritual and civil right leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King, Jr and John Lewis.
The election is over but for many the fallout continues. Many have shed tears, have experienced anger and fear and have shared their voices and mobilized into action. Just after the election, Leonard Cohen died, a great voice of love, loss and dharma. His words and songs have rung out over the last several days as people have listened to and shared their favorite songs and quotes. Many are so applicable to where we find ourselves at this time, and his words are also timeless. One that particularly resonated for me at the moment is “if you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be drowning every day.” This is not an easy practice, but in one sentence it brilliantly sums up dukkha and freedom from dukkha.
The day after the election I was heartened by a spontaneous act of love and kindness in our old neighborhood, the 12 South area, at the Islamic Center of Nashville. I have known the Islamic Center to be a wonderful part of the community. President Rashed Fakhruddin in particular has been a strong organizer for shared community, Interfaith connections and events. He has also been an outspoken voice for prevention of abuse against women.
A mother and son in the neighborhood took their chalk and wrote on the sidewalks in front of the Islamic Center. In her words: “This morning Hudson and I took our chalk down to the Islamic Community Center on 12th. We wanted to tell our neighbors that we love them and stand with them. A lot of folks stopped by and added their own messages of love. It was great to meet people and work together. To my Muslim friends and community members: I stand with you now, and if things do get worse, I will stand with you then too.” May we all stand with those who need our support.
Over the last month or so, my dharma talks have largely reflected my experience of the political climate. These talks have been focused on finding a skillful response to the situation, internally and externally. It is not always easy. Some of us may have to ask ourselves, “how do I digest broken glass?” “How do I stand where there is no ground?” When we truly experience groundlessness, new ground emerges. But even then we can’t cling. As the ground shifts, the appropriate response may change as well, it is not fixed. This fluidity, the recognition of impermanence, is vital to clear seeing in each moment and wise action.
My talks and blog posts over the last month have reflected the unfolding of events as I saw them. I’m not one to simply hand out cookies or bromides of hope (even though many of you know I do give out chocolate chip cookies after daylong retreats). I do suggest we do our best to take a courageous, no blinders look at what’s going on both internally and externally and to the extent we can, find a way to contribute and to keep compassion and kindness alive in our hearts.
I recently had a delightful time with Adam Hill, who interviewed me at Radnor Lake for his podcast, Soul Story. This is part one of two episodes.
“Lisa discusses her connection to nature, personal loss, and her initial encounter with meditation. Following a beginning scare with an unguided kundalini practice, after many years Lisa built up the courage to follow her intuition and join a zen meditation practice. We discuss that time in this segment, as we walk with Lisa through her first steps on the road to becoming the meditation teacher which she is today.”
This dharma talk was inspired by a woman named Marta Beckett who was a professionally trained ballet dancer in New York City. When her car broke down in Death Valley she saw an abandoned old theater and listened to the call of her heart and renovated it. She danced there many years with little to no audience until she was discovered. In the talk I explore how we can devote ourselves fully to our path with love and commitment, rather than seeking results, even when the terrain seems barren. In this way, we open to greater possibilities as unexpected and wonderful surprises often appear along the way.
This dharma talk focuses on the aggregate of thought as it applies to perceived limitations we may encounter in our meditation practice. The main focus of the talk is in working with trauma and I tell my own story about my cabin in the woods — the most difficult time of my life.