This dharma talk explores the intersection of delusion and Buddha Nature, how the awakened heart/mind is always available, even in the most difficult moments.
Saturday, June 3, 2017, 9 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends Meeting
Led by Lisa Ernst
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.”
I often think of dharma practice like a tripod, with three legs that create balance. On one leg there’s meditation, including daily seated practice and retreats; on another is mindfulness in daily life; the third is sangha practice.
Let’s start with meditation. For many, establishing a consistent daily seated meditation practice is quite challenging. It requires making a commitment to carving out time to disengage from the ingrained distractions and patterns that inevitably arise in daily life. When people say they don’t have time to meditate, I find in most cases that they aren’t prioritizing the time, which may otherwise be used to watch television or engage in social media and other such activities. Consider that in 24 hours there are 1440 minutes. If we can’t find 10 – 30 minutes a day to meditate, which comprises about .014 percent of that time, its worth examining how we are using our time and what our true priorities are.
Meditation requires that we face ourselves, including all of our imperfections, leaving nothing out. Sometimes our sitting may be lovely and restful, even transcendent, at other times challenging and wobbly. But the key to a consistent practice is the willingness to receive all that arises in our awareness with an open and compassionate heart. This isn’t always easy, but its how the fruits of practice begin to ripen and transform our lives.
For the committed practitioner, meditation retreats are not a luxury but a vital part of deepening their practice. Concentrated time spent away from daily distractions allows access parts of our minds and hearts that are otherwise out of reach; retreats help us contact our deepest evaded realities. If your life situation prevents you from traveling afar or carving out chunks of time for retreats, take advantage of daylong retreats as often as you can and shorter residential retreats that only last a weekend. But do make them a priority.
Practicing mindfulness in daily life is also vital to waking up. As the popularity of mindfulness has grown, some people have mistakenly concluded that seated meditation and mindfulness in daily life are interchangeable practices. This is simply not the case. For a truly balanced practice, both are essential; we need to align what we learn in our seated practice with activities in our daily lives. One of the best ways to bring mindfulness into daily life is practicing mindfulness of the body. This is a deceptively simple yet deep practice: Buddha said that mindfulness of the body leads to enlightenment. We’re so often caught up in our busyness, our activities and thoughts that we lose our connection with this moment. Our bodies are always right here, ready and available to serve as an anchor for our present moment awareness. Bringing mindfulness to your body is an uncomplicated yet powerful practice you can do throughout the day to root your awareness in this moment and disengage from reactive patterns and habitual thoughts. You can still plan, think and carry out your activities, but you can do it all from a foundation more firmly grounded in presence and awareness.
Sangha comprises the third leg of the tripod. Sangha helps us create a stable support in our lives as we derive strength in our practice through sharing it with others. There is a notable, almost mysterious vibrancy that arises from meditating in a group setting. The collective energy of our concentration bolsters the individual and group simultaneously, allowing us to go deeper into our practice than if we only do it alone. Sangha practice also provides ample opportunities to practice generosity by contributing what we can to support the community of practitioners. We begin to break through the illusion of separation and realize that our practice isn’t only for ourselves, but for all beings. We also have an opportunity to view our habits, biases and aversions in the context of a group. The renowned Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn likened sangha practice to cooking a pot of potatoes. He said that you could wash potatoes one by one or you could put numerous potatoes in a pot and stir them all together: they all rub up against each other, each getting clean in the process and rounding out the rough spots.
When our dharma practice is balanced it includes all three legs of this tripod. If we only focus on only one or two, we expend energy trying to maintain balance without a stable foundation. With our tripod in balance, however, we create the conditions for our practice to fully ripen and transform our lives.
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
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.
In the days and weeks after the election, I wrote a number of articles and gave several dharma talks that reflected my own response, as well as the ways in which I see the dhrama path as a resource during such uncertain and difficult times.
