Mind Like Sky: An Open Awareness Daylong Retreat

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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

Clear Mind and Open Awareness

“When your mind feels tight and constricted, you can make more space.” You’ve probably heard this before about meditation practice, but what specifically are we talking about here? The problem isn’t that there’s a lack of space, but the way our minds perceive space, which is related to our identity.

Most people think of the boundary of the body as a point of identity. That is, my thoughts, feelings, perceptions, heart, personality, all reside within my body. So the body is home and herein lies myself. This is who I am and where I exist. Everything I’m made of is inside is me, what’s outside is not me, or it may be related to me but still separate.

This boundary is useful and necessary living in the world. But it also has limitations when we only perceive ourselves through this narrow lens.

At times we may know that our hearts, our love, extend beyond the body. We may also feel compassion for the suffering of others and sense the boundary melting a bit. True lovingkindness and compassion function as a relative expression of emptiness or not-self. They are like a river that flows from a reservoir within our heart. But the reservoir doesn’t dry up – it has an infinite source because it isn’t limited to our body.

When we meditate we begin to see this perceived boundary of the body dissolve, we see that what we think of as “me” doesn’t have a distinct beginning and ending point. This is a liberating insight and is often an early aspect of understanding not-self. At times, we may feel less compelled to put so much energy into simply solving our own problems and “fixing myself.” This brings to mind Lenoard Cohen’s famous poem:

“Ring the bells that can still ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

If we only view difficult thoughts and emotions and as existing inside “me” there is often a feeling of tightness, a lack of space and confusion about what we should do. When the focus is mainly on myself, other conditions seem to disappear. Yet, as we sit, as our concentration deepens, the mental focus on self loosens up. The sensations of anger, sadness and fear are seen as conditions that arise and pass away and are not “myself,” even though we experience them in our bodies. As this happens, gradually, or perhaps quickly, a feeling of space opens.

When we understand that our minds are not simply in our physical bodies, our mental boundaries open and our awareness feels less constricted. From this perspective, our challenges and pain may still exist, but now the great sky of mind has room to include them all. We have access to our wise heart that sees conditions for what they are, without the limits of “inside and outside,” and our path becomes clearer.

“If you attain your true self, then if you die in one hour, in one day, or in one month, it is no problem. If you only do “fixing-your-body” meditation, you will mostly be concerned with your body. But some day, when it’s time for your body to die, this meditation will not help, so you will not believe in it. This means it is not correct meditation. If you do correct meditation, being sick sometimes is OK; suffering sometimes is OK; dying someday is OK. The Buddha said, “If you keep a clear mind moment to moment, then you will get happiness everywhere.” ― Zen Master Seung Sahn

To open your awareness to this clear mind, try my guided “Mind Like Sky” meditation here.

Mind Like Sky Guided Meditation

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.