Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

October 30, 2013—November 7, 2013

October 30, 2013
Yesterday, once more in a coffee shop, I experienced a variation of what I was aware of in meditation the other day (October 23, 2013). I think it is more and more how I am experiencing people in general, but quiet times of practice—and I do practice in coffee shops—bring it to the fore. Instead of buddha nature, which has potentially sentimental reverberations, I saw that everyone in that shop had access—whether they knew it or not—to what I named the Clear Space. The Clear Space is the place within each of us that is peaceful awareness and discernment, the place that sees, that is never touched or diminished by distresses, confusion, doubts, despairs. I was gladdened and relieved to see how obviously that was so—I didn’t need to imagine them awakened or see evidence of it in the now. It was simply a fact, the way I know they have a heart or an intestine. It’s a given. I suppose the more consciousness I have of my own Clear Space, how it is always and indisputably there even if there are moments when I don’t experience it, the more I can take it for granted in others.

Now any one of these people, including myself, may at times have some interference and not be able to defecate and “prove” that they have intestines, but that doesn’t keep me from knowing, as much as anything can be known, that they have intestines. Of course some of them can be pretty stopped up for years, almost lifetimes. Still they have intestines.

The way that Clear Space is different from intestines is that my experience of Clear Space tells me that it has no boundaries—that’s how I know it’s Clear Space and not ego—so if that is what Clear Space is, other people’s Clear Space has no boundaries either.

From that simple awareness, it is no surprise to feel that there is no meaningful distinction between my Clear Space and Andy’s or Grace’s.

Whatever her personality is saying or doing, I know that when someone is speaking or acting out of her Clear Space, we can only be friends, there is no way we could harm each other.

November 2, 2013
The other day, when I was “out of sorts” because of a touch of mallergy, and feeling crotchety (translation “anger”) towards the world, I came up with a loving kindness chant that works for me and I think can have value for others:
May I be a friend to my mind.
May I be a friend to my spirit.
     May I be a friend to my feelings.
May I be a friend to my body.

Sharing this yesterday with Bettina, Charlie and Ninh, Ninh commented on the advantage that it is really the first five words that are transformative—anything can follow from them—because they already locate you in the place you need to be. He commented that, on a phone call last night with his sister, when he was becoming impatient as she vented her distress about one of her students, he could have said to himself, “May I be a friend to what I am hearing.”

Also, the phrasing is a reminder that there is in each of us an essential I, a loving being who is not the mind, the spirit (the spirit that can become dis-spirited), the feelings or the body.

I find it helpful also for the other metta objects—the neutral person, the enemy: “May you be a friend to your mind.” “May you be a friend to your feelings.” Sending out this wish can reduce our urgency to “fix” her “problem.”

November 7, 2013
It occurs to me that there is a way to loosen the idea of the existence of a continuous Self, to supplement the old “who am I?” exercise. We can begin to think of our past Selves as “she” or “he.” I can do this quite easily: “She was an unhappy little girl.” “She was the mother of two children.” “She was a political activist.”

Writing this, I discovered that although I can substitute “she” for “I” in the other aspects of my life, when I think of the people I have deeply loved—Margareta, Barbara, Bettina—I can’t make that person who loved them a “she.” I think that is because the “I” who loved those people isn’t just still there—we know our “I”s are constantly changing, and I am not the same I that I was at fifteen or fifty. No, it’s because what was experienced there came from a vaster place, from non-self, and “she” is definitely limited, an ego-identity, one of the selves. The “I” who loved/loves those women is a really different kind of I than the one who went to Harvard or had exhibitionistic fantasies or wrote a book or had an affair with S. That “I” is timeless and spaceless, and can’t be squeezed into a “she.”