Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

June 1, 2007—June 30, 2007

June 1, 2007
The point of understanding what happened to us in childhood is so that we can begin to deal with it, not so that we can make others deal with it. Much of the boring drama of life and the greatest hindrance to our relationships comes from our demanding, or manipulating, of others that they deal with our childhoods.

June 18, 2007
When Angela and Jennifer were visiting last weekend, I talked to them about my feeling that I’ve come to the end of the activism I have been part of for almost a half century, as I shared with them the experiences I’ve described on May 25 and May 29. Of course there are many causes and conditions for all endings, but Angela added something that almost left me breathless with new understanding. She told me that she understood perfectly, and made a connection for me with her own life that I had not made, even though I knew her story well. Growing up her passion was dance, she performed in Europe, and later she established and for years directed a dance studio in inner-city Hartford which was a major force in the community. She reminded me that when she left, she left responsibly but definitively, without looking back, and added that from that time on, she was no longer interested in watching dance—she was finished. Much the same was true of her years that followed as an activist in ther black, gay and lesbian, women’s movements. Such changes, so surprising to others, are often described as “burnout” but may have nothing at all to do with that. Angela describes it instead as being entirely filled with what you do, until it has entered every cell, until there is no more of that to do, no more room to grow. You have given and received what for you there was to give and receive, and to do it more would become mechanical. What was a richly fulfilling, authentic life would become, in Krishnamurti’s language, a “substitute life.”

Others are usually startled, if not judgmental, if not horrified, by such moving on. They often see it as rejection of what we were doing before, or an abandonment of one’s passionate work “when she was at the height of her powers,” or a rejection of themselves if they were invested in whatever the endeavor was, or all of those—which is how many in New Haven reacted angrily to Angela’s leaving.

And yet moving on can be almost the opposite of rejection. It can be an affirmation that we have lived the life, the work, inhabited the place so fully that for us there is satiety and we need something else to stimulate us into growth. I see this in my life—in the work on ageism, in the political activism of protests and actions and rallies, in my relationship to Barbara, in my six years as a single woman, all of which I lived fully and which filled me almost to bursting. Until the conversation with Angela, I felt almost embarrassed at the totality with which I moved on from pursuits that meant so much to me, as though the finished feeling were a cold-hearted indifference, even while I knew that it was not. But that moving on must often be the experience of people of passion who follow their guts, and we should acknowledge and respect it in ourselves and others. In order to move on from what Jennifer, documenting Angela’s life, has called our “passionate pursuits”, we have to brave the real or imagined reproaches of others and also the reproaches and uncertainties of our Self, who has to yield up all that false security that comes from an identity established over years. When we have filled up and don’t move on—that is when burnout is likely to happen. I burned out when I filled up with teaching writing, yet didn’t—couldn’t, as I saw it, afford to economically—move on. And of course economics holds back many of us who might move on.

June 25, 2007
I have been much moved, and confirmed, by Krishnamurti’s insight that we need to rid ourselves of the images of our lover and that when we do so we feel no separation. Confirmed because I have had secret questions when people spoke about how important “boundaries” are, and how one must be sure to keep “boundaries” in a relationship. Well, sure, the lover who out of her sense of low self-worth surrenders her desires, interests, values to her partner—who, as it were, throws her Self away, instead of letting it go—needs to pull back and rediscover her own soul.

But Krishnamurti’s “no separation” comes from a different place. Instead of trading in our self-images for our images of another or for their images of themselves (I am the person who likes mustard on her carrots, but if she says mustard on carrots is yucky, I will learn to think so too), it is a blending of souls or buddha natures, the natural flow that occurs when we are free of our conditioned selves.

I feel that flow fairly continuously. These last few days it’s been interrupted, as it has a couple of times in this past year when I have been briefly distracted and tired from an immersion with my partner’s physical, mental, emotional brave struggles to confront her conditioning—that immersion is a different kind of no separation. Still, to pull back from the immersion feels a little like pulling back from her, and since I know it is not, that has given me an insight.

What I have been pulling back from is not her, it is the manifestations of her conditioning, that very temporarily have made it harder for me to see the full shining of her spirit.

When we love, or are “in love,” unless we are very caught up in our own conditioning (loving someone because they have such beautiful hair or manners or a PhD or seem financially stable or powerful or don’t talk much), what we love is what we see of the buddha nature of the person we love. People say that love is blind, or mutter, “What on earth does she see in him?” and yet long before I was exposed to Buddhism, I believed that love allows us to see clearly what others can not, or, in Buddhist terms, to see beyond the conditioning to the ultimate nature of the beloved.

Of course we have to live with the conditioning, and it’s there that we need not to be blind. If my lover beats and batters me, I must separate myself from all that covers his or her buddha nature. Still, that means only that I was blind to the power of his conditioning and what it would mean for our life together. That blindness needn’t invalidate the love I felt. For perhaps I could indeed see past to what others could not see, what perhaps he masked from others, his ultimate buddha nature.

To me, the true meaning of “unconditional love”—or agape—is the love that is not enmeshed in either our own conditioning or our beloved’s.

June 30, 2007
Meditation is coming home to the place of constantly changing stability.