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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

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.

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radnorsunbeams

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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During my recent tour of India, I was reminded over and over that one definition of dukkha is unreliability. India is a truly magical place of great beauty and spirituality but travel can be challenging at times. When Westerners first encounter this, it can be unnerving as we expect systems to work consistently. But when this unreliability is met without our usual expectations of a specific outcome, we no longer suffer. In India, when our group was able to flow with the nature of the unknown, especially in relation to travel, we didn’t suffer. Indians learned this long ago and I observed how they meet this unreliability with equanimity. So in this case there was no dukkha. And we also observed impermanence when the challenge of travel led us into spectacular scenery and magical new places to see and experience.

After returning home from Nashville, I was driving to Tuesday night meditation when I encountered a major traffic jam on 1-440. I decided to take an alternate route via West End and Murphy Road. But many others had the same idea. West End was jammed with cars and I had to sit through four cycles of the light at West End and Murphy, each of which took nearly four minutes. I watched as the clock ticked away knowing I was running later and later. As I’m a punctuality freak, this was a little unnerving. But just as frustration was about to set in I remembered the lesson of unreliability from my travels in India; I exhaled and relaxed. All was well. When I arrived at One Dharma, about 15 minutes later than usual, I jokingly told our opening volunteer that I had turned over a new leaf and had thrown punctuality to the wind!

Here are a few words from Joseph Goldstein about dukkha as the inherently unreliable nature of things:

One way we experience dukkha, the unsatisfying, unreliable nature of things, is through the direct and increasingly clear perception of their changing nature. Many people have been enlightened by this one short teaching: “Whatever has the nature to arise will also pass away.”

But because this statement is so glaringly obvious we often ignore or overlook its deep implications. On the conceptual level, we understand this quite easily. But in our lives, how often are we living in anticipation of what comes next, as if that will finally bring us to some kind of completion of fulfillment? When we look back over our lives, what has happened to all those things we looked forward to? Where are they now? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves or enjoy pleasant experiences. It just means we need to remember the very transitory nature of that happiness and to deeply consider what our highest aspirations really are. Excerpted from “Mindfulness, A Practical Guide to Awakening.”

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Saturday, September 23, 9:00 a.m. – Noon
Nashville Friends Meeting
Led by Lisa Ernst

3moonsunps

Do you often hear messages that fear is bad or wrong and should be eliminated through positive thinking, mindfulness or other methods? In these difficult and challenging times, fear may even overwhelm.

What if we instead began to understand that fear is not wrong, that it is part of our human make up, and that facing it, even embracing it, is a vital part of fostering gratitude, compassion and freedom from suffering. In this workshop we will learn to lean in and make friends with fear by cultivating a courageous heart that embraces all of life without turning away. Through this process we can more readily help ourselves and others; we begin to relax and respond to life through a kind and awakened heart.

The workshop will include discourse on cultivating a courageous heart, experiential instructions in opening to fear, meditation and dharma talk. Cost is $50. A reduced fee option is available in the case of financial needs. Paypal is available here.  Please use the “donate” button. If paying by check, instructions are at the same link. Be sure to include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017
Nashville Friends Meeting, 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Led by Lisa Ernst

sunrisemaryhelen

All of our thoughts and feelings arise in a field of awareness that is naturally spacious and open. In this retreat we will explore how open awareness practice creates a wider container to meet all of our thoughts and emotions with kindness and compassion. As we deepen into this practice the boundary between inside and outside dissolves and we experience intimacy and interconnection with all things.

This retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, instructions and dharma talk. We will explore the way focused and open attention in meditation support each other. We will learn how open attention can invigorate and sustain, not only our formal practice, but awareness of our daily activities. The retreat is appropriate for newer and more experience meditators.

Cost is $50 and is due by 8/21. A reduced fee spot is available in the case of financial need. There will be a separate opportunity to practice dana (generosity) toward the teacher to support her time and efforts.

Payment can be made by Paypal here. If paying by check, instructions are here. If paying by check, please include your email address. Additional retreat information will be provided prior to the retreat. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com

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For those interested in joining our tour to India in November, here is a closer look at some of the main places we will be visiting.

Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya[1]

After touching down and catching our breath for a day in Delhi, our first stop will be Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained nirvana sitting under a Bodhi tree. A descendant of that same tree marks the supposed exact spot, and next to it sits the magnificent Mahabodhi “Great Awakening Temple.” It is a very powerful place for meditation and contemplation.

Bodh Gaya is the holiest site in Buddhism and Bodh Gaya has been the most important pilgrimage place for Buddhists for thousands of years. Most Buddhist nations have built a temple here in their own style, and it is also the site for the Dalai Lama’s annual Kalachakra “Wheel of time” tantric initiations.

Varanasi

Varanasi[1]

From the peace and quiet of Bodh Gaya we will head to the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, on the banks for the holy river Ganges.

Here we will wander the alleyways of the ancient city, take a boat ride on the Ganges, and witness the aarti prayer ceremonies, where flowers and floating candles are released onto the river.

Varanasi is also the site of the deer park where the Buddha delivered his first sermon, the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Sarnath. Today it is still an important place for Buddhists and a well maintained park centered around the ancient brick stupa, with an excellent museum exhibiting millennia of Buddhist history.

Sikkim

Sikkim[1]

From Varanasi we have a train journey and a drive up to the mountain region of Sikkim in the Himalayan foothills, sandwiched between Tibet, Nepal, and the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. Buddhism continues to thrive in the Himalayas, and this is where we will spend the final leg of this tour, to experience life in a living Buddhist culture.

We will be staying with families in village homestays, meeting the monks, and meditating in the local monastery temple. There will also be time for contemplation in the peace of the region, as well as visiting nearby temples and ruins with stunning Himalayan scenery.

Full details and registration can be seen on the website here, and please get in touch with either Lisa at ernst.lisa@gmail.com or Soul of India at nathan@soulofindia.com if you have any questions.

 

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