Half Day Compassion Retreat: Heart Practices for Challenging Times

Saturday, June 3, 2017, 9 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends Meeting
Led by Lisa Ernst

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Please join us for a half day of sitting and walking meditation. Compassion and wisdom are the two wings of practice that bring our hearts to liberation. But how do we consistently practice compassion and kindness toward ourselves and others in challenging times? How does our wise heart lead the way? In this silent retreat we will explore several lovingkindness and compassion practices that refresh our hearts and open us to our innate freedom and kindness.

Led by Lisa Ernst, this retreat is suitable for newer and more experienced meditators. It will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions and dharma. Cost is $45 and is due by Monday, May 29. A reduced fee spot is available, please inquire. Paypal is here. If paying by check, instructions are here. Please include your email address.

Additional details will be provided to registrants in advance of the retreat. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Summer Retreat at Southern Dharma

Intimate with All Things: Awakening with Breath, Body, Heart and Mind
July 8 – 12, 2016
Southern Dharma Retreat Center, Hot Springs, NC
Led by Lisa Ernst

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Please join me in a beautiful, rural location in the North Carolina Mountains for a four night summer meditation retreat. Southern Dharma is located in Hot Springs, North Carolina, a picturesque four hour drive from Nashville and Atlanta. Full information and registration are here.

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.

Kindness and Compassion Half Day Meditation Retreat

Saturday, November 14, 2015, 9:00 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends House
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During the busyness and outward focus that often the lead into the holidays, this daylong retreat will offer a quiet time to slow down, connect with our bodies and extend kindness and compassion to ourselves and others. Slowly, in the simplicity and silence of the morning, we will learn to let go of distractions and touch our experience with a kind and open heart.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this retreat is suitable for newer and more experienced meditators. It will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions and dharma talk.

Retreat fee is $40. A reduced fee spot is available in the case of financial need, please inquire to the email below. Paypal is here. Instructions for paying by check are at this link. Please include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

Stability and Clarity Daylong Meditation Retreat

Saturday, February 28, 2015, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Rural West Bellevue
Led by Lisa Ernst

Retreat full, wait list only

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Cultivating clear awareness of our present moment experience reveals insights into the nature of suffering and liberation. We 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.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat is suitable for beginning as well as experienced students. The retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions and dharma talk. Cost is $50. There will be a separate opportunity at the retreat to make a dana (generosity) offering to the teacher. A reduced fee spot is available in the case of financial need. Please inquire for details.

You can pay through paypal  here or write a check, made out to One Dharma Nashville, and send to: One Dharma Nashville, 2301 12th Avenue South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204. Please include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

7 Day Residential Retreat Recap

One Dharma held its first 7 day residential retreat in early November at Bethany Hills Retreat Center in Kingston Springs, Tennessee. By all measures it was a success and I anticipate we will do another one when the time is right.

We had all levels of experience, from three out of towners who had sat countless long retreats, to three who where on their first ever residential retreat. Sooner or later, all settled into the rhythm of deep practice and many reported transformative openings and insights during the week.

Here is a photo guide of our retreat. Thanks to Frankie Fachilla for contributing the photos..

Once the temps dropped, we had a fire going continuously in the meditation hall. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

Once the temps dropped, we had a fire going continuously in the meditation hall. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

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Our retreat altar. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

This  stray cat was quite friendly and had a way of slipping through the lodge door. One of our retreat attendees, Christie Bates, kindly adopted the cat, now named Khit Nhat Hanh. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

This stray cat was quite friendly and had a way of slipping through the lodge door. One of our retreat attendees, Christie Bates, kindly adopted the cat, now named Khit Nhat Hanh. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

Still some leaves hanging on. The paths and trails around Bethany Hills Camp provided some good hiking opportunities. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

Still some leaves hanging on. The paths and trails around Bethany Hills Camp provided some good hiking opportunities. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

