This dharma talk was inspired by a woman named Marta Beckett who was a professionally trained ballet dancer in New York City. When her car broke down in Death Valley she saw an abandoned old theater and listened to the call of her heart and renovated it. She danced there many years with little to no audience until she was discovered. In the talk I explore how we can devote ourselves fully to our path with love and commitment, rather than seeking results, even when the terrain seems barren. In this way, we open to greater possibilities as unexpected and wonderful surprises often appear along the way.

One Dharma has incurred some significant expenses related to the move. We are paying double rent for part of July as our lease doesn’t officially end at the dharma center until July 31. In addition, we have purchased 15 new sets of zafus and zabutons. As all three of the dharma center groups will be meeting in separate spaces, we had to split up the inventory of cushions at the dharma center. The new zafus and zabutons cost $110 a set, $1650 total. We need to raise funds to cover these added expenses and I hope you can help. If you would like to donate the cost of one (or more sets) of zafus and zabutons that would help a great deal. If the cost of a set is beyond your budget, any amount you can offer will be greatly appreciated and will help toward ensuring we have adequate funds. Here is the cost breakdown for our move:

15 zafus at $40 each = $600
15 zabutons at $70 each = $1050
extra rent for new location in July: $300

Total moving cost: $1,950

You can donate by cash, check or credit card. You can donate by paypal here. To pay by check, please bring it to one of our meetings or email ernst.lisa@gmail.com for where to send it (we’ll be opening a p.o. box). One Dharma is a non-profit organization and your donations are tax deductible.

Thank you for supporting One Dharma!

Fall Residential Retreat with Red Clay Sangha
Making the Mystery Clear
Led by Lisa Ernst
Thursday evening, September 29 – Sunday Noon, October 2

Our practice is not to clear up the mystery. It is to make the mystery clear.
~ Robert Aitken Roshi


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 the way to letting go — remembering that the practice is not only to help us solve problems but to enter deeply into the great mystery of life and death.

This residential 4-day/3-night, held mostly in silence is recommended for both beginning and experienced meditators. Format will be Vipassana style sitting and walking segments. Cost is $150 and covers all meals and lodging. There will be a separate opportunity to make dana (generosity) offering the teacher. Location is the beautiful Sautee Lodge nestled in the mountains near Helen Georgia (about 4 1/2 hours from Nashville). Space is limited so its a good idea to sign up early. Registration is here.

After eight years at the 12 South Dharma Center, One Dharma will hold its last meeting there this Thursday, July 7. This is our once monthly LGBT meeting. The center will officially close by July 15. Why are we leaving? To quote a lovely piece on the 12 South Dharma Center written by Walter Bittner, “In the end, it was the success of the revitalization and gentrification of the 12 South neighborhood that spelled the end of 12SDC. Recently, the ground floor unit directly beneath the meditation hall was rented to a juice bar which operates 7 days/week, 12 hours/day. Silent meditation in the room above a busy shop filled with the voices of customers, staff, blenders, and piped-in ambient music was no longer possible, and each of the three groups who share the center made alternate plans and negotiated to withdraw from their lease.”

One Dharma’s weekly Monday meditation and all Thursday meetings and classes  will begin July 11 at Healing Well Yoga, 3808 Park Avenue, just off Charlotte Ave. This is a spacious studio with plenty of parking by the building and along the street. I hope to have some photos soon. The space is truly beautiful! Interestingly, two years ago this was the very space we investigated as an option for a new dharma center. Negotiations didn’t work out but now the space available to us Monday and Thursday evenings and is perfect for meditation. Please come by and sit with us!

Our Introduction to Meditation Class will move to the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative Health beginning Saturday, July 9. This is a wonderful space and we are honored that Vanderbilt is accommodating us so generously. VCIH, also known as Osher, is located 3401 West End Ave at Orleans. The parking garage is at the rear of the building on Orleans. There is plenty of parking, which is free and secure. Walk through the glass door at the garage entry level (3rd floor). Turn left and follow the hallway to Vanderbilt Integrative Health, Suite 380. Stay left around the front desk to the first open room on your left. Please remove shoes before entering.

In the longer term, the three sanghas that have comprised the 12 South Dharma Center hope to find a new dedicated practice space.

Saturday, July 23, Nashville Friends Meeting
9 a.m. – Noon
Led by Lisa Ernst

Taking Flightcrop

In this half day workshop we will explore in-depth Buddhist teachings of self and no-self. We will learn how meditation can help us identify and befriend our many “selves” while also touching the ineffable freedom of the unconditioned heart and mind. By seeing through the endless flux of identity, we come to rest in compassion, kindness and clarity.

The workshop 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.
Please include your email address. Scholarships are available, inquire at onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

“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.

This talk references the Nashville flood of 2010 and the effects it had on Radnor Lake. From a broader perspective, I explore the question of how we proceed when a tree falls into our path, or when the path is flooded beyond recognition. Can we discover a new way even as we mourn what is lost?


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