Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

July 31, 2014—August 13, 2014

July 31, 2014
One of the precious values of loving kindness is that it makes us feel safe.

Most of our defilements—greed, ill-will, restlessness, fear, disparaging of others, disparaging of ourselves, and more—are intimately related to not feeling safe, and can be more easily cleansed when we are sending out love.

Bettina tells me that at a retreat where fear came up for her, she was told to practice loving-kindness because it can’t co-exist with fear.

August 4, 2014
When we begin serious practice, our awareness is like a conscious observer, a non-judgmental monitor. Making use of such an observer is necessary for identifying and working with our defilements as they arise: “Ah, ill will!” “Ah, grasping!”, and for identifying and appreciating out brahma viharas as they arise: “Ah, compassion!” “Ah, mudita!” This is the wise attention that leads to stream-entry. Later instead of calling upon an observer, we operate from the space of the knower—without the self-consciousness of naming or noting we are simply aware of our states as they arise and fall.

August 10, 2014
I continue to learn by picking up leaves from the ground and opening myself to their beauty. Maybe I feel the need to justify this odd preoccupation, because today in Balboa Park this thought came to me:

We don’t think “King Lear” is an ugly play because Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out onstage—why not? because we experience it in context. It’s the same with the mottled brown dried leaf that has fallen on the sidewalk. If we see her in context—of the seasons, of the cycle of life—we will experience her as beautiful.

Very few infants are what we would call classically beautiful—we come from the womb looking famously the way we will look when we are very old. Yet, in the context of the miracle and mystery of an emerging life, we will experience the most wrinkled, bald and splotchy newborn as profoundly beautiful.

This is a practice like any other: We can imagine that we grew up, say, on a treeless desert, had never seen a picture or any kind of description of a tree. We can keep this in mind as we look at the most unremarkable tree that we see. Imagine the Wow! we would feel, how we would study that tree with curiosity and wonder and amazement at its intricate beauty, taking in the texture of the trunk, the delicacy of the veins of the leaves—we would find ourselves marveling at the colors, even of the brown leaves lying on the ground. The “ordinary” tree on our street would be exactly as much of a Wow! as one of the giant redwoods—it is we who project, or who fail to activate, the Wow!

Beauty is in the larger frame a meaningless concept—it depends, as the Buddha’s teachings inform us, both on the projection of the eye (the consciousness) of the beholder and our creation of a duality with ugly.

What we are doing when we see the beauty in anything—a flower, a painting—or anyone is looking with benevolence, tenderness, with appreciation, