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Sunday, January 1 2017, 9 a.m. – Noon
Blooma Yoga, 4107 Charlotte Ave.
Led by Lisa Ernst

3moonsunps

“One of the Buddha’s most penetrating discoveries is that our intentions are the main factors shaping our lives and that they can be mastered as a skill.” – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Start your New Year on the cushion by joining us for a half day intention setting retreat. At the beginning of a New Year, it is customary to take stock of our lives and the world we live in, to review the previous year and set our intentions for the upcoming twelve months and beyond. Bringing this evaluation onto the cushion, to look with fresh eyes and an open heart, can help us refine and clarify our direction and to live from the truest part of ourselves.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, the retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, dharma talk and discussion. Cost is $40 – $50, sliding scale. A reduced fee option is available for those who need financial support. Paypal is available here. Please use the “donate” button. Instructions for paying by check are here. Be sure to include your email address For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

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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.”

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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.

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“What the hell is isolated samadhi?” you may ask. Currently we’re in a mindfulness meditation boom and samadhi is not emphasized as often in this practice. With mindfulness practice, we’re focusing on objects, such as breath, body, emotions and thoughts. We watch them arise and pass away, doing our best to see their impermanence moment to moment. This is a wonderful practice and helps us become more familiar with our minds, our habitual patterns and how we function in the relative world.

Samadhi is a state of meditative absorption where we access deep insights into the mind and heart and the nature of interconnection. In samadhi, our minds are calm, our meditation is effortless and often includes feelings of bliss, joy and equanimity. It has great appeal but I find many practitioners of mindfulness don’t reach this state often. Their concentration isn’t developed enough or the focus remains subject/object oriented. In samadhi, the subject/object separation disappears. That is, “self and other” cease to exist as a fixed experience. A strong mindfulness practice can lead to samadhi. But it takes commitment and adequate time devoted to meditation.

I began my practice in the Zen tradition, where samadhi was emphasized. Through rigorous practice, I quickly reached deep states of meditative absorption. I found it invaluable in helping me with intractable depression and grief; I was able to see thoughts and emotions as empty of any abiding reality. I found the courage to experience the grief and depression directly, which allowed them to finally pass through to their end.

But I also became aware that many accomplished teachers seemed lost outside of the meditation hall. They spoke eloquently of emptiness and seemed to have deep dharma insights. But their “everyday” behavior was puzzling and in some cases, inexcusable. Whatever clarity they gained through samadhi was lost as soon as they entered the everyday world. It was as if a barrier had been erected between the two, and no amount of practice penetrated the clouded mind of craving and addiction. I was on the receiving end of this craving with two Zen teachers and it shattered my trust in the path. I didn’t understand how such seemingly awakened men could be so blind in other parts of their lives.

I started to realize they had not developed their capacity to be mindful in daily life in a way that would bridge their insights and samadhi from the cushion. I knew didn’t want to follow that route, so I took up Vipassana mindfulness as a counterbalance to samadhi practice. I had to let go of my pride of accomplishment on the path and approach this practice as a beginner. With its emphasis on ethics and compassion, and de-emphasis’ on holding teachers up as gurus, Vipassana helped me find a way back to the practice and to the dharma. This doesn’t mean I think one practice is better than the other. Both have merit and both need to be approached in a balanced way.

Many newcomers do best when they begin with mindfulness. But at some point they may need more. Mindfulness and meditative absorption are both important practices. I would not abandon one for the other, nor emphasize one over the other for the mature and committed practitioner. They are not mutually exclusive. Just enter the way with a good dose of compassion and find the path to your heart. All practices are like a finger pointing to the moon, as one saying goes. We don’t want to mistake the finger for the moon, and become attached to any one practice. Knowing when to let go is as important as skillfully developing these practices. When I let go of samadhi, I didn’t lose it, but gained another doorway into compassion and insight, especially in my everyday life.

– Lisa Ernst

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New blog post by Lisa Ernst here:

A Phantom and A Dream: Social Media, Connection and Loneliness During the Holidays

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The Power of Intention: Clarifying Your Path for the New Year
Friday, January 1, 9 a.m. – Noon
12 South Dharma Center
Led by Lisa Ernst

“One of the Buddha’s most penetrating discoveries is that our intentions are the main factors shaping our lives and that they can be mastered as a skill.” – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Join us for a half day intention setting retreat at the 12 South Dharma Center. At the beginning of a New Year, it is customary to take stock of our lives, to review the previous year and set our intentions for the upcoming twelve months and beyond. Bringing this evaluation onto the cushion, to look with fresh eyes and an open heart, can help us refine and clarify our direction and to live from the truest part of ourselves.

Led by meditation teacher Lisa Ernst, the retreat will include periods of sitting and walking meditation, dharma talk and discussion. Cost is $40 and is due by Monday, December 28. You can pay through Paypal here.  Instructions for paying by check are at this link. Be sure and include your email address. For questions, email onedharmaretreat@gmail.com.

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We enjoyed a lovely spring weekend at Bethany Hills with perfect conditions for our retreat. For an essay with photos and poetry, go here:

2015 Spring Renewal Meditation Retreat Recap.

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