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“Sangha is crucial. If you are without a sangha you lose your practice very soon. In our tradition we say that without the Sangha you are like a tiger that has left his mountain and gone to the lowlands – he will be caught and killed by humans. If you practice without a Sangha you are abandoning your practice.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
We can view wise effort as taking a canoe to the water and making the effort to put it in. Once the canoe is in the water, it floats on its own – we don’t need to make it float. Our effort is to launch the canoe. Once in the water, we have paddles and can direct the canoe, but we don’t have to try and make it float. –
~ Lisa Ernst
Stay right at that point of balance where you’re not pushing it too hard and not being too lazy or lax — just the right amount of interest, the right amount of attention and intention to keep things going — so that the breath can have a chance to heal the wounds in the body, soothe the mind, and bring both the body and the mind to the stages of practice where the concentration gets stronger and your insights grow sharper, more subtle. It’s important that the groundwork be done. Just keep on doing the work. Things will develop.
~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
According to Stephen Batchelor, Enthusiasm is a better translation than Effort. He offers the 8th century poet Shantideva’s views on Wise Enthusiasm as finding joy in what is helpful and having a passion for living a mindful life, a moving force like wind that fills our sails and moves us.
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This is a lovely essay and reflection by Sharon Safer about longtime One Dharma sangha member Michael Crowder, who died on February 18. He was a fixture at our Monday night meditations and his dedication to practice along with the way he lived his life left a deep impression on many:
I’ve been thinking a lot about Michael since you let me know he had died.
I met Michael through One Dharma years ago.
My first impression was THAT … being impressed by Michael’s dedication to his practice. He was more serious than anyone I’d ever met about a sitting practice, sharing how he would sit for hours on end, and still thinking he needed to sit longer and more deeply. Sometimes, when I encounter folks who are “all that” in other areas of life, I will compare myself to whatever it is that they are “better” at … but not so with Michael. The way that he spoke about his practice, experiences while sitting, and his incredibly DEEP understanding of the dharma were delivered in such a quiet and humble manner that I became more curious than impressed! Not to say that he couldn’t be hard-headed and opinionated on occasion! But that he didn’t brag about his intellectual understanding or depth of practice … that it was just who he was and how he chose to live his life.
Michael enjoyed sharing his understanding of the dharma. I remember going home one Monday night to look up “Jhanas,” because Michael had spoken – at length! – about the Jhanas that night, and I’d never heard of them.
I heard bits and pieces of Michael’s life story, but never his entire story, and that’s ok. I just knew that he’d been through a lot and that he lived with significant physical limitations and discomfort that increased over the years.
Michael rarely asked for … or accepted … help that was offered, but as we got to know each other over time, he would let me drive him home after meditation sessions. Such a simple thing, but I felt honored that he allowed me to take him home – to serve him, who never asked for much.
In spite of Michael’s health and physical limitations and deterioration, I NEVER saw him pity himself or his situation, but rather the opposite. He was determined to live as “normally” as you and me. On retreat at Bethany Hills, he was absolutely determined to walk up and down the hill to the dining hall and to put in his kitchen time just like the rest of us. Towards the end of one of the retreats he pooped out and couldn’t make the trek. Several of us offered to bring him meals, which for the most part he graciously declined, but did let us take him cheese and fruit. One night at Bethany Hills, he had a very close medical emergency, but didn’t ask for help or let on to anyone that night … I’m not recalling whether Lisa and I found out during the retreat, or some time afterward.
Thinking about Michael, after hearing of his death, I see clearly how his wasn’t just an intellectual understanding of the dharma, but it was his way of life. Michael lived the dharma. I missed this about Michael when he was alive, and that makes me sad. I find myself thinking of him every day now, and recalling the way he lived with such grace, humility and dedication. I feel close to him now in a way that I didn’t when he walked with us, and for that I’m ever grateful.
– Sharon Safer
Taught by Jeffrey Samuels, Ph.D.
Thursdays, September 1 – November 17
7 – 8:30 p.m.
Ever wonder what the Buddha really taught? Ever want to read and understand the Buddha’s sermons in their original Pali language? In September we will begin a Pali course that is designed 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 so on. This challenging 12 week course concludes with translating the Buddha’s first sermon (the Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma discourse).
Course fee is $150 – $200 sliding scale, plus $10 for the book, which Jeff will supply. 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 August 25. A scholarship spot is available in the case of financial need.
Jeffrey Samuels started practicing meditation 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 US at the Zen Center in San Francisco and under the Thai teacher Sobin S. Namto. More recently, he has been practicing with One Dharma Nashville and Lisa Ernst.
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.
To register, go to paypal here and enter the amount you will pay. To pay by check, instructions are here. For specific questions about the course, email email@example.com. For inquires about a scholarship rate, email firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve had a number of requests to offer a recorded version of the open awareness guided meditation I often do at retreats, “Mind Like Sky.” This guided meditation facilitates open awareness, a mind as wide and limitless as the sky.