These rocking chairs on the deck weren't used too often once the "arcitc blast" hit on Wednesday. They still looked inviting. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

These rocking chairs on the deck weren’t used too often once the “arcitc blast” hit on Wednesday. They still looked inviting. Photo by Frankie Fachilla

We closed the retreat with this offering of merit:

The Buddha said that when we dedicate merit, it is just like adding a drop of water to the ocean. Just as a drop of water added to the ocean will not dry up but will exist as long as the ocean exists, so too, if we dedicate the merit of any virtuous action, it merges with the vast ocean of merit and endures until enlightenment.  ~Padmasambhava

By the power of this compassionate practice,

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness

May all beings be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow

May all live in equanimity.

Mostly Smooth Sailing

Every retreat has its own flavor for its participants, both individually and collectively. Our Spring Renewal retreat was mostly smooth sailing with a dedicated and focused group of practitioners. After Thursday’s hard afternoon rains most participants were able to arrive in time for our 7 p.m. meditation.  For the rest of the retreat we enjoyed sunny, although somewhat chilly spring weather.

At our previous retreat, the site still needed cleaning when we arrived and a few of us pitched in to insure the facilities were ready. This time, to our great appreciation, the camp manager spared no effort in assuring we arrived to spotless facilities. At this retreat people really wanted to sit — usually most everyone was in place a good five minutes before each session’s start time. I had the feeling that some would have happily stayed on for additional practice days, schedule permitting.

Self-compassion is vital during the early hours and days of meditation retreats, when participants are adjusting to the silence and intentional lack of external distraction. Often people feel that they are alone in their struggles, possibly doing it wrong, even imagining that others are swimming through the hours with joy and ease. “Comparing mind” rears up and leads to self-criticism and even self-loathing for some. At this vital point, learning to extend compassion to all parts of ourselves, especially the broken, pained and imperfect, can soften the heart and mind enough to accommodate our immediate experience. Then the resistance begins to ease, just as Buddha taught. This allows us to settle into the practice, to truly appreciate this moment just as it is.

Some people struggled a bit with the walking mediation, which is pretty normal at Vipassana style retreats. Walking slowly yet going nowhere for 30+ minutes at a time feels awkward and counterintuitive to some, especially at first.  Without a target, a specific destination, people have to let go and rest their attention only on their immediate surroundings along with the movement of their bodies, one foot and one breath at a time. It is a deep and profound practice once the restlessness and resistance is gone. Concentrated walking meditation can reveal deep glimpses into interconnectedness and no-self. Some people are more naturally attuned to sitting and it may take patience and time for them to appreciate the walking practice. For those who prefer Zen style line walking, we always include one session of this practice in the evenings.

Meditation retreats may challenge us in ways we have never imagined; yet they can also open us to extended periods of joy and ease. Retreats can reveal glimpses and even deep insights into the unlimited and boundless nature of true mind that is our birthright, that is always here and ready for us to receive whenever our minds and hearts are fully present.

Altar Flowers by Frankie Fachilla

Altar Buddha by Frankie Fachilla

Walking Path at Bethany Hills by Frankie Fachilla

Walking Path at Bethany Hills by Frankie Fachilla

Early morning light at Bethany Hills by Lisa Ernst

Early morning light at Bethany Hills by Lisa Ernst

Reflection by Lisa Ernst

Reflect 2 by Lisa Ernst

June 1 Meditation Retreat

A Day of Mindfulness Meditation Retreat

Awakening Compassion and Insight

Saturday, June 1, First Church Unity Barn, Nashville

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Led by Lisa Ernst IMG_0551

Please join us at a lovely location in Nashville with plenty of room for sitting and walking meditation. In Buddhism, a balanced practice includes cultivating both compassion and insight. In this silent daylong retreat, we will practice extending compassion and lovingkindness toward ourselves and others, opening our hearts to the the truth of interconnectedness. As we deeply experience this moment, just as it is, we naturally begin to awaken to the freedom and insight that resides in us all.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this retreat is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators; it will include sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, and a dharma talk. Please bring a sack lunch. Refreshments will be provided at the end of the retreat.

