Project Description

Ryan, Nashville TN

When were you first exposed to dharma?

I am not sure exactly when I first became aware of the dharma path, but my first brush with it was through reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Beyond the Self a translation of the Sutra on the Middle Way. At the time I had been in recovery for about 10 years and had a sustain spiritual practice of self-reflection and service, but I had never been exposed to the truth of Dependent Origination. Being exposed to such an obvious but esoteric view of reality inspired a continued exploration of the dharma. About a year later I attended a 7 day retreat that Thich Nhat Hanh led. That retreat served a my real “initiation” into committed dharma practice. I have been on the path for about 8 years now. When I picked up Beyond the Self, I had no intention of becoming involved in dharma practice. Yet the deep but practical approach to understanding life and how to skillfully participate in it was (and still is) unsurpassed by other traditions I have found. For me, the pragmatic approach of American Buddhist is the perfect fit.

How has the path manifest in your daily experience? Does it reflect in your work and relationships?

The path is the guide and guardian of my daily experience and it informs my sense of purpose and priority in what is most important to engage with during the precious and fleeting time I am alive. I have a fourteen year old daughter who is the greatest joy in my life. The dharma path has guided me as a parent both in how I relate and interact with my daughter and what I think is important to teach her as her father. Ultimately, this bright spot in my life will grow up and move away and it is dharma practice that has allowed me to see and embrace that reality and respond to it with enthusiastic engagement for our time together. The path has also been the greatest support in my work life. It has enabled me to be balanced in my approach to work and understanding and compassionate with my co-workers. What motivates me to practice and study and stay engaged with the community is the fruit the practice bears. For me, meditative insight is a gift, but the crown jewel of practice is being able to relate to life with loving detachment.

If you explore other lineages within buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you?

I have explored other lineages and found much inspiration in how the dharma has manifest across time and space, but the plain spoken straightforwardness of the Theravada traditions has been a powerful foundation for practice. Secondly, who are your primarily teachers and what role/influence do they have on your practice? Though I have learned from a multitude of people and consider every person and circumstance to be teacher, Lisa Ernst of One Dharma Nashville has been my primary teacher for several years. She has been a gift for me and I deeply appreciate all her time and wisdom.

How long/often do you meditate? How has it evolved over the years?

I practice daily for 30-40 minutes. My daily meditation practice has evolved in length and scope over the years. I started with a short daily breathe practice and evolved to a practice that incorporates open awareness and compassion practices.

Which sangha do you normally attend ?

I am involved in both One Dharma Nashville and Wild Heart Meditation Center. Please describe how the role of the sangha has supported/inspired your practice. The community so vital to my practice and we are fortunate to have so many dedicated practitioners in Nashville. This town really has individual who are dedicated to living lives that are guided by the dharma. I have made so many friends in this community that it is an embarrassment of riches. Both Wild Heart and One Dharma have poured so much of the water of community into my cup, it runs over.

What is your primarily profession?

Data Analytics Consultant. Are there direct ways your practice influences your profession or hobbies (beyond being more mindful and compassionate in your actions). My practice has not influenced the technical aspects of my profession, but my hobby is definitely being of service to the sanghas I am apart of. I facilitate groups for both communities, and serve in programming capacities for both communities. The benefits I have received from dharma practice have definitely inspired me to share those gifts with other, and I am very grateful to be able to serve in these ways.

In the tradition that you practice, how do you think it has adapted to western culture?

I think western psychology has definitely influenced the tradition in a positive and relatable way. I also think William James’ philosophy of pragmatism, which permeates much of American culture, definitely has informed the approach to which the dharma is taught in this country.