Lisa Ernst: Meditation Teacher

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Lisa Ernst is a meditation teacher, artist and founder of One Dharma Nashville. In her teaching, Lisa emphasizes both transformational insight and everyday awakening as an invitation to embrace all of the path’s possibilities. She offers private meditation training, retreats and workshops nationally and teaches meditation internationally. She is a visiting teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre California. Lisa received dharma transmission in the Thai Forest lineage of Ajahn Chah, Jack Kornfiled and Trudy Goodman. As a practicing visual artist Lisa incorporates Dharma into contemplative photography and writing. She also leads Buddhist pilgrimages to India.

What do I do best?

I do best through what most inspires me at a particular time in my life. For a while it was painting, inspired by nature. As I deepened my meditation practice, I was inspired by the greater sense of awareness and clarity that it evoked in me and I wanted to share the practice with others. So I began teaching meditation and mindfulness. I feel most competent when I’m working with people one on one to help them deepen their practice, to meet their suffering in a way that clarifies and liberates them, and working with groups during meditation retreats. This where I can share from the heart what I find most valuable in my life and guide others to identify and live from their truest values and intentions.  In my personal life, I strive to be a good partner to my husband and I believe he would say I do that well.

What makes me the best version of myself?

The characteristics I most value and practice in my life are honesty, integrity and kindness. Also persistence and the willingness to start over. Sometimes starting over takes honesty about my mistakes or oversights, and to remember that I don’t have to cling to an approach that no longer works.

What are my aspirations?

My personal aspiration actually is a continuation of the path I’m on – to be a good partner to my husband,  a good friend and to be sure and take enough time in my life for cultivating meaningful relationships. This means not allowing myself to be too busy, which I was last year for much of the time. My work goals are also a continuation, to keep doing what I’m doing but to bring more creativity into the process. As a visual artist, I value what creativity can bring to any activity, including teaching mediation. I also plan to get more involved in my community to support the things I believe lead to a more compassionate and equitable society.

My Biggest Success?

There are a few of these. In my personal life, after losing both of my parents in my teens, I eventually learned that I had the resources inside myself to live a fulfilling and successful life. That allowed me to find more rewarding relationships and work that wasn’t dependent on expecting others to fill an unmet needs that came from the loss of my parents. I realized I didn’t need anyone to “fix” me, that I was already ok. Meditation and therapy were a vital step in this process. In my work life, my success has been based on listening to my inner voice, knowing when to change paths and letting go of a fixed idea of success. After working as a professional visual artist for over a decade, I began to see that my heart wasn’t in it any more. This was hard to acknowledge as I had invested so much time in it. I kept hoping to reignite the spark, but it just wasn’t there. So I listened to my heart (and many external encouragements as well) and began making the transition to teaching mediation. It was a slow process and very hard to let go of painting every day, but gradually the path opened up. I still make art and love the process of creativity, but I no longer do it out of a sense of obligation or a need to pay the bills.

My Most Challenging Moment?

After living an independent adult life  for a number of years, I met a man who was entirely different from anyone I had known before. I enjoyed being with him but he seemed to be getting serious about a long term commitment sooner than I was comfortable with. After dating for several months he asked me to marry him. I was unsure how to respond and said I needed more time. Although I wasn’t ready to tell him, I didn’t really see the relationship going much further. I went away on a week long retreat with the idea I would find the courage to break it off with him on my return home. The retreat was far away in the New Mexico mountains and I had the chance to let go the entire dilemma for a while. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the mountains as my heart came to rest. As the retreat came to an end, with a clear mind and refreshed heart, it suddenly became crystal clear that we were a perfect match. I listened to my heart and the wise mind that is more easily accessed through deep meditation and said “yes” to his proposal. I realized I had been afraid of intimacy and letting someone into my heart after suffering so much loss growing up. But I realized I was ready to take that leap of faith. We got married several months later and will happily celebrate our 22nd anniversary this year.

My Motto?

Live a life of integrity and kindness, walk your talk, and make sure those that you admire as leaders and teachers also walk theirs!

My Favorite People/Role Models?

On both a personal and spiritual level, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Master, is someone I believe truly “walks his talk.”

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Currently, its India. I led a pilgrimage to India in 2017 and feel in love with it. India is a mix of beauty, heartbreak and inspiration. It calls to mind the adage, “the lotus blooms in the mud.” In India, the perfect and imperfect comingle in often unexpected but remarkable ways. I will be retuning to India this year to lead another pilgrimage. In this U.S. I Iove the beaches of California and Florida and the mountains of Colorado.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I'm not a big collector of things, but I do love art and photography. I also enjoyed buying some handmade silk items in India on my recent pilgrimage. Two favorite products are ethically sourced coffee and chocolate. There are a number of good brands, so I like to try different ones.

My Current Passions?

As in #8, traveling in India and Nepal. I’m excited to be returning this year and visiting new territory, from Dharmsala, the current home of the Dalai Lama, to Kathmandu and Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace) in Nepal. Nearer to home, I love relaxing with hikes in nature, beach walks and mindful photography.  This year, I plan to help “get out the vote” because I’m passionate that  everyone who wants to vote should have a voice.