Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

March 15, 2014—April 10, 2014

March 15, 2014
Sometimes we recognize that we have been doing something only after we stop doing it. Reading “Verses on the Faith Mind”, I realized that—I don’t know how long ago—I have ceased “cherishing opinions.” Apparently I not only released the “stories” we tend to create about why someone didn’t return a phone call or why Linda and Fran are breaking up—sometime, somewhere I also released my unconscious belief that I had to have an opinion on everything. “There’s a new pharmacy opening down the street/ There’s an uprising in Syria/ My neighbor is moving out”—when I would hear this kind of information, the background noise I felt the need to create was “That’s nice” or “That’s a shame.” I needed to come down on one side or the other—which of course is an automatic need to make judgments. A life without the need for opinions is so light that I smile to see its simple freedom. Or as “Verses on the Faith Mind” so pithily says, “the burdensome practice of judging/brings annoyance and weariness.”

April 10, 2014
A couple of times recently I caught myself latching on to a bit of old aversion and was able to move it on the spot 180 degrees to compassion. I read last week about a new film “Nymphomaniac”—in which the male writer/director filmed six hours of a woman whom he portrays as continuously wracked by, and acting out from, her unrestrained sexual desires. For a moment I felt the response that used to be automatic: a zap of pain and rage. Here is one more instance of women’s needs defined and distorted by men, who still today have far more resources and power than women with which to project their interpretations of reality into the world.

The shift from that hell realm was sudden. Earlier I had been reading Joseph Goldstein on loving kindness, and I resonated to the simplicity of a phrase: “the purity of the wish for someone’s happiness.” That meant to me that the metta is not weighted down by considerations of anyone’s “worthiness.” In that moment my habit energy of intense anger at suffering created by the male-female hierarchy pivoted without thinking to an unexpected compassion for men, for whom testosterone is indeed a kind of constant Mara, making them subject, like the woman this director imagined, to a daily onslaught of the suffering of wanting and aversion. It felt not difficult to see the suffering in those whom I had experienced as the causes of suffering.

A day or so later, I felt a stab of resentment/anger towards the CEO of the medical center where I volunteer, for new policies that felt cold and harsh towards patients and staff.

Immediately I saw, in the same way, how the CEO and everyone who works for the University of California “Health System” is caught in that System, trapped in a kind of cold logic of the measurable that every “system” engenders. I could feel how such a system squeezes out the joys and satisfactions of interbeing in the workplace, for the CEO and the other workers, though the workers may not know exactly why they feel frustration and dissatisfaction.

Part of our rage at those we believe to be responsible for our pain or the pain of others comes from an unconscious belief that they somehow benefit from causing us pain. To see the engine of suffering that drives them is not to make excuses, only to see that they may feel as powerless in its hands as we have allowed them to make us feel.