Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

August 24, 2012—December 10, 2012

August 24, 2012
Meeting with Mario today in the hospital I noticed an experience that I’ve had on other occasions. Sometimes I will be talking to a patient and a self pops up and says, not critically but with amazement, “I can’t believe what you are doing—what you are saying right now!” and, exactly simultaneously, that self is quietly saying, “and it’s the right thing to be doing.” What’s happening doesn’t actually break the unmediated flow between myself and the patient—it’s not “I wonder if this is the right thing to say” or “what should I say now?” which almost never intrudes. It’s as if the ego/self checks in quickly as the unnecessary editor who instantly recognizes that she’s not needed in this flow, and vanishes.

August 25, 2012
Today I felt a little stab of fear and jealousy (probably they are intimately related from my childhood on) when Bettina mentioned that Sara and Sande hit it off so well. This time I didn’t have to go to childhood, where it obviously belonged. Almost on the spot I could see that this was division, and I knew I didn’t want that drama in my life.

I’ve never heard anybody say that a positive use of aversion is when we finally recognize that we want no part of our conditioned responses, of suffering. It seems odd that we need often years of practice to be willing to actually choose to renounce suffering!

Later I read about gain and loss (see below) and saw that my believed thought was: I will lose Sande. The belief was: There is someone here that can lose something. That’s not where I am these days.

At the time I didn’t review all this consciously. What did flash to mind was not “Oh, Sande’s my friend, I can’t lose her, that’s just childhood.” What came to mind was: “I’m not afraid any more of losing. Losing doesn’t have the power to scare me any more.” Though I didn’t formulate those words, it was the release of identity—the person who can lose—that gave me the freedom to move on.

Here are my reflections on what I read later:
Tenshin Reb Anderson, in Buddhadharma (Summer 2012) says that whenever we see anything in terms of gain or loss we are giving reality to the ego, to our identities that we thought we had deconstructed. I put it this way for myself to clarify further this important meaning: When we think in terms of gain, it’s as if we were scurrying around trying to collect a meal for someone and we discovered nobody was there—all that energy to feed a non-existent being. If we indulge the notion of loss, it’s as if we were spending huge energy building a wall and a moat, maybe even buying some taser guns, to protect somebody from harm—and we find out there was nobody there.

I’m excited these days by the turning of the wheel, which I never paid much attention to. The three realizations feel like what I’ve been experiencing more and more lately, probably encouraged by all the practice of letting go, following so many years of intense practice. At the same time I was pleased that Adyashanti in The End of Your World comments that some people seem to find enlightenment without the sincere honest effort that he so recommends, simply enter into it without determination, without fanfare—this is what I have encountered sometimes at the hospital and that has delighted and surprised me.

August 27, 2012
In my August 25 entry, I observed that these days I feel an instant turning away from divisive thought when it arises, and it occurred to me that this is what one could call wholesome aversion. I notice that a similar aversion keeps me from drifting into the future, unless there is some special need to plan something. What I don’t do much at all any more is anticipate. The present feels the place where I belong, it is my life, and all the speculation and imagining of what is going to happen feels false and unpleasant. Who would bother going there unless they needed to?

August 31, 2012
We can learn to talk to ourselves in a way that separates out the suffering from the pain. Suppose I have done or said something hurtful or cruel to someone, something they might remember with pain for a long time, something that will add a great deal to the burden they are carrying. I can stay awake at night telling myself what a terrible person I am, how insensitive, I can feel the pain roiling in my chest or stomach. That is adding suffering to pain. Or I can say to myself slowly and with conviction, “I really blew it.” It is quite enough to know in a deep way that we have done or said something that is contrary to our values—and decide what if anything, we can do about it. It’s another to invite in the Little Person to speak to us in her parent’s voice. Unless we choose to look at her with deep compassion for her learned sense of her “badness.”

November 24, 2012
I’ve been working on my talk—”Understanding What We call “Death”/Experiencing Deathlessness”—for the Mirror Mind sangha. Much of the talk is about losing our attachment to our manufactured identities, which are subject to “death,” in order to find our true home in our immortal awareness. In The New Yorker (November 12) an article on gay history reminds me of the work of the feminist theorist Judith Butler who maintains that every identity is a role or an act (“It’s just that straight male performance is granted instant authenticity”). So the social historians agree with the Buddha: the identity is always a construct.

November 25, 2012
I am always struck by how there are days in my life—sometimes many at a time—when all day it matters not the slightest where I am or what I am doing. I am bathed in suchness, and whatever is happening or not happening is part of an interesting, beautiful, awesome world that I am privileged to be immersed in.

December 10, 2012
There’s a beautiful Buddhist reminder for dealing with difficult feelings: Remove the Object—or, as I prefer, the crisper Drop the Object.

We usually believe that it is our thoughts that have the power to release our painful feelings—that if we are angry or hurt or possessed with jealousy or terribly sad, talking to ourselves in our heads will help us to find a way out, to feel better about ourselves, justify our feelings, come up with something we can do or say to the other person. The reality is that this self-talk simply fans the flames, pulls us more deeply into the vortex.

When we drop the object—stop listening to our stories about our pain—and have the courage to stay just with the feelings at their most painful, a couple of things happen. We recognize that we are strong enough to endure the pain without escaping it, which does worlds for our appreciation of ourselves. We create a space that is separate from the story that has swept us into it. If we stay with the painful feelings faithfully enough, they may show us that they come from an ancient place and that present circumstances were only the trigger for the child’s pain, which we can then attend to.

Or the feelings can simply quiet themselves and recede, having been given the space they needed. It’s then that, if necessary, we can use our discernment to decide what, if anything, we need to say or do.