Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

January 3, 2012—February 9, 2012

January 3, 2012
Hiking through Florida Canyon with Bettina: The unseasonal warm weather has created conditions in which plants coexist in very different phases of their life cycle. We saw trees ablaze with golden autumnal leaves while flowers were bursting out everywhere and wintry dead leaves covered the path. On a single bush we discovered a mass of little blue flowers, orange berries and beautiful black shells of last season’s blossoming. It was easy to see in a single breath the unique beauty of each season, and I thought we should be able to see a similar beauty in the different stages each of us in at any moment on our physical or spiritual path. Each stage has its special value, just as the eight year old is not less valuable than the fifty-year-old, the dying old woman is not less valuable than the thirty year old.

January 6, 2012
This new year has special meaning for me because I feel myself in transition, signaled by that series of dreams: December 19, where I incorporated my shadow self into what my ‘climbing’ in practice allows me to see; December 24, which reinforced my understanding that it is the being-there for another that matters more than anything we say or do; and now my dream of the other night: Just before I wake, I am sobbing, as profoundly as I have ever wept—a “pure” sobbing, meaning it is without the least klesha or wanting anything to be different, merely a taking in of suffering that is in itself beautiful. In the dream I had been in a house that was like a hospice—there were two women who had come there to die. I was speaking with one, when another called to me. While I was talking with her or being-with her, I heard a call or exclamation from the nurse’s assistant (who reminded me of Barbara’s caring assistant in the skilled care facility where she was dying). The first woman had just died—in the middle of speaking. The assistant and I knew this was better for her than a suffering death, and yet I felt this profound heartfull of the pain of reality—so precious and beautiful I did not want to waken from it. When I awaken I know that what I have been experiencing is the open heart—the marvel that it can hold that much pain, the container filled with it, and yet without suffering.

Along with these dreams comes a shift in my experience in the hospital. For a little while I’ve felt a difference in the patients—the entire cardio section has been moved to a new building that opened in La Jolla. I am seeing more chronic patients—diabetes, COPD, and such—rather than patients who are experiencing a more suddenly life-changing event. I have always treasured that opportunity in my work, the privilege of being of use when someone is so open to looking at their lives. I am surprised by how readily I can let it go. Perhaps I have absorbed more non-attachment, though it feels connected to the dream of December 24—that what matters is the how not the what. I feel satisfied with a less steady diet of intensity, with simply being there for whatever a patient is going through, whatever she chooses to share—“washing feet” as I’ve called it rather than bringing the dead back to life. Less drama, more steady reality. Perhaps, in this state of simple steadiness, I can even spend more time at the hospital.

Oh—and yesterday morning during chi gong I was feeling alert and happy when I found myself suddenly drained of life force and softly weeping. It was a weeping that had much in common with the sobbing of the other night’s dream. Afterwards I took it to be the weeping for Little Cynthia (though no images came to mind), a weeping that was again completely free of kleshas and so in its own way precious and beautiful—a quiet weeping for her pain from the adult’s open heart.

January 16, 2012
I’ve discovered a new practice for myself, and I can feel its helpfulness:

When pain or discomfort begins to manifest, first accept it fully before deciding how to take care of it.

Bettina pointed out that this is related to the mantra I adopted on December 11 for my emotional pain:

I accept my anger/grief/fear
I am not my anger/grief/fear

January 22, 2012
The deep need of the Little Person within us is to be loved. The deep need of our adult self is to love. To the extent that our greatest delight and satisfaction comes with loving, we are not dependent on the beloved’s comings and goings to have our needs met. We can love anyone, any time, any place, whether they are present or absent, in a kind mood or an unpleasant one. This is the joy of the bodhisattva, and it is the joy of the adult in any of us.

By December 20, 2012 I came to believe that, even for the very young child, after our basic needs are met, the need to love may be primary.

January 23, 2012
Every time we feel a new lightness in some area of our life, it means that a parent has just moved out of that space.

January 24, 2012
In Vedantic Meditation, David Frawley speaks several times of a “mechanical” way of being in the world—as opposed, of course, to a spiritual one. Studying Buber’s writings on “I-Thou,” it never occurred to me that much of the time we treat ourselves as an “It.” Whenever we see our daily lives as less than sacred, we convert ourselves to an “It.” Every time I go to the laundry simply because the clothes need to be washed, performing a chore that needs to be done while my mind wanders elsewhere, every time I stand in line at a supermarket checkout thinking about what happened at work, I have turned myself into a robot, a machine like my automobile, a mere object necessary to complete a transaction rather than a Subject in my own life.

Mindfulness then is a way to refuse being reduced to an It with a busy little mind, a way to fully inhabit our rightful place at the center of our lives, to be a Thou.

February 9, 2012
Buber, in interpreting Taoism, which is all about unity, observes that “what men call love of mankind and righteousness” is no virtue, since it “comes forward as an ought” and preserves others as Other. I saw in that sweeping statement that the right relation to the world, to the universe, would be unconditional love, and on the next page I find that true love is “wholly free and unlimited…It is the unconditioned love.”

It seems clear to me that since each one of us contains the rest of the world—the torturer and the tortured, the bodhisattva and the hypocrite, the tame and the wild, the generous and meanspirited, the lustful and the cold, if we can come to love ourselves in all our manifestations, unconditionally—and that should be our first task—it is not such an unthinkable task to love the universe in the same way.