Posts Tagged ‘awakening’

This dharma talk explores the intersection of delusion and Buddha Nature, how the awakened heart/mind is always available, even in the most difficult moments.


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A dharma talk from Lisa’s November 2014 7 day meditation retreat:

New Dharma Talk and Guided Meditation: Awakening to Yearning.

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5 Session Course Starting June 18, 2015
Thursdays, 7 – 8:30 p.m. at 12 South Dharma Center
Led by Lisa Ernst


This five week practice and study course is designed for committed practitioners and will allow for deeper exploration of the process and practices of meditation and awakening. Patterned on Sprit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioner Program and led by Lisa Ernst, the class will offer specific teaching and practice approaches based on the Noble Eightfold Path. There will be plenty of time for group discussion and interaction. The basic requirements are that everyone attending has an established daily meditation practice, or will re-commit to one, and has attended at least one daylong or longer meditation retreat. Meetings will be held Thursday evenings at the 12 South Dharma Center, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
The class fee is offered on a sliding scale of $125 – $150. Anything you pay above $125 will help toward our scholarship fund. Two reduced fee spots are available in the case of financial need. A deposit of $35 reserves your spot with the balance due by June 11. To pay by paypal go here. Instructions on paying by check are available at this link. Please include your email address. Please note that we will not meet on Thursday, July 2 due to the 4th of July Holiday. For additional information contact ernst.lisa@gmail.com.

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Buddha’s Four Ways of Unfolding

When asked about the path of practice, Buddha explained that there are four ways for spiritual life to unfold. The first way is quickly and with pleasure. In this, opening and letting go come naturally, like an easy birth, accompanied by joy and rapture. The second way is quickly but painfully. On this path we might face a powerful near-death experience, an accident or the unbearable loss of someone we hold beloved. This path passes through a flaming gate to teach us about letting go. The third form of spiritual progress is gradual and accompanied by pleasure. In this way opening and letting go happens over a period of years, predominantly with ease and delight. The fourth and most common path is also slow and gradual, but takes place predominantly through suffering. Difficulty and struggle are a recurrent theme, and through them we gradually awaken.

In this matter we do not choose. Our unfolding is a reflection of the patterns of our lives, which are sometimes described as “our fate” or “our karma.” No matter the apparent speed, we are simply asked to give ourselves to the process. In fact, we cannot measure our progress. It is like being in a small row-boat on the ocean. We row, but there is also a larger current; we may continually head east, but cannot know how far we have gone. The question of distance and time, however, is one that only arises at the beginning. It does not matter how far we think we have gone. It is our willingness to open radically and repeatedly just now that characterizes the journey.

Jack Kornfield

excerpted from After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

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This week’s reading is from Joseph Goldstein. It’s a little longer than usual, but worth reading. Goldstein says that the tendency to compare oneself to others and feel unworthy is actually one of the toughest and last of the ego elements to be uprooted in the final stages of awakening.

The Suffering of Unworthiness and Alienation

by Joseph Goldstein

This morning I would like to talk about the suffering of unworthiness and alienation, some of its causes and some of the possibilities for liberation. The impulse toward unworthiness has many voices in our minds. It’s the voice of, “I’m not good enough.” or “I can’t do this,” or “Did I do something wrong?” In Buddhism, this tendency towards comparing oneself with others—and the comparison can be “I’m better than…,” “I’m worse than…,” “I’m equal to…”—is called conceit. What’s quite interesting is that this conditioning of conceit is said not to be uprooted from our minds until the final stage of awakening. We can have uprooted pride, desire, anger and ill will, and still this pattern of conceit keeps arising within us. So it’s very powerful and deeply conditioned. Because it is so strong and deep, we need to understand it carefully and investigate how it’s working.

Feelings of unworthiness or comparison arise from many causes and social conditions: our parents, schools, junior high school. Think of the comparing mind that goes on with advertising. How could we not feel somehow inadequate when in our culture we continually see all these beautiful, happy, smiling, contented, perfect people? This is what is being fed to us, and then we measure ourselves against it. Even when we see through the ruse of social conditioning, feelings of unworthiness still come very strongly when we come face to face with our own hearts and minds. It’s not only in comparison to what’s out there; it’s what we see when we look inside.

When I first went to Asia in 1967 and was practicing with my teacher, Anagarekameninja in Bodhgaya, India, I was just starting to learn meditation. I would sit and see all the judgments, fear, desire, and the comparing. I would run to him, telling him what a terrible person I was. It was the first deep and careful look into my own mind. Of course, he would smile and say, “Just go back and watch your breath and be mindful.” And I would go back and see more of this stuff. It was the beginning of an insight that has stayed with me all these years—that if it’s not one thing, it’s another. There is always something coming up. There is a line from Nikos Kazantzakis’ book Zorba the Greek, where the author says, “Self knowledge is always bad news.” Anyone on a contemplative journey looking into their hearts and minds will see that. It’s not simply a question of these negative or unwholesome thoughts and feelings. It gets worse: because we see the unskillful actions we take. It’s not only limited to what’s within us; it’s how we are acting in the world.

An incident happened almost twenty years ago now that was really a transforming moment for me in my practice and spiritual journey. Our teacher, Sayadaw U Pandita, one of the great Burmese masters, came to America for the first time. It was the first time I met him. He was a very demanding, fierce teacher, what our image might be of a really fierce old Zen master, and I was anxious about going in for the interviews. It was hard. We were seeing him every day for very intense practice. One time I was giving a report on my experience about what was happening [in my meditation practice], and he looked at me and he said, “That’s not true.” My heart sank. And in that moment of the sinking heart, I realized that he was right. I had been practicing a long time already. I knew a lot and I knew how things should be unfolding. On some half conscious—hopefully, it was half conscious!—level, I was just shading my experience by way of wanting to move it along. When he caught me and said, “That’s not true,” it was totally devastating. I spent days in feelings of unworthiness, remorse, regret, and guilt.

Then something happened. After days of being immersed in that feeling of shame, a light emerged where I began to see a way out. That was the recognition that acceptance of our shadow side is the key; not the pretense that we don’t have one. As soon as I could admit to myself that, in fact, I could shade the truth, that I could lie even in a situation where I never thought I would, in the moment when I opened to that possibility, there was a tremendous sense of relief, because it was coming into balance with what was true, rather than sustaining the inner pressure of keeping that side away from myself.

I think this is a turning point in our spiritual journeys. It was for me very significant: When I realized I would much rather see my flaws, defilements, or sins—whatever word we use to describe those negative forces—than not see them. That was revelatory for me because it opened up the possibility of seeing the totality of myself—without self-judgment or those feelings of unworthiness arising. Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist, said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining angels of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” It is disagreeable at first. But what is so amazing over all these years is that I think we come to a point where our commitment to the truth is so strong that there’s actually a feeling of delight in seeing the flaws and defilements. Now, when I watch my mind get lost in something, I’m happy to see it, because in the seeing of it is the possibility of being free. In the seeing of it, we begin to open to the possibility of a deeply transforming insight and wisdom into what the Buddha called the empty, insubstantial, transparent, selfless nature of phenomena.

This whole process of transformation is made possible through the great power of mindfulness and awareness. We need to stay aware of what’s arising within us, around us, and in the world. We need to stay aware with acceptance, love, compassion, and discriminating wisdom

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