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The election is over but for many the fallout continues. Many have shed tears, have experienced anger and fear and have shared their voices and mobilized into action. Just after the election, Leonard Cohen died, a great voice of love, loss and dharma. His words and songs have rung out over the last several days as people have listened to and shared their favorite songs and quotes. Many are so applicable to where we find ourselves at this time, and his words are also timeless. One that particularly resonated for me at the moment is “if you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be drowning every day.” This is not an easy practice, but in one sentence it brilliantly sums up dukkha and freedom from dukkha.

The day after the election I was heartened by a spontaneous act of love and kindness in our old neighborhood, the 12 South area, at the Islamic Center of Nashville. I have known the Islamic Center to be a wonderful part of the community. President Rashed Fakhruddin in particular has been a strong organizer for shared community, Interfaith connections and events. He has also been an outspoken voice for prevention of abuse against women.

A mother and son in the neighborhood took their chalk and wrote on the sidewalks in front of the Islamic Center. In her words: “This morning Hudson and I took our chalk down to the Islamic Community Center on 12th. We wanted to tell our neighbors that we love them and stand with them. A lot of folks stopped by and added their own messages of love. It was great to meet people and work together. To my Muslim friends and community members: I stand with you now, and if things do get worse, I will stand with you then too.” May we all stand with those who need our support.

Over the last month or so, my dharma talks have largely reflected my experience of the political climate. These talks have been focused on finding a skillful response to the situation, internally and externally. It is not always easy. Some of us may have to ask ourselves, “how do I digest broken glass?” “How do I stand where there is no ground?” When we truly experience groundlessness, new ground emerges. But even then we can’t cling. As the ground shifts, the appropriate response may change as well, it is not fixed. This fluidity, the recognition of impermanence, is vital to clear seeing in each moment and wise action.

My talks and blog posts over the last month have reflected the unfolding of events as I saw them. I’m not one to simply hand out cookies or bromides of hope (even though many of you know I do give out chocolate chip cookies after daylong retreats). I do suggest we do our best to take a courageous, no blinders look at what’s going on both internally and externally and to the extent we can, find a way to contribute and to keep compassion and kindness alive in our hearts.

A number of articles about this election season are here, along with the one above they include, “Becoming the Ocean,” “Staying Right Here,” and “Anxiety, Election Fallout and Finding Calm in the Storm.”

Several dharma talks related to this political season are here. The include “How Do You Digest Broken Glass,” “A Season of Politics and the Unwelcome Guest,” and “How To Hold Your Dharma Seat.”

Staying Right Here

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Before I think about moving forward, about kindness and a wise response, I need to stay right here. In this place of groundlessness, of vulnerability, of deep concern for the world and how things are today.

We talk a lot about practicing with groundless in the dharma, about letting the bottom fall out. That time is now. Do it if you can, let it happen. Don’t turn from your grief and fear, allow it. You don’t need to force yourself to think hopeful thoughts just now. This isn’t yet the time for that. Let yourself weep and know it deep in your heart, for yourself and the world.

Words aren’t enough right now, really nothing is, but here’s the poem that speaks to me in this moment, that cracks my heart open, as it often does in times of strife and suffering.

Please Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m excited to be offering this tour of India in November 2017, Ancient Roots, Living Branches: Discovering Buddhist India. Dates are November 5 – 19.

Combining a meditation retreat with a Buddhist pilgrimage, this tour is an exploration of both ancient Buddhist history and living Buddhist traditions. First we explore the ancient holy sites in the North and East of India, where the Buddha practiced and taught – including Bodhgaya and Sarnath – before moving on to the mountains of Sikkim to experience Buddhist village life in the Himalayas.

The tour is guided by expert local guides in India, while I offer meditation and dharma discussions along the way in various locations, from hotel gardens to Tibetan monasteries.

We will be interacting with and learning from Buddhist communities and practitioners as we travel. It’s also a fun adventure off the beaten track, and this tour is open to everyone interested in Buddhism and meditation.

For information including the complete itinerary, pricing, etc., go here.

In this talk I explore how we can skillfully meet our fear and the unwanted visitors who keep knocking on the door, especially in this challenging season of political unrest. I also share how I overcame the trauma and fear of being stalked for a year.