In late April we completed One Dharma’s fourth Spring Renewal residential retreat at Bethany Hills in Kingston Springs. We had many returning and experienced meditators, only a few beginners this time. We always welcome people of all levels of experience, but this happened to tip toward a more experienced crowd overall. I’m happy to say that those who were new made it through the weekend like champs.
A number of deep and probing questions were posed during the q&a sessions and I’m sure many participants will be digesting them for a while. On Saturday night we did a guided forgiveness practice and during the closing circle many shared that the practice had a strong impact on them. In particular they discovered a deep and unexpected need to forgive themselves.
Related to forgiveness practice, I have a couple of striking experiences I’d like to share: one from the retreat and another from my own past experience. One person at the retreat gradually discovered that forgiveness is not linear no matter how strong his desire to forgive. Through the guided forgiveness practice, he discovered that he simply wasn’t ready to release a major betrayal, no matter how deeply he wanted to let it go. This was a major breakthrough that helped settle his heart and allowed him to accept his true feelings as a path toward healing.
We may go through a process of forgiveness and feel a release, only to experience the hurt and anger arising again. Many people believe they must forgive at all costs in order to be freed from anger and attachments. Perhaps
in a simpler world, liberation would come this easily. But adhering to this model often leads us to push past the pain or hurt to reach an ideal of forgiveness. In this case, nothing is truly resolved; we only encounter a veneer of forgiveness that is ready to crack at a moment’s notice.
When we can’t forgive, we may find that the hurt and sadness that arose from a particular event is still present in our hearts and calls to be acknowledged, even honored. We need to offer compassion to ourselves, to the pain, before we can begin to let go. This may take while. But gradually this process opens the door to deeper, more genuine forgiveness. When we see our own suffering more clearly, we can more readily see the others pain too and a doorway to true forgiveness may crack open. Or open wide. This doesn’t mean we allow inappropriate behavior from people after we’ve forgiven. We may need to set strong boundaries. Forgiveness does mean that we don’t continue to carry anger and hurt in our hearts in a way that weigh us down. We can’t force the timing and may need to return many times to our broken heart, our anger or pain until the heart at last finds release. Ultimately, forgiveness is done for ourselves, to free us from bondage to the past.
On the other side of the coin, we may at times cling to anger and hurt in a righteous way, reinforcing a feeling of separation of self and other: “I’m right and you’re wrong, and until you acknowledge it, I will hold it against you.” There’s something perversely satisfying about holding on to this narrative even though it keeps our inner needle stuck on anger. When we cling in this way, we can’t access our tender hearts in the present moment, where the hurt can be touched and released.
At one retreat I had a dream about a friend who I felt had betrayed me. In the dream we were squabbling over petty things, each trying to prove the other wrong. I watched myself clinging to my idea of what she should have done, and she kept pushing back that I was wrong. In the dream we never reached resolution, we were stuck in a tug of rope with no winner. When I awoke I saw the absurdity of the situation and realized it was time to let go. Through my dream, my heart was telling that I was ready and soon after our friendship resumed. This situation helped me I realize how precious good friendships are and how much time can be lost over disagreements that aren’t at the heart of the relationship.
So whether you are pushing yourself to forgive before you’re ready, or clinging to a perceived wrong that is keeping your heart imprisoned, finding the way to freedom means honoring what is most true for you in this moment. When we understand that forgiveness is not always a linear process, we can see that it requires patience, courage and compassion. This helps to bring us back to ourselves, to our wise heart, which can reveal the true way to forgiveness.
Stability and Clarity Daylong Meditation Retreat
Saturday June 11, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Nashville Friends Meeting
Led by Lisa Ernst
Please join us for a day of sitting and walking meditation at a beautiful Nashville location. 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 separation and confusion, we create the foundation for well-being, joy and equanimity.
Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators; it will include sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, and a dharma talk. The retreat will close at 3:30 with refreshments. Please bring a bag lunch.
Cost: $50, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. A reduced fee spot is available in the case of financial need. A deposit of $50 can be paid by Paypal here. If paying by check, instructions are at this link. Be sure and include your email address. Directions and additional information will be emailed prior to the retreat.
Please contact email@example.com with any questions.
Saturday, May 14, 9 a.m. – Noon
Led by Lisa Ernst and Terry Huff
Nashville Friends House
Lisa Ernst, meditation teacher and founder of One Dharma Nashville, and Terry Huff, LCSW, psychotherapist specializing in adults with ADHD and author of Living Well with ADHD, will offer a meditation workshop for adults with the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD. The workshop will include lecture, practice, and discussion and will address the following:
1. Why meditate if you have ADD/ADHD?
2. Basics of practice
3. Different practices for
a. selective attention (focusing)
b. open awareness (expanding)
c. compassion (for self and other)
Research shows that mindfulness practice improves concentration, attention regulation, self-observation (of mental activity), working memory, and emotion regulation.
The workshop will be held at The Nashville Friends House, 530 26th Ave N. Cost is $50. Payment can be made by check or paypal to One Dharma Nashville. For paypal, go here. A reduced fee is available to anyone who can’t afford the full fee.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to inquire. Terry’s book is available here.