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An Awake and Responsive Heart: Working with Emotional and Political Distress in Chaotic Times

Wednesday Evening, August 8 – Sunday, August 12, 2018

Heartwood Refuge Retreat Center, Hendersonville, NC

During these challenging and chaotic times, how do we best utilize meditation and mindfulness to prepare for and meet these challenges skillfully? Can practice help us to stay engaged with a compassionate heart while also offering a respite from the nearly daily challenges to our principles, values, and sense of fairness that we encounter?

The dharma offers a wellspring of wisdom and tools that can refresh and renew us. In this workshop we will identify practices that support our mental stability, help us step out of our reactive patterns and reset our hearts to continue our journey with loving attentiveness and wise action. We will also identify practical approaches and insights for staying engaged in our communities and beyond.

Led by Lisa Ernst, this retreat in Western North Carolina, held mostly in silence, is suitable for newer and experienced meditators. It will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, daily instructions, dharma talks, q&a and private meetings with the teacher.

Full information, cost and registration here.

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What is your primary practice? Are you drawn to the “baker” approach of direct experience or the “scientist” method of mindful observation? Is one better than the other? In this talk, Lisa also explores the idea of sudden enlightenment and gradual awakening related to practice approaches.

Daylong Meditation Retreat, Saturday 7/14/18

Nashville Friends Meeting, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Led by Lisa Ernst

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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 us toward letting go. As we release our personal agenda, spiritual joy arises through the capacity to touch this ever-changing life with a compassion and kindness that sees no ultimate separation.

The retreat is suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators; it will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, practice instructions, dharma talk and q&a.

Cost: $50 – 75 sliding scale, plus dana (donation) to the teacher. A scholarship spot is available in the case of financial need. Directions and additional information will be emailed prior to the retreat. Payment can be made through paypal here. If paying by check, instructions are at this link. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

 

Excuse my language, but this focus on “giving no fucks” is currently popular in guided meditations. For many, its easy to equate this outlook of not caring for equanimity. Sometimes our desire to avoid vulnerability and pain is so great that we may try to “give no fucks.” This talk explores how to reconcile this with true equanimity.

Is enlightenment an esoteric experience that we must cultivate or is awareness itself enlightenment? Perhaps its closer at hand than we think.

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by Lisa Ernst

As with many spiritual traditions, Buddhism emphasizes cultivating compassion as vital to a spiritual life. Most of us want to be compassionate at heart yet at times we may struggle to manifest it skillfully in daily life. What happens when we see a homeless person on an empty street and we recoil rather than feeling a warm yearning to reach out and help? Maybe a family member needs our support but we’ve had a long history of conflicts and misunderstandings and we struggle to extend a hand. Perhaps a co-worker who always seems aloof or combative has a tragic loss. Instead of feeling a sense of caring and interconnection with their suffering, we initially feel neutral, detached.

At times like these our response to misfortune and suffering may not align with our ideals and intentions. When we see this gap, we may feel even more separate. This can easily turn into self-judgment and criticism: “I’m not a very compassionate person;” “I don’t have the courage to help;” or even, “that person doesn’t deserve my kindness.”

When our response doesn’t conform to our ideals, it helps to remember that a compassionate response is unlikely to arise unless we acknowledge and explore our immediate reaction This is the gap—when our response and our ideals are out of sync. Instead of identifying only with our ideals, or judging ourselves for an unwanted response, we can drop down and learn to stay in the gap, the place beneath our thoughts where we can experience our fear, our hurt or our frustration when our desire to help goes nowhere. In these situations, this is where compassion begins. Returning to this place, our bodies, our hearts, what is truly arising at this moment?

If you’re walking down the street and encounter a homeless person, can you see the moment aversion arises and just experience it? It may not happen immediately, but once you’re aware of it, take a few breaths and stay in the midst of your experience. As you learn to do this, your conditioned response will begin to diminish. The contraction of fear will soften, the sense of separation, born of that fear, will also start to dissolve. As we lose identification with ourselves as a separate entity, we experience the homeless person’s suffering more directly. Maybe there’s nothing we can do in that moment to help beyond offering a few dollars. Sometimes the correct response is to distance ourselves if the situation seems unstable. But if there’s no immediate threat, perhaps simply a smile, an acknowledgement that we actually see this human being, is the kindest response. Longer term, we may feel motivated to seek out concrete ways to take action.

The roots of suffering run deep. As we learn to stay in the gap, not turning away from our fear or aversion, a skillful and compassionate response is closer at hand. As Ajahn Chah puts it, “There are two kinds of suffering. There is the suffering you run away from, which follows you everywhere. And there is the suffering you face directly, and so become free.”

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For more information, cost and registration, go here.