Cost: $50, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. The $50 fee is due in advance of the retreat and you can use Paypal, available at this link. Directions and additional information will be emailed prior to the retreat.

Please contact onedharmaretreat@gmail.com with any questions.

True Refuge Meditation Retreat Recap: Flies and Buddhas

Our True Refuge residential retreat is now complete and the retreat was truly about refuge in all of its forms. Several of us arrived early, on Wednesday evening, to practice an extra day. Thursday was overcast but mild and I had an opportunity to hike one of the trails after breakfast. The landscape in December couldn’t have been more different from the last time we were at Bethany Hills in April. From the warm and sunny days, incredible spring greens and flowers in the fields, to grey skies and barren trees, I barely recognized the place. At first the contrast was jarring. Then as I hiked the trail, I gradually settled into the stripped down winter world and felt a deep appreciation for the stillness and stark beauty. The crunch of the dead leaves on the path opened me to deep gratitude for the opportunity to spend time there on retreat.

I began the afternoon rounds of meditation settled and appreciative of the extra day’s practice. About halfway through the first sit, unexpectedly a fly landed momentarily on my lips. I recoiled and immediately brushed my lips before I realized that I was only spreading around any germs. I began thinking about what might be on my lips, worrying about whether the germs were making their way inside my mouth. Then I clearly saw my reactivity and brought my mind back to the present. I inquired, “how do I find refuge when a fly lands on my lips?” This wasn’t an intellectual inquiry, but rather one of seeking an answer from the place of insight within. Immediately my reactivity stopped and I dropped my worries about the germs. There was nothing I could do at that moment except sit. A few minutes later the fly landed squarely on my nose. I blinked just slightly in surprise, but was aware and nonreactive now, having found refuge in the way things are, even with a fly hovering by my head. It buzzed around me for about five more minutes. By now the fly had become, if not a friend, at least a guest I was willing to welcome. I do admit that after the meditation session ended, I went to my room and washed my face! I spoke of the fly during my dharma talk the next night, and discovered after the retreat that the fly had visited many people. They said they were grateful that they had an opportunity to make their peace with the fly, that it had been a good teacher in learning to cultivate non-reactivity.

Issa, a Zen poet, wrote about flies this way: “Where you find humans, there you’ll find flies and Buddhas.” This is our human condition, to continually experience the shifting movement from pleasure to pain, samsara to awakening, joy to sorrow and back again. When we are able to cultivate non-reactivity to the changing collidescope of experience, we can begin to taste true equanimity. Sometimes we are visited by Buddhas; sometimes flies. Sitting still for long stretches and walking the same ground over and over, we face our experience in every way imaginable. At times it may be painful or boring, other times joyful and transcendent. As our hearts open more deeply to this practice, we begin to appreciate all that life has to offer and we can welcome both flies and Buddhas.

One of the most welcome parts of the retreat was the amazing, ever changing weather during our practice. We had no sun during this retreat, but we enjoyed periodic rain, wind and lightning. The weather was warm enough to walk outside all weekend. Saturday evening we enjoyed a dusk meditation on the deck to a symphony of thunder and light rain. It was a magical moment of being in the midst of nature on our cushions as darkness fell, protected by the deck’s large overhang, yet still immersed in the wiles of the weather. Meditation outdoors allowed us to open our lens of attention to accommodate the wide world of nature in our practice, to take it all in with a receptive mind.

Many people found the retreat challenging, and it is designed to be. At the closing they reported finding an opening into their practice that was very rewarding and far deeper than what they had experienced during their home practice. Most discovered the joy of meeting their visitors, whether flies or Buddhas, with an open, undivided heart. Our next retreat is scheduled for April 11 – 15. You’re welcome to join us.

After the Rain

After the Rain

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Historic Cabin

Historic Cabin