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

Delusion and Buddha Nature Are Not Separate

One recent morning while meditating, I was reflecting on the nature of delusion. 2017 started off as a difficult year for me, and having struggled with a multiplicity of challenges, I felt at times as if I were drowning in delusion. Then, a moment of remembering and I was at peace: the awakened mind is nowhere but here, right in the very midst of seemingly impenetrable delusion.

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This is my reflection:

Delusion and Buddha Nature are not separate. Our human nature includes delusion and clarity. When delusion is fully seen and known, this is enlightenment. What allows this alchemy? Letting go of identification with a fixed “self.” A simple shift in perspective and the seeming duality of delusion and enlightenment dissolve.

When we think we have a self that we need to endlessly polish, hone and improve, we get caught in the illusion that awakening is elsewhere. Yes, we need our practice to help us remove what clouds the clarity of mind. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Enlightenment is an accident. Practice makes us accident prone.” Yet in the very midst of delusion, if we see it fully, we are free.

How does this happen? As the mind and heart become still, desire and grasping fall away and there is only this moment and no one needing to do anything, change anything or even see anything. Here there is no self to fix , no self to enlighten. Here is the place of peace. I’m reminded of a quote from Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy.”

Shortly after I wrote this reflection, I vaguely remembered this teaching from my very early years of practice in the Zen tradition. At that time, my understanding of this teaching was beneficial to me, but it only occasionally extended beyond my meditation practice into daily life. A google search brought me to Dogen’s Genjo Koan. Here’s a short piece:

“Delusion and enlightenment are originally inseparable. What is called delusion is as it is and what is called enlightenment is as it is. Delusion should not be detested and enlightenment should not be devoured. They are as they are and they do not get in the way at all. They are inseparable. This is what is reverberating beyond words and you should not overlook this.

If Buddhas recognize themselves as enlightened there is polarization of self and other. This is not enlightenment. You realize enlightenment through delusion and you are deluded through enlightenment. At the place of seeing, knowing perishes and the mind is stilled.”

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.

Daylong Meditation Retreat: Cultivating Clarity Through Living the Questions

Saturday, January 28, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Birdsong Retreat Center, Ashland City, TN
Led by Lisa Ernst

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Birdsong Retreat Center

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Please join us at a beautiful, rural retreat location for a day of practice. During the winter months it is customary to look inward to clarify our deepest intentions, yet unanswered questions may stand in the way of knowing what our true priorities are. During this day of practice, we will have the opportunity to practice opening our hearts to our unresolved questions and inner dilemmas. These questions contain a rich source of insight; learning to live them brings about a radical shift that opens the door to clarity and equanimity.
This retreat is appropriate for all levels of experience.

Led by Lisa Ernst, the retreat will include sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, and a dharma talk. Cost is $50 plus dana (donation) to the teacher. A scholarship option is offered. Paypal is available here. Instructions for paying by check are here.  Be sure to include your email address. Retreat information and directions will be provided in advance of the retreat. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Pali Language as a Pathway to Understanding Buddha’s Teachings

Online Interactive Course Taught by Jeffrey Samuels, Ph.D.
12 Week Course starting January 26
Thursdays, 7 – 8:30 p.m. 2017

Ever wonder what the Buddha really taught? Ever want to read and understand the Buddha’s sermons in their original Pali language? In January we will begin a Pali course that is designed specifically for students of Buddhism interested in reading Pali Buddhist texts. The course text that we will use for learning Pali grammar and vocabulary is focused on a wide range of Buddhist literature including sermons, verses from the Dhammapada, passages from the disciplinary texts, the Questions of King Milinda, and more. This challenging 12 week course will conclude with the completion of half of A New Course in Reading Pali, a book designed to have students reading a variety of Pali material.

This course is being offered online through video conferencing that enables a full classroom experience with teacher and group interaction. Each class lasts1.5 hours. The sessions will be recorded in case you need to miss one of the classes.

