New Podcast, Soul Story

Blue Heron

Blue Heron at Radnor Lake

I recently had a delightful time with Adam Hill, who interviewed me at Radnor Lake for his podcast, Soul Story. This is part one of two episodes.

“Lisa discusses her connection to nature, personal loss, and her initial encounter with meditation.  Following a beginning scare with an unguided kundalini practice, after many years Lisa built up the courage to follow her intuition and join a zen meditation practice.  We discuss that time in this segment, as we walk with Lisa through her first steps on the road to becoming the meditation teacher which she is today.”

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Two Special Events with David Loy, October 14 & 15

Please join us for one or both of these events

Why Buddhism and the Modern World Need Each Other
Public Lecture by David Loy
Sponsored by One Dharma Nashville
Friday, October 14, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Healing Well Yoga, 3808 Park Place, Nashville

The mercy of the West has been social revolution. The mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both.

– Gary Snyder

The highest ideal of the Western tradition has been to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and put an end to dukkha “suffering” due to the delusion of a separate self. Today it has become obvious that we need both: not just because individual transformation and social transformation complement each other, but because each needs the other.

Suggested donation: $15. No one turned away for lack of funds. To pay in advance, you can use Paypal here.

David Loy is an internationally renowned Buddhist teacher, keynote speaker, lecturer and author. He is a professor of Buddhist and comparative philosophy and his many published books include his most recent, A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution and Ethics in the Modern World. He lives in Boulder Colorado.

Transforming Self, Transforming World

Workshop with David Loy
Saturday, October 15, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Nashville Friends Meeting, 530 26th Avenue North
Sponsored by One Dharma Nashville

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What is the connection between personal and social transformation?

According to Buddhism, our usual sense of self is haunted by a sense of lack: “something is wrong with me.” Why do we never have enough money, fame, sensory pleasure? Because we try to fill up our sense of lack with them — but it doesn’t work.

Those obsessions also reveal where our society is stuck. The Buddha’s “three poisons” have become institutionalized and taken on a life of their own: our economic system institutionalizes greed, racism and militarism institutionalize ill will, and the corporate media institutionalize delusion. And our collective sense of separation from the rest of the biosphere lies at the heart of the ecological crisis.

Any personal awakening we may experience remains incomplete without a “social awakening” to these institutionalized causes of suffering. Through meditation, interactive inquiry and group discussion we will explore how to connect personal and social awakening and transformation.

Cost is $50 – $75 sliding scale, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. Please pay at the highest level you can afford on the sliding scale so we can accommodate those who need to pay less. You can pay at the Paypal here and enter the amount you will pay. Instructions for paying by check are at this link. Please include your email address. Scholarships are available if you need a reduced rate. Inquire to onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Spring Renewal Residential Meditation Retreat

Stability and Clarity
Thursday Evening, April 21 – Noon, April 24, 2016
Optional extended retreat through noon April 26
Bethany Hills Retreat Center, Kingston Springs, TN
Led by Lisa Ernst

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 This retreat is full but you are welcome to put your name on the waitlist by emailing onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

Please join us at a beautiful, wooded retreat site just outside of Nashville for this three or five night retreat. 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 confusion, we create the foundation for well-being, joy and equanimity.

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 $220 if paid in full by March 23; after $245. If you wish the stay through the 26th, the retreat fee is $365 if paid by March 23; $395 after. A $75 deposit will reserve your spot. Please indicate if you will be attending the three or five 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 Buddhist 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 classes, workshops and meditation retreats nationally.

Payments can be made through Paypal here or mailed to One Dharma Nashville, c/o 12 South Dharma Center, 2301 12th Ave. S. Nashville, TN 37204. Be sure to include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Identity, Healing and Unconditional Love

Identity, Healing, and Unconditional Love

Lisa Ernst Retreat I attended a meditation retreat last weekend on the subject of identity. It offered immediate lessons I want to share, because I think they offer a very useful framework for looking at how we function in the world. Beyond that, though, the retreat gave me a lot to think about, some in the light of the recent post on “The Problem of Taking Yourself Too Seriously“, and more deeply on giving and receiving love. I think these lessons, if you are able to move towards them, have the power to change your world.

