Mind Like Sky: An Open Awareness Daylong Retreat

IMG_7388

Saturday, August 26, 2017
Nashville Friends Meeting, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Led by Lisa Ernst

All of our thoughts and feelings arise in a field of awareness that is naturally spacious and open. In this retreat we will explore how open awareness practice creates a wider container to meet all of our thoughts and emotions with kindness and compassion. As we deepen into this practice the boundary between inside and outside dissolves and we experience intimacy and interconnection with all things.

This retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions and dharma talk. We will explore the way focused and open attention in meditation support each other. We will learn how open attention can invigorate and sustain, not only our formal practice, but awareness of our daily activities. The retreat is appropriate for newer and more experience meditators.

Cost is $50 and is due by 8/19. A reduced fee spot is available in the case of financial need. There will be a separate opportunity to practice dana (generosity) toward the teacher to support her time and efforts.

Payment can be made by Paypal here, or by check. Instructions for paying by check are at this link.  Please include your email address. Additional retreat information will be provided prior to the retreat. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Working with Focused and Open Attention in Meditation

Here are a few simple tips for understanding and practicing focused attention (mindfulness) and open awareness in meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is as much about returning to an object of attention as it is about focusing on it. We rarely maintain fixed attention for a full meditation period. In fact, we may only have short periods of fixed attention on an object and need to return again and again. Doing so with kindness and compassion, rather than frustration, is key.

Being present with the body, physical sensations and emotions is about relaxing into the experience, whatever it is, rather than resisting or tensing up. “That which we resist persists.”

In working with thoughts in meditation, our relationship to thought is more important than the content of the thoughts themselves. That is, we observe the flow of thinking without getting caught up in the narrative. Its like we’re watching a stream flow by or a train coming into the station and then heading out again without getting on.

Open awareness meditation is about noticing sounds arising and passing near and far and experiencing the changing flow of all experience, internally and externally, in the open space of mind – a mind as wide as the sky. We are letting go of the idea that our mind is limited to our head or any fixed point of reference. We do include awareness of breath and body in this practice, but we don’t fix our attention there. In fact, this practice works best when we are able to let go of effort and rest in the great embrace of open awareness, allowing all things to arise and pass away, attaching to none.

As we deepen into this practice the boundary between inside and outside dissolves and the duality of subject and object disappears.

I don’t recommend toggling back and forth between focused attention and open awareness during one meditation session. Find a practice to settle on until you feel stable. Many people, especially more experienced meditators, begin with focused attention and naturally shift into open awareness as their concentration deepens. If you struggle with open awareness because your mind wanders without a fixed object of attention, you may find the guided meditation, “Mind Like Sky” helpful. You can listen to it here.