Course fee is $150 – $200 sliding scale, plus $20 for the book, which can be ordered online. Please pay at the highest level you can afford so we can accommodate those who need to pay less. A $50 deposit reserves your spot with the balance due by January 19. A scholarship spot is available in the case of financial need.

Jeffrey Samuels is Professor of religious studies at Western Kentucky University. He received a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from the University of Virginia in 2002. He has been teaching courses on Buddhism and Pali at WKU since 2001. He began meditating in 1987 under the Thai Forest monk Ajahn Buddhadasa. He has completed several long meditation retreats in Thailand under Mahasi Sayaadaw teachers as well as retreats in the U.S. under the Thai teacher Sobin S. Namto. Most recently he has been practicing with One Dharma Nashville and Lisa Ernst.

To pay by paypal, go here. To pay by check, instructions are here. Be sure to include your email address. For specific questions about the course, email jeffrey.samuels@wku.edu. For inquires about a scholarship rate, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com. Please note that course refunds are not available after the payment deadline of January 19.

Basics of Mindfulness Meditation and Lovingkindness Course

January 19 & 26, February 9 & 16, 2017
Led by Paloma Cain
7 – 8:30 p.m., Healing Well Yoga, 3808 Park Avenue Nashville
Sponsored by One Dharma Nashville

This four session course is appropriate for beginners as well as more experienced meditators who would like to nurture a continuity of mindfulness in a group setting. In a step by step process you will learn the basics of insight meditation and lovingkindness practices. You will learn to be more in touch with your body and emotions and develop a healthier relationship with your thoughts. You will leave the class with tools to establish an effective, ongoing practice. These practices will help you expand your capacity for well-being and self compassion. This class will provide a supportive environment with ample time for discussion and Q&A.

Course fee is $120. It can be paid by Paypal here. If paying by check, instructions are at this link. Please include your email address. A reduced fee option is available in the case of financial need. Please inquire to onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Paloma Cain, MA, has been studying and practicing meditation since 1997. Her work is informed by her studies in Insight Meditation, Tibetan Buddhism, clinical and depth psychology, religious studies and the visual arts. She has trained staff at Los Angeles area hospitals, and is currently working on a professional mindfulness training program at the Osher Center at Vanderbilt. She also leads retreat at St Mary’s Sewanee and teaches classes in mindfulness meditation, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Parenting. Paloma lives with her family in Nashville.

Compassion For All

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.

You Don’t Have to Get Rid of Your Discomfort

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Since the election many people have reported feeling edgy, very unsettled and uncomfortable and the feelings are not going away. Most of us have been taught since childhood that these are not good feelings and we should try and get rid of them. Even as meditation practitioners, we may feel that this discomfort is something to “meditate away.” But that’s not a skillful outlook.

It’s ok to feel uncomfortable right now, it’s a completely appropriate response that doesn’t need to be assuaged or mitigated. The problem comes when we are at odds with it, when we feel we are “wrong” in some way for these feelings or if we act out in harmful ways to ourselves or others because we don’t know what to do.

Since the election, I have felt acutely uneasy for over a week. I had to avoid the mindset that I should be at peace and at ease. Growing up I experienced a significant amount of trauma and it stayed with me many years into adulthood. My father was an alcoholic and when he drank he was often violent and engaged in bullying, sexual abuse. and body shaming. After the election this trauma reemerged. But having spent years in therapy and with a meditation practice, I have the capacity to recognize and meet old trauma so that it doesn’t engulf me. I spent time with this response until it eased. Some may not have this capacity and discerning that is important. If you are continuing to feel traumatic discomfort, you may need to get help.

The discomfort I feel now is not traumatic but it brings me to an edge where I need to be awake to it, to continue cultivating my willingness to be present in the midst of it and not tell myself I should change the feelings in some way, or that there is something wrong with me. This is all about changing my relationship to what’s arising, not getting rid of it. This discomfort keeps me from feeling complacent; it keeps me awake. It is an edge that I have come to welcome and trust. When I have a welcoming relationship to the discomfort, I am in a better position to discern wise and compassionate action that is in alignment with my values.

I invite you to welcome your discomfort and let it be a teacher to you.