Saturday, November 5, 9 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends House

Lisa Ernst, meditation teacher and founder of One Dharma Nashville, and Terry Huff, LCSW, psychotherapist specializing in adults with ADHD and author of Living Well with ADHD, will offer a meditation workshop on meditation and ADD/ADHD. The workshop will include lecture, practice, and discussion and will address the following:

1. Why meditate?
2. Basics of practice
3. Different practices for
a. selective attention (focusing)
b. open awareness (expanding)
c. compassion (for self and other)

Research shows that mindfulness practice improves concentration, attention regulation, self-observation (of mental activity), working memory, and emotion regulation.

The workshop location is Nashville Friends House, 530 26th Ave N. Cost is $60 and includes a copy of Terry’s new book, Living Well with ADHD. Registration deadline is October 28. Workshop cost is $70 after this date. Payment can be made by paypal at this link. If paying by check, instructions are here.  A reduced fee is available to anyone who can’t afford the full fee.

Contact ernst.lisa@gmail.com or tmhuff@comcast.net to inquire.

If you have been practicing for a year or longer and wish to formally reflect your commitment to the dharma path, I will be offering this opportunity through One Dharma. It will culminate in a ceremony at One Dharma, which we will plan for a time in November that works for all involved. If you are interested, please email ernst.lisa@gmail.com by October 1. If you have already taken refuge and the precepts and wish to refresh your vows, you are also welcome and encouraged to participate.

About the Refuge Ceremony
Taking refuge means relying wholeheartedly on the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to inspire and guide us toward a constructive and beneficial direction in our lives. The real taking of refuge occurs deep in our hearts and isn’t dependent on doing or saying anything. Nevertheless, we may wish to participate in the refuge ceremony by requesting a dharma teacher to formally give us refuge. The refuge ceremony is simple: we repeat the passages after the teacher and open our hearts to make a strong connection with the Three Jewels.

About Taking Precepts
Precepts are a joy, not a burden. They aren’t designed to keep us from having a good time and to make us feel deprived. The purpose of taking precepts is to give us internal strength so that we won’t act in ways that we don’t want to. Having understood that killing, stealing, selfishness and so forth only lead us to harm ourselves and others now and in the future, we’ll want to avoid these. Taking precepts give us energy and strength to do so. Therefore, it’s said that precepts are the ornaments of the wise.

To help people overcome their disturbing attitudes and stop committing harmful actions, the Buddha set out five precepts. During the refuge ceremony, in addition to taking refuge in the Three Jewels, we can take any or all of the five precepts, and become a lay Buddhist.

The five precepts
1. I observe the precept of abstaining from the destruction of life.
2. I observe the precept of abstaining from taking that which is not given.
3. I observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
4. I observe the precept of abstaining from falsehood.
5. I observe the precept of abstaining from intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause carelessness.

The refrain “I observe the precept of abstaining from …” which begins every precept clearly shows that these are not commandments. They are instead codes of conduct that lay Buddhists undertake out of clear understanding and conviction that they are good for both themselves and for the world. If you have any questions about these precepts and what they mean to your everyday life, please inquire. (You aren’t expected to become a vegetarian unless you are already inclined in that direction. However, reflecting on and taking actions to reduce harm is at the heart of the first precept.)

Making Peace: Being Self and Emptiness

Thursday Evening, December 8 – Noon, December 11, 2016
Optional extended retreat through noon December 13
Bethany Hills Retreat Center, Kingston Springs, TN

“Live in the nowhere that you come from, even though you have got an address here.” – Rumi

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Retreat full, but we are accepting names for the waitlist at onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Please join us at a beautiful, wooded retreat site just outside Nashville for this three or five night residential retreat. We will explore the nature of our identity and sense of self that we use to live in the world, as well as the wise space of heart and mind that lets go. As we practice meeting all of the activity of self with mindfulness, steadiness, and kindness, our insight and compassion grow. The more we make peace with our ego the more we dwell in our boundless, empty nature.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, this silent retreat is suitable for newer and more experienced meditators. 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 $225 if paid in full by November 9; after $250. If you wish the stay for five nights, the retreat fee is $365 if paid by November 9; $395 after. A $75 deposit reserves 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. Two reduced fee spots is are available in the case of financial need. Please inquire for details.

Payments can be made through Paypal here or mailed to One Dharma Nashville, P.O. Box 158533, Nashville, TN, 37215. Please indicate the number of nights you will stay. If sending a check, include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

Lisa Ernst is a 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 mindfulness as an invitation to embrace all of the path’s possibilities. She leads classes, workshops and meditation retreats nationally.