Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

April 9, 2004—August 31, 2004

April 9, 2004
How is it possible for me not to yearn to be back in that place of tranquility and centeredness, I ask myself. How is it possible for me not to keep looking restlessly for a shortcut back, my small ego-self asks. My large self replies: Only observe the yearning, the restless seeking, the scramble to find your way back to enlightenment. And know that there is never a way back. There is only the way forward.

I’m trying to hear her voice over the noise.

April 10, 2004
I’ve reached a new phase in my practice, which is a pompous way of saying that for the last months I’ve been buffeted and pummeled by fear, anger, humiliation, anxiety, confusion, frustration. (There’s probably more if I chose to really re-experience it.)

But right now I feel that I’m in a new phase of my new phase. It feels right, if a little obvious to a more seasoned practitioner. After two days of wrestling with the sufferings here at the desert cabin, I’m feeling the relief of embracing the knowledge I’ve been fighting off—I will not be finding the train back to my earlier state of almost sustained equanimity, deep daily pleasure in self and in life. How I managed that for years, really—after Barbara’s Alzheimer’s dropped me into the present moment—eludes me, and maybe I exaggerate how sustained it was, but not that much. This morning, I am finally ready to tear up the ticket (worthless, anyway, I finally see) to my glorious past and to accept and love this struggling, disoriented small self—as long as she persists, as long as she is honest.

August 17, 2004
The other day, in the Buddhist bookstore, I bought a little orange book, not much bigger than the palm of my hand, called Meditation in Action, by Chogyam Trungpa who, the cover says, founded Shambhala Training, whatever that is.

I’ve been reading it, and laughing aloud, the kind of laughter that used to flow out of me sometimes during lovemaking, a laughter of sheer pleasure that the world would be so tuned to my needs. The pleasure, with Trungpa, has been the constant reaffirmation of my own discoveries about life, about meditation, about the process of giving birth to bodhi. I take great joy in the knowledge that I came to these experiences, these understandings, without having first read them or heard them in dharma talks.

That sounds very ego-centered, and maybe there is some whiff of that in what I’m feeling, but it isn’t the main event. What is wonderful — like a great gift — is that in this way I have a much deeper sense of rightness, I feel much more secure in the way. I think that when Moses saw the burning bush, maybe some tiny part of him was saying, “Wow, God is appearing to me, Moses!” But I think that little ego-trip was drowned out by the realization, “Wow, it’s true! God really does exist!”

August 31, 2004
The other night at a party, Sande comes over to tell me about the political work she is doing, working to defeat the three-strikes law. She speaks with admiration about the woman who is leading the San Diego effort, how she delegates some responsibilities but single-handedly decides what needs to be done. “I’m just a cog,” Sande says, as a fact not a putdown, but adding something that implies a difference between her work and mine with the Old Women’s Project. My response is to say that all the time I was with the Support Committee, which was entirely led by Mary Tong, I was just a cog, and I add how that can be quite satisfying if you have great faith in the leadership.

It’s all true on one level, of course. But just as the table is a solid table and yet it is also an amazing kinesis of molecules, from a more spiritual dimension can’t we see the distinction between cog and leader as existing only on the macro plane? Aren’t we all cogs in the large metamachine, plugging in not just to the Universe, but to all the people working with us now, working everywhere, working in the past, who make our work possible and worthwhile? We all are just serving something larger, the something isn’t a leader.

If I could see myself as just a cog, a servant with the Old Women’s Project, I could free myself of the tension that is ego-driven. I could be calm as a cog. Maybe it’s those times when I see myself as servant that I am happiest, calmest, most fulfilled. It’s probably when I exaggerate my importance, partly from a need to fill my ego but more to motivate myself to do my best, that I open a door to needless anxiety.