Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

August 16, 2013—September 19, 2013

August 16, 2013
Inspired by a suggestion on a dharma outline, I decided to dedicate a meditation to the topic “The Kindness of Others.” Of course I’ve done any number of loving-kindness meditations, but they all centered on my own feelings. This was different. I was probably attracted to this object of meditation because lately from time to time I’ve been experiencing bouts of my allergy that creates a kind of stupor which in turn can generate feelings of dissatisfaction with myself and others. In my meditation I dipped into different times of my life and focussed on all kinds of different people from whom I had experienced kindness. At first it felt a little awkward, because I had to begin by noting my slightly negative state of being, but very quickly it began to fill me with a delicious sense of being given to in the present—as though my sense of the world shifted from being mildly mistrustful to trust and gratitude and even joy. In this experience and others, I am becoming ever more aware of how we create our own world.

The meditation was quite a trip. Very small instances of kindness had as much weight as when someone else invested a great deal in my welfare. I was able to go back to my childhood and see, without pain at all, the simple fact that there was an extraordinary absence of kindness in my home—not that there was cruelty, except for my father’s occasional jabs, usually at my mother, just that other values, such as accomplishment, made kindness seem irrelevant.

It also became fascinating to see what I considered kindness—it was certainly not someone doing something nice for me. I realized that what another person’s kindness means to me is that there is always an underlying sense of love, even if it was just Jo the waitress at a diner where I went for Sunday breakfasts, the way she was not just with me but with everyone, laughing and mindful of our needs, or Shana, the young woman at the gift store in the hospital who sells me newspapers for the patients and we just exchange words. These people create for me more of a sense of being in a world of kindness than the social worker and the head nurse who tell me how wonderful I am—even though I am sure they mean it, even though it pleases me. It doesn’t give me that glow of kindness. What I recognized in my meditation was that for me, kindness always contains an element of love. Not love exclusively toward myself—that is the kind of love that can be operating out of need, can have its own agenda. So that was puzzling to me (did Jo love me? does Shana love me?) until the bells went off, and I remembered—duh!—the phrase “loving-kindness.” There is a kindness that is nice, that is good to have in the world—a doing or a saying kind of niceness, maybe giving a dollar to a homeless person or greeting someone in the morning, or helping someone lift a heavy box. That is different, however, from the kindnesses that were filling my heart—those were kindnesses that came from an open heart, that came from a larger love. It is why people seem to need only to make eye contact with the Dalai Lama to feel gratitude for his loving contact, or even, as Bettina has told me, seeing him once on television (which changed her life). Giving the dollar to the homeless person can be a nice act or it can be an act of loving-kindness, and only you and the homeless person will know the difference

August 17, 2013
In one of Jack Kornfield’s responses to a retreatant on an audio CD, he speaks with deep sympathy of her “existential loneliness.” And yet our loneliness can’t be “existential” because existentially we are all connected in the web of life. Our loneliness is the Child Who Was Not Seen.

When something distressing happened to us as a child—a divorce, an illness, a death, or just some “naughty” act of ours, and our pain and fear were not seen—we felt we were alone with it. The loneliness of the child feels existential because her entire existence is dependent on a couple of people who, if they should turn away, would leave her without food or shelter.

My experience on the desert (February 15, 2012) was “existential”, but by staying with it I could penetrate to its immensely painful origin, and so heal myself in a deep way.

If, as adults, we can recognize that primary source of our “existential” suffering, we can more readily heal our early wounds, rather than feed them.

August 20, 2013
It is almost unbearable for someone with a lot of self-judgment not to be judgmental of others, since that is the only way available to her to relieve her deep pain and fear. If I am right (about anything—the Republican party, what George said to Mary, about the ugly color of the cushions) I can’t be Wrong. For the moment she sees herself in the role of judge, and although the feelings of self-righteous wrath are not delightful feelings, they feel less threatening to her being.

August 23, 2013
I’m coming to see judgmentalism as an addiction, like the glass of wine or the chocolate that makes us feel a little better about ourselves, quiets the critical voices. Judgmentalism provides the little boosts of superiority we can give ourselves all during the day to assure ourselves that we are the judge not the judged.

September 10, 2013
We’re often unaware that the way we interact with the world around us creates a shroud of unnecessary negativity. When the day is hot and muggy, our shoulders are hurting, the air is smoggy, our chair is wobbly, the lights are too dim to read, our car won’t start—these things grab our attention, almost dramatically, often with a little story that keeps our attention focussed on the unsatisfactoriness. When the air is sweet and cool, all of our limbs are free of pain, our chair is comfortable, the light is clear and bright, our car starts easily, we most often respond to all that goodness not as something to savor and appreciate, but as if its only value were as a kind of springboard to free us up to go someplace else—to planning, to worry, to revisiting, to judging, to wanting.

September 12, 2013
The future, with its planning and anticipating, is mostly not a place of love. It is a place more readily inhabited by shoulds, by indecisions, by wanting.

September 13, 2013
If we think we have a problem with indecisiveness, a tendency to ambivalence, that is not our problem. Our problem is not that we are caught between two choices and can’t “make up our mind.” We are caught between two hindrances—aversion and grasping. I want to go to New York/I don’t want to go to New York; I want to reconcile with my son/I don’t want to reconcile with my son. If we drop the suffering that comes from being pulled between aversion and grasping, it is not difficult to decide what is best to do.

September 19, 2013
Every defilement we experience, every experience of dukkha, involves two elements: Not having incorporated a concept—the delusion that arises from our misreading of reality—and the rising of an unwholesome seed from our storehouse, the cry of the Little Person.