Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

July 10, 2011—August 3, 2011

July 10, 2011
The commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” presents a problem. Too often we do love others as ourselves—that is, with the same conditional love, the same shallow assumptions about their needs and desires that we have about ourselves. A crude example is the materialist who shows his love for a woman in material ways. Only after we have loved ourselves in the ways we genuinely need and desire to be loved can we follow the commandment as it should be followed.

July 15, 2011
When we are most in the presence of Mara and it seems we are a failure because of our inability to practice with our confusion/anger/despair/greed (which to us may mean our inability to make it “go away”), I have learned that the simple intention to practice keeps me on the path and makes a noticeable difference in my life after this particular life challenge has washed away.

July 16, 2011
Bettina has begun to be able to endure—and find value in—intensely painful books or films that she would instinctively and self-protectively have turned away from before. This is also a time when she is feeling freer, happier, more peaceful than she has in the past. If we want to fully inhabit the light, it’s very important to come to a place where we can look safely into the darkness. If we must continually hold the darkness—the violence, the cruelty—at bay, its not just tiring. When part of us always knows that danger and dread are waiting for us, that apprehension prevents us from relaxing peacefully into the light. Of course, our first need is to build up sufficient light to give us the courage to face the dark.

July 24, 2011
Instead of asking, “How can I be more comfortable?” we can ask, “How can I strengthen my observer?”

July 26, 2011
Today in a morning yoga class, the ‘intention’ that came to me was self-compassion. I don’t need that intention much these days but today, in Tessa’s language, it spoke to me. Yesterday morning while I was making breakfast I felt a very low-level anxiety—an apprehension really—and I realized I’d experienced it before. When I looked at what it was about, I realized that I didn’t know what to do today, what I “should” be doing, and I experienced the scattered, restless thoughts, glimpses of thoughts, that accompany that feeling. I could have attributed it, maybe even correctly, to having come back from vacation and a difficulty in prioritizing what needs to be done—that, with the kapha (sloth/torpor) I’ve been experiencing lately, would have been enough to account for it. Because of my essay on true forgiveness I instead began experimenting with thinking “Childhood,” and at once I was flooded with insight.

The question, “What am I supposed to be doing?” was the pervasive question of my childhood, and I realized that there never was an answer to that question—because I had no role, no reason for being in that household. I had thought that because of ADD I was anxious as a child about not meeting expectations. Yesterday I realized that there were no expectations. I was not supposed to be doing what my sister was doing, even if I had miraculously been able to. For nine years before I went to school I lived with that vague uneasiness of not knowing what I was supposed to be doing.

Yesterday I recognized that I was carrying from childhood a mild apprehension, that I had always felt that even though nobody has told me what I am supposed to be doing, somehow someone could come along anytime and question why I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing, whatever that was. So every time this feeling comes up for me—and that is very rarely these days, probably requiring causes and conditions such as my kapha-producing allergy and coming back from vacation—the old childhood question brings its sad and troubled uncertainty, “What am I supposed to be doing?”

I realize in writing this the difference between “what should I do?” which can mean some desire to set my own priorities and “what am I supposed to be doing?” which means someone else has defined that for me.

July 27, 2011
What is the purpose of life?
To learn how to live.

August 3, 2011
Today at the hospital I visit with Kimberly, a 49-year-old stroke survivor whose body is entirely recovered since she had her stroke in January, and yet whose memory has been seriously affected. I ask her how she copes in the house alone all day, saying, “It must be really challenging—it’s not easy to walk into a room and not remember why you came in.” She smiles weakly and answers, “Not really. If I don’t remember why I came in, I think of something else I can do in that room and do that.” Kimberly has discovered the secret of life.