Examining Our Identity

Lisa Ernst, a Buddhist teacher from Nashville who led the retreat, delivered several talks on identity. She set up a framework of a two-layered identity which she described using the analogy of clothes:

  • Outer Identity: Like our everyday clothes, “business casual”, sportswear, monastic robes, or formal suits, this is the identity we wish to show the world. It is how we want people to think of us;
  • Inner Identity: This is our private identity. Like our underwear or sleeping attire, it is a personality we show only to a handful of intimate people. It is the person we think of as the “real” me.

We believe that the inner identity is our core and has some level of permanence to it, and that our outer constructed identity is one over which we exercise control, one which we can shift, if not quite at will, then pretty close to it. But actually, as we will see, the outer identity is far from under our control, and the inner identity is a lot less permanent than it might seem.

Tension in Identity

How do your inner and outer identity compare? Are they pretty similar or very different? Do you allow the world to see your strengths and weaknesses? To extend the clothing metaphor, do you allow people to see your dirty laundry?

The whole point of the inner/outer identity bifurcation in this analysis is to acknowledge that you don’t bare all your secrets to the world, that you reserve some for yourself. The outer identity is both a mask to protect parts of you that you don’t want to allow to be hurt, and also a practical persona that serves your external purposes in the world. For example a cheery, professional demeanor is an expected norm in a business meeting and will allow you to close the deal or wow your management with a presentation far better than allowing your sloppy, maybe somewhat crass or course inner persona to emerge.

It’s perfectly natural and even healthy for there to be differences between your inner and outer identities, but what happens as the difference between the two stretches? If your outer identity is vastly different from your inner, then it takes a great deal of effort to maintain it, and that effort creates stress. On top of that tension – which is palpable to those observing the outer persona – you will not be able to keep the two completely separate, and at times the inner identity will surface.

By way of example, I’d like to contrast my life today with that four or five years ago shortly before initiating divorce proceedings, ending an important business relationship, and severing the relationship with my spiritual teacher. You won’t be surprised to know that I was under a lot of stress back then! So while I think I manifest the same external identity today as I did then, the inner identity – the identity we think of as fixed – was very different in important ways. What today is peaceful and at ease, four or five years ago was swirling confusion and anxiety. So the gap between the external and internal identity back then was far greater. I thought I was pretty good at sustaining my outer identity when I was in a business meeting, but those with whom I interacted knew that something was wrong. For example there were far fewer “buy” decisions back then, largely, I am convinced, because the people I spoke to subconsciously registered the inter-identity tension in me.

The Arising Of Ego

When you take your inner identity to be permanent, you create an ego and you can become attached to it. But if you let yourself get attached to your identity, you can become stuck on it and create a problem. You move into the territory of taking yourself too seriously!

When we see someone with serious physical or mental condition who smiles and laughs, who delivers motivational speeches, who inspires and encourages others, we praise them and think them remarkable. They probably are remarkable, but beyond that they are people who have not allowed themselves to get stuck on their injury, their condition, the labels of their lives. They have not over-identified with such matters as their permanent self. Rather they have chosen to see possibility and opportunity. And in that they are a lesson to the rest of us. They are an inspiration that however tough it might be to look beyond what you see as your permanent inner self, it is possible to transcend it.

Don’t Completely Lose the Ego

A word of caution or acknowledgement before we move on: while it is important to hold the inner identity lightly and not to let it calcify into a fixed ego, equally it is important not to let it go completely. Just as functioning effectively in the world requires an outer identity that fits with the environment, so the outer identity must be founded on some inner core, some inner identity. And it is important, also, to examine the ego and see those elements that pop up from time to time. For example, you may occasionally express impatience or control tendencies that come from an inner anger, though without looking closely you may never have realized the source. And that anger itself could be a mask for some deeper identity which you don’t know.

