Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

November 5, 2010—December 27, 2010

November 5, 2010
Rusty made an observation that Bettina and I have often passed along: “In order to come to no-self one must first have a self.” In the same way, we must first, in meditation and mindfulness practice, come to know our body more intimately in order to separate ourselves from our body.

November 21, 2010
We speak of wanting to have an “open heart” and this is surely a worthy wish—we are, after all, connected to the whole universe. An open heart is most trustworthy if it opens wide to ourselves, to our struggles and sense of inadequacy, to the Little Person who rises up at times to claim or shame us. An open heart suggests that we are ready to embrace whatever comes towards us, that we will not close ourselves to anything or anyone. To open our hearts to ourselves and others is a profound step in our practice, and the world would be transformed beyond our imagining if most people took that step.

Still, the phrase “open heart” is limited; not a final resting place.

Beyond openness, perhaps we could begin to think of an “extending heart.” The extending heart is not simply open to the traffic that happens by; it extends actively out into the universe and absorbs all the elements of that universe without discrimination—the dog poop on the sidewalk, the child molester, the leaf, the North Korean dictator, the dishwasher, the mountain, the star. It is like love, and it is beyond love.

The extending heart knows in her being, not as an intellectual exercise, that she is not separate from any of these. She feels her interconnection as part of her beating pulse.

November 27, 2010
It began with Bettina wanting/needing to take a different approach to caring for the desert house than my equanimous, spontaneous one. Her approach felt to me more urgent, more judgmental, more planned, less intuitive, and the idea of handling house repairs in that way evoked a reaction that built through the day and finally shocked me by its intensity and profundity. I recognized that I had found a way, after Barbara’s illness and death, of dealing with my ADD challenges when emergencies or needs arose with the desert house—a way that protected me from the childhood feelings of being inadequate to a task and the child’s desolation from that.

Still, when I began to share this with Bettina, who was now holding me caringly and being present to my weeping which surprised us both with its grief, the sobbing grew in intensity until I felt I had never known a feeling like this. It was as if all my stuffing had been knocked out, and it would never return, as if I had no existence except this profound empty grief. I was not simply shaken to my core, I was shaken beyond my core because nothing was there, not even fear, only the existential grief, the loneliness, the cold. I was hollow, and sobbing out of that empty space.

I came to only when, still sobbing, I began to talk at another level about the house, how my handling of its challenges had come to represent, embody my path. My way of being with the house has been that whatever happens all that matters is how I am with it, and I have been able to move with it—with its emergencies, “disasters,” my incompetencies, the incompetency of others—from a centered, equanimous place that has given me a great quiet joy to observe, and has been an affirmation for me of the beauty of practice.

When I spoke of this, I saw at once that the profundity of my reaction had to do with the ADD, to be sure, but even more with what seemed a violation of my path. As I felt pushed to handle the affairs of the house differently—with more urgency, more judgmentalism—I saw who I would be without a path. Not that my path is an “identity”—it is a way of being. To the extent—and it is considerable—that I have let go of my identities, no longer define myself in that way, what remains is the path, that way of being in life. What I experienced that evening went through the huge pain of Little Cynthia and traveled beyond it. What would remain if I could not practice? The response was Zero.

Almost as soon as I recognized this—and knew that, whatever happened, I will continue to practice—I felt calm and recentered.

The intensity of my reaction was—as Bettina said as she absorbed this new understanding—like a loud alarm about the consequences of being dislocated from our practice, another name for our sanity. A similar alarm went off for Bettina in the midst of the constant drama of the old apartment house. It’s all very well to say that I should be able to find a way to practice while caring for the house in Bettina’s way or that she should have been able to practice in the midst of Chuy’s continual barking and Rick’s rageful shouting—and she tried that bravely. When smaller alarms go off, they alert us to our need to practice through the challenge and come out stronger. When the sirens blast, and keep blasting, we should listen: this may be a situation we are not ready to practice with, and so if possible we should compassionately disengage. The siren’s blast is a healthy alarm, telling us that what we are doing or considering doing will take us further away from the path, and by its intensity it warns us of the consequences of abandoning our practice.

December 18, 2010
Nature is sacred and nothing exists outside of Nature. The only difference is that when we are in what we set aside to call Nature, it is easier for us to access the feelings of sacredness that we should feel for the asphalt, the newspaper, the plastic bags, the pots and pans.

December 19, 2010
When we abandon our bodies to spend almost all of our time in our mind, we lose our only true lifetime companion. We then feel lonely unless others are there (and often even when they are there) because we have excluded the most intimate and trustworthy friend we have.

If we want to be friends with our body, we can ask ourselves, how do we treat our friends? We give them our loving—not anxious or fussy—attention. We are interested in their feelings, and we do not pass judgment when they share them.

December 27, 2010
I’ve been aware lately that I prefer to substitute the word “space” for the word “time,” as when someone says: “I wish I had more time” or “It’s wonderful having a little more time.” Today it occurred to me why. It’s not simply that time is a mental construct. It’s that if I say I wish I had more time, that can mean that I want more time to fill with things I like better than my job—I am still engaged in avoiding emptiness. To wish for, or to enjoy, more space is very different. It allows in the unknown, what Kathy calls the “fertile void” out of which all creativity, all authentic life comes.