The holidays came along and my time and attention turned to other commitments and writing went on the back burner. Today I’m back for this article. As the news and actions of our new president have become more and more disturbing to me, I continue to look into my heart for what’s true for me right now and to find the best ways I can respond and to be involved. As many of us know, there’s a fine line between constructive action and emotional overwhelm at this time.
In this era of social media and online information, it’s easy to become inundated with one rattling headline after the other and social media posts loaded with fear and divisive anger. There’s nothing wrong with fear and anger per se, they are human emotions and certainly are not unreasonable responses right now. Channeled constructively, they can even be driving forces for good. A skillful relationship to these emotions and what we do with them counts. This is where dharma practice can make a big difference.
When we allow ourselves to lose touch with the love in our hearts and respond from divisiveness and separation, we become lost ourselves. But how in the world do we maintain an attitude of love and kindness for all while actively resisting dangerous and destructive acts coming from the new administration? On the positive side, social media provides a ready-made resource for organizing and connecting constructively. But if we haven’t also found a source of refuge in our own hearts, burnout and despair can easily take us over. We may slide down the slippery slope of the dark side of social media while also losing touch with our own inner guide.
As dharma practitioners, I believe it is vital we remember in our hearts that this isn’t about “us against them.” This is what we’ve all been practicing for, we’ve cultivated a great resource that can help us not lose ourselves in the frenzy.
If you do fall short and get caught in the whirlwind, as I have at times, just start again with kindness and compassion, let go of the judgment. Remember your heart’s true intention and align yourself with that. Most of us who practice the dharma care deeply about the welfare of all beings, and when we see so many people who are vulnerable and unable to defend themselves being targeted, we feel a strong urge to act. Let’s do it while also remembering to keep our hearts and minds nourished and awake. Lets not turn those we oppose out of our hearts even as we stand against many of their policies and actions. When we personally feel attacked and vulnerable, this is even harder work, but it’s a central element of how dharma path can help us maintain a global awareness of our humanity and interconnection.
For me, this capacity to remember and reconnect means taking time out to meditate and to retreat, to find a home in the great nature of heart/mind, where I access timeless wisdom of interconnection and compassion for all. In fact, I’ll be off grid soon for my own weeklong retreat as my weary heart is much in need of this extended time to repair and restore.
– Lisa Ernst
Thursday Evening, April 20 – Noon, April 23, 2017
Optional extended retreat through noon April 27
Bethany Hills Retreat Center, Kingston Springs, TN
Led by Lisa Ernst
Retreat full, inquire to join waitlist
“Our Practice is not to clear the mystery, it is to make the mystery clear” Robert Aitken
Please join us at a beautiful, wooded retreat site just outside of Nashville for this three or seven night spring renewal retreat. Life is a balance of effort and letting go. Meditation practice gives us tools to be present, to work with our minds and to uncover the heart’s true wisdom. This wisdom also points the way to letting go — remembering that the practice is not only to help us solve problems but to enter deeply into the great mystery of life and death.
Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat is suitable for newer as well as experienced students. It will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions, dharma talks and private meetings with the teacher. Retreat fee includes lodging and all meals.
The 3 night retreat is $225 if paid in full by March 22; after $250. If you wish the stay through the 27th, the retreat fee is $495 if paid by March 22; $525 after. A $100 deposit will reserve your spot. Please indicate if you will be attending the three or seven night option. 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.
Lisa Ernst is a meditation teacher in the Thai Forest lineage of Ajahn Chah, Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman. She is the founder of One Dharma Nashville. In her teaching, Lisa emphasizes both transformational insight and everyday awakening as an invitation to embrace all of the path’s possibilities. She leads retreats nationally and is a guest teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center.
To join the waitlist email email@example.com
Saturday, January 28, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Birdsong Retreat Center, Ashland City, TN
Led by Lisa Ernst
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, March 2 – Sunday March 5
Heartwood Refuge Retreat Center
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.