The Importance of Falling Apart

If you take the long view, you can see the arc of your life from infancy through childhood, youth and adulthood into old-age and death. You can see that the outer identity you assumed as a teenager is very different from your outer identity as a lover, a business person, a parent – or whatever roles you move into through your life. And you can similarly see that your inner identity has shifted over time, perhaps as a result of being the victim of a horrible personal invasion, an illness or accident, or conversely as a result of a wonderfully intimate partnership which gave rise to children, grandchildren, and a vastly different world than you had ever imagined could be possible. You know that your identity shifts over time. But it is nonetheless all too easy to find yourself holding on to your inner identity and not wanting to let it shift.

But when you hold on to inner identity you allow do not allow your “real” self to shift with the shifting circumstances of your life and of your understanding. To hold on to your identity, your hold it down and wrap it up. You do not allow yourself to grow and open. You do not allow yourself to flower as a human being.

Healing and Love

We all want to receive unconditional love but most of us, in some way, have had this withheld from us. Most of us feel damaged in some way and want to be healed. And most of us look to relationships with others to heal us. Whether we had an abusive father or an alcoholic mother, whether it was parental expectation of academic or sports success or it was, we all carry forward scars that we want healed.

Identity is a practical tool in the world, but it is also a way of protecting our hurt, of hiding our damage, maybe even hiding it from ourselves.

Healing can be extraordinarily difficult, for the pain and suffering may be immense. It may be that you are not truly ready to deal with your suffering, and that is fine. But if you think you are, then know that it can never be truly healed from outside. The only way of healing your hurt is to allow yourself to be with it without judgment. And before you can do this, you must first see your suffering, which in turn requires allowing yourself, your ego, that scaffolding you have created to protect yourself, in a sense to fall apart.

We all want to receive unconditional love, but in doing so we misunderstand. What we need is to give unconditional love. We have been raised to believe that our love must be validated by another, but that is not true. Your love need only be validated by yourself. If you can allow your identity to soften, you can start to see this. And once you do so, all the rules change.

To visit Gareth’s informative and reflective blog go here.

Buddhist Psychology Workshop

Nashville Friends House
Saturday, October 17, 9 a.m. Noon
Led by Lisa Ernst

Dependent origination, also known as Buddhist psychology, stands as the Buddha’s deepest insight into the nature of suffering and liberation.

Buddhist Psychology provides us with a map of the inner terrain of mind and heart. Not simply a concept, but a way of living life, a path to liberation that we can experience and wake up to right now. In this class we will explore the links of dependent origination, emptiness, and the path to transformational insight. You will gain a deeper
understanding of how all things arise in dependence on multiple causes and conditions and how your practice can help you break the cycle of suffering.

The class will include instruction, experiential practice and discussion. Cost is $40 and can be paid by Paypal here. Instructions for paying by check are at this link. Be sure to include your email address with your check. A reduced feet spot is available in the case of financial need. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

2015 Spring Renewal Meditation Retreat Recap

One Dharma just completed our fourth Spring Renewal Residential Retreat at Bethany Hills. Each April I especially enjoy our time in this beautiful and natural setting where our hearts can open in tandem with the flowers and leaves after spring rains.

Ferns by the Pond at Bethany Hills

Ferns by the Pond at Bethany Hills

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Altar Flowers by Frankie Fachilla

I appreciate all of nature’s seasons but spring is my favorite. In my twenties, during some of the darkest, loneliest years of my life, immersing myself in spring each year gave me a sense of possibility that my life could be more than the sadness and grief I lived with daily. As I witnessed newly leafed trees growing greener each day, purple wild iris opening along the water’s edge, and birds breaking into a melodious but raucous symphony every morning as the sun rose, I allowed my heart to open completely, to release my armor and touch the warmth and vulnerability of new life. This tenderness of heart nourished and fortified me through this otherwise long and lonely season of my life. Slowly, as the years passed and I reached my 30’s, the possibility of renewal that had once seemed so removed from the rest of my life blossomed at last. This awakening enabled me to live my life more fully, to move through my grief and find friends and love again. Thank you spring for sustaining and warming my heart when I had no other way to touch this moment with love and gratitude.

Double Web

Double Web

These two lovely poems, speak to the retreat experience of opening heart and mind in this moment. Both were written by attendees at our spring retreat.

Water Meditation

Water extinguishes fire
Takes away the angry,
burning desire to eat
everything in its path.
Be water,
drown in this moment.
Watch the world and its stories
pass like waves.
They aren’t yours to grab.
Try to grab them and
they disappear like
scattered stars,
reforming later, still
constellations of emptiness.

Instead, let the waves
crash over you,
their powerful fingers
tear at you then recede
into foamy nothing.
Crash and recede, crash and recede.
Nothing to do
but feel the sun.

– Andrea Hewitt

Cattails by Pond

Cattails by Pond

The retreat ended, rain stopped.
The geese have landed at the lake,
Sun shining thru clouds, I see clearly.

– Jeff Miller

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Clear Skies Reflected in Pond

Stability and Clarity Daylong Meditation Retreat

Saturday, February 28, 2015, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Rural West Bellevue
Led by Lisa Ernst

Retreat full, wait list only

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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 confusion, we create the foundation for well-being, joy and equanimity.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat is suitable for beginning as well as experienced students. The retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions and dharma talk. Cost is $50. 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.

You can pay through paypal  here or write a check, made out to One Dharma Nashville, and send to: One Dharma Nashville, 2301 12th Avenue South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204. Please include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

Mindful Photos from Saturday’s Retreat

Last Saturday I led a Contemplative Photography and Meditation Retreat at a farm outside of Nashville. It proved to be a particularly rich environment for shooting. The day was sunny, slightly cool and windy in the afternoon. Great cloud formations too. Here are a few of mine:

Patsy's Farm

Patsy’s Farm

patsysfarmadj windyskyTo see the full album from our group, go here.

Spring Renewal 2014 Retreat Recap

This past Sunday we completed our fifth residential retreat at Bethany Hills. Hard to believe its already been five! This was our smoothest retreat yet. Perfect weather and a solid, committed group of practitioners. Their practice backgrounds spanned the range from new meditators to a few with 25 + years of meditation and retreat experience. Wildlife was abundant and active at this retreat with the birds and frogs supporting our meditation through their beautiful symphonies.

Dogwoods in Full Bloom, Bethany Hills Camp.

Dogwoods in Full Bloom, Bethany Hills Camp.

We were fortunate that the ticks weren’t out yet as spring came a little late to Bethany Hills. From Thursday evening to Sunday morning we witnessed the greening of the grounds and surrounding woods. As I first walked around the pond Thursday afternoon, seeing the hints of spring, I felt deep gratitude and joy for the time those of us attending had  set aside to remove ourselves from everyday busyness and distractions, to take the weekend to connect deeply with our hearts and minds. Its a true gift to offer this to ourselves.

A good retreat will challenge its participants. Like all retreats, there were many who struggled to meet their unwanted guests or unexpected demons. At times like this, the way through is in, with compassion and courage. Facing the demons at this level can bring about transformative insight that is life changing. I’ve seen it happen time and again, and after 25 years of practice, I can say that this process still makes a difference in my own life. But what’s most rewarding to me now is watching others do what they believed impossible and witnessing the joy on their faces once the struggle has dissolved into open space.

If you’re inclined but you’ve yet to dive in to a residential retreat, its well worth it!

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Registration Still Available for Spring Residential Retreat

There’s still time to register for One Dharma’s Spring Renewal Meditation Retreat, happening at Bethany Hills in Kingston Springs. Retreat runs from Thursday evening, April 24 through Sunday Noon, April 26. Full info is here.