The Dharma of Writing and Meditation Workshop

Saturday, January 31, 2015

9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Nashville Friend’s House

Led by Lisa Ernst

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Please join us for a day of contemplative writing and meditation practice. We will cultivate writing inspiration through meditation and exercises that help us open our hearts to the truth of what we most want to express. These practices will also help us to communicate more eloquently from our authentic voice, both in written and verbal form. In addition, we will have an opportunity to share our writing in an atmosphere of compassionate support.

This workshop is suitable to beginning and experienced writers and meditators. Cost is $75 – $100, sliding scale. Please pay at the highest level you can afford so we can accommodate those who need reduced fee, scholarship spots. For a scholarship spot, please inquire to the email below. You can pay by Paypal here using the donate button. If paying by check, please make it out to One Dharma Nashville and send to 12 South Dharma Center, c/o One Dharma Nashville, 2301 12th Avenue South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204.  Please include your email address.

Lisa has been meditating for 25 years in both the Zen and Vipassana traditions. She is the founder and guiding teacher of One Dharma Nashville. In addition to regularly teaching meditation classes and retreats, Lisa has written numerous articles for magazines, newspapers and newsletters. She was the technical editor for the current edition of Meditation for Dummies. Her blog include essays and poetry: www.thelotusbloomsinthemud.com. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

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Guest Blog from Saturday’s Writing and Meditation Workshop

February is always a little tricky for scheduling events — there’s always the chance, no matter how slight, of snow. Last year I awoke to snow on the day my writing and meditation workshop was scheduled and I deliberated for a couple of hours whether to cancel it. Ultimately I went forward as the temperatures warmed up  just in time to melt the snow. This Friday on the eve of my workshop, the Weather Channel predicted an 80% chance of snow with a 1″ accumulation for Saturday morning. I went to bed unsure whether the workshop would happen.  Thankfully, though, the snow passed us by again here in Nashville. We may be one of only a few southern cities to have avoided snow this year – so far.

During the workshop everyone had a chance to read their writing in small, intimate groups or at the end of the day, to everyone there. Andrea Hewitt read a beautiful and inspiring essay she wrote that morning and I want to share it with you here:

When It’s Time to Fly

Andrea Hewitt

What touched me today was reading about the actress Ellen Page’s coming out and particularly watching the video on the Human Rights Campaign website. Here was this accomplished young actress speaking in front of a crowd–something I’m sure she has done many times before. You could hear the nervousness in her voice–the wavering and uncertainty.

But what I was most transfixed by were her hands. They were shaking so much that she had to hold them cupped together for almost the entire time. At one point, she let them go to make a point, and they were like tiny birds released, but still unsure of how high to fly.

About halfway through her speech when she finally said the words, “I’m gay,” and the audience stood and cheered for her, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous if everyone upon coming out had a cheering audience swelling with whoops of joy, mirroring back to you the terrifyingly awesome feeling of finally releasing your authentic self out of your mouth and into the world?”

It’s like watching a birth: the long wait and gestation before, the agonizing pains of labor, but then the deep knowing that there is no going backwards–in fact, what’s back no longer exists even–and you are propelled into a shiny, brand new, sparkling world that blinds you with its rightness. And you wonder how you ever lived in the dull past with you old, small, tightly-reined-in self.

Letting it all go–the expectations, the dreams of someone else for you, your own dreams that never quite fit no matter how you cut and sewed and re-sewed them–it’s the scariest thing ever. It’s tough enough to do that for yourself and your family & close friends privately, let alone on a widely-broadcast YouTube video.

But to live every day as authentically as you can–what a gift to yourself and the world! I could see the relief on her face when the words came out of her mouth. Naming ourselves, saying the words, and believing that you can say them and there will be a bridge to carry you to the other side requires such a leap of faith.

I remember testing out the words myself before I dared to speak them aloud to anyone. It felt like I had a tiny baby bird inside me–me, its nest–and it was time to push her out. Keeping her in the once-safe nest was no longer an option for that would only stunt her growth. I had to have faith that her wings were ready and strong enough to take on the world.  It was her time to fly.

Please go by and visit Andrea’s new blog: A Late Life Lesbian Story

Writing and Meditation Retreat Recap

This past Saturday a group of us met at the Dharma Center for a day of writing and meditation, a first for One Dharma. Despite some early morning snow and initial travel uncertainty, the retreat went on and gratefully, all the available slots were filled.  I was very relieved the weather didn’t cause us to cancel as two people had come in from Knoxville and two others from St Louis. I’m always grateful to google when interested out of towners find our retreats!

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At this workshop we spent a lot of time writing, quite a bit more than many attending were accustomed to. This kind of focused writing, like meditation, will quickly reveal a person’s blocks and doubts. The process of learning to accommodate the discomfort, the hesitation and dry spells is identical to we do in our sitting practice. Finding room for the imperfections, the times that the writing practice deviates from expectations, is vital to persevering and tapping into the deeper well of creativity and insight. Most people had at least taste of this at the retreat, while some reported important breakthroughs that opened up new depth in their writing.

I heard from a number of people who were interested in attending but couldn’t make it this time. Nashville also had two other daylong meditation retreats happening on Saturday, a rarity for our town. Because of the interest I anticipate we will do this again before too long. In the mean time, keep sitting, and for you writers, keep writing! Here’s reinforcement from Ajahn Chah that applies to both:

“It’s like a child who is learning to write. At first he doesn’t write nicely — big, long loops and squiggles — he writes like a child. After a while the writing improves through practice. Practicing the Dhamma is like this. At first you are awkward…sometimes calm, sometimes not, you don’t really know what’s what. Some people get discouraged. Don’t slacken off! You must persevere with the practice. Live with effort, just like the schoolboy: as he gets older he writes better and better. From writing badly he grows to write beautifully, all because of the practice.”

The Dharma of Writing and Meditation Workshop

Saturday, February 2

10 a.m. – 4 p.m., 12 South Dharma Center

Led by Lisa Ernst

IMG_0585Please join us for a day of mindful writing and meditation practice. We will cultivate writing inspiration through meditation and exercises that help us open our hearts to the truth of what we most want to express.  These practices will also help us to communicate more eloquently from our authentic voice, both in written and verbal from. In addition, we will have an opportunity to share our writing in an atmosphere of compassionate support.  This workshop is suitable to beginning and experienced writers and meditators.

The class will be limited to twelve participants. Cost is $75. Two reduced fee spots are available for those in financial need. Registration is due by Friday, January 25. Please make checks out to One Dharma Nashville and send to 12 South Dharma Center, c/o One Dharma Nashville, 2301 12th Avenue South, Suite 202, Nashville, TN 37204. If paying by PayPal, go to this address and use the first “donate” button. For more information or to confirm your spot, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

Lisa began her meditation practice in the late ’80’s in the Zen Buddhist tradition, studying closely with two Rinzai Zen Masters and attending numerous meditation retreats. Lisa has also studied and practiced in the Theravada tradition since the late 90’s. In 2005 Lisa was given authorization to teach by Trudy Goodman, founder and guiding teacher of InsightLA. Lisa received full dharma transmission from Trudy in 2010 in the lineage of the Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. Lisa has written for magazines, newspapers and newsletters since 1990. She was the technical editor for the current edition of Meditation for Dummies. Her blog includes many essays and poetry: www.thelotusbloomsinthemud.com.