Three Night Residential Retreat – Touching the Boundless Heart: Dharma Wisdom for Difficult Times

Thursday, March 2 – Sunday March 5
Heartwood Refuge Retreat Center
Hendersonville, NC

Cultivating clear awareness of our present moment experience reveals insights into the nature of suffering and liberation. Through the practices of mindfulness, open awareness and lovingkindness, we begin to see that everything that arises is not my “self” but a display of impermanent conditions. When the mind sees life through this clarity and is unclouded by confusion, we create the foundation for well-being, joy and equanimity that includes ourselves, our loved ones, all who suffer, and our great earth.

This retreat, conducted mostly in silence, is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators. It will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, dharma talks, Q&A and meetings with the teacher.

Lisa has been meditating for over 25 years in the Zen and Vipassana traditions. She received teaching authorization in the Thai Forest lineage of Ajahn Chah, Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman. In her teaching, Lisa emphasizes both transformational insight and everyday awakening as an invitation to embrace all of the path’s possibilities. Lisa is the founder of One Dharma Nashville and she teaches workshops and retreats nationally. She is a visiting teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.

Registration and more information here.

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The Sweetest Bite

Many people, myself included, come to Buddhism because we can’t find an escape from our suffering.  Full of fear and uncertainty, we find that Buddha’s Four Noble Truths provide some mental relief.  There is suffering. There is a cause to suffering. There is an end to suffering. The is a path out of suffering (the Noble 8-fold path). As we learn to walk this path, to let go of our resistance to the endless arising and passing away of conditions, we begin to experience this moment just as it is and we see our suffering diminish. The path opens up, we see that Buddha’s teachings are applicable in our own lives. The dharma works. But the mind is a tricky little fox and soon the very path that was leading us to liberation may become yet another thing to cling to, something to keep us safe from the inevitable storms of life. We probably don’t even see this subtle shift until we’ve strayed far from the path.

A man walking across a field encounters a tiger. He fled, the tiger chasing after him. Coming to a cliff, he caught hold of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Terrified, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger had come, waiting to eat him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little began to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine in one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

This is our life, we will never be protected from the tigers and the vine will whittle away until we fall to our death. No one has ever escaped death. So what is our response? If we use this practice to keep us safe, it will fail us. Genuine practice isn’t safe.

If you’ve gotten comfortable with your practice, you need to examine with total honesty the boundaries you’ve created. Has the practice become a container or bubble that keeps your heart sheltered from the darkest realms of your own existence? Has it tipped that way without your even knowing it? What happens if you burst the bubble, the boundary that you dwell in? Are you suddenly face to face with what you most fear, what you hoped would protect you from falling, from failing? Can you then, in this very moment, reach for the strawberry right in front of you and enjoy it, no matter what you fate, savoring the perfect sweetness that permeates your whole being? If so, you’ve found your true path, genuine freedom, your home.

The End of The Path photography by Lisa Ernst

The End of The Path
photography by Lisa Ernst

Wisdom on The Rocks

On a cool, sunny June afternoon I started one of my frequent hikes at Radnor Lake. There’s a steep paved road just past the parking lot that leads to the lake.  In one area, damaged by a major flood, the road is all gravel and a bit bumpy to traverse. As I approached the graveled area, I saw a young man in a wheelchair suddenly grab his wheels and try to turn back toward the parking lot. He protested loudly about riding over the gravel and appeared quite frightened. One of his companions calmly encouraged him not to be afraid, reminding him that the lake was just past the gravel so he needed to go through it to enjoy the scenery. This seemed to calm him down a bit and he let go of his efforts to escape the gravel. At that point he had already ridden halfway through anyway, so either going or returning meant equal contact with the gravel.

As I walked past, he appeared more relaxed as one of his companions moved him forward in the chair.  Suddenly he opened his mouth and allowed the sound of his voice to reflect the bumpiness of the gravel. It was as if his whole body had become one with the gravel, completely connected with the experience of going over the rocks. I realized he was giving a wonderful dharma talk – directly reflecting how he had let go of aversion and was allowing himself to experience the moment fully. There was no fear in his voice, just a manifestation of the moment’s bumpiness.

I smiled as a deep gratitude arose in my heart for the inherent wisdom we can all access through the simple, yet often challenging act of letting go. This young man was intellectually disabled in a way that kept him from communicating as freely and easily as most of us. Yet in facing his fear and releasing his efforts to escape the gravel, he relaxed into the moment and allowed the bumpiness to penetrate his whole body. Soon he was back on the smooth pavement and had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful lake just ahead.

May we all find the wisdom to let our whole hearts and bodies meet the gravel when it comes and to enjoy the serene, deep lake that follows.

by Lisa Ernst