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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.

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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.

PowerPoint Presentation

More information here.

This program will help you deepen your own practice and learn the vital tenants of Buddhist mindfulness meditation in a format for skillfully sharing it with others. You will also learn how to lead effective guided meditations, give meaningful talks about mindfulness and meditation and answer questions skillfully. You will benefit from an engaged learning environment with peer and teacher support.

This course provides:

24 hours of teacher led class time, 30+ hours of course study, practice and peer engagement, guidance for daily study, teacher support and review. Our study guide for this class will be Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein.

Eligibility:

A minimum of two years consistent meditation practice, meditation retreat experience, participation in a sangha or other such community.

This program is not a lineage empowerment to teach the Buddhadharma, which requires years of study, teacher mentoring, deep commitment to daily practice and numerous meditation retreats. But for those interested in this path, the program can serve as a step along the way. For others the training will provide a foundation for deepening your own practice while learning how to effectively share it with others.

On successful completion of the course you will receive a certificate from One Dharma and Lisa Ernst verifying that you have been trained and approved to facilitate and instruct others in essential mindfulness and meditation practices. Opportunities through One Dharma and the greater community will be available.

If you are interested, please email ernst.lisa@gmail.com for full course description, fee, class dates and application. We will begin the course June, 2018.

Sometimes, in trying to hold ourselves up and avoid drowning, we may feel the rope burning and slipping through our hands. But we can find unimaginable freedom by letting go of the rope and learning to swim in the drowning pool.

The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He’ll never give up.
If he’d let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.

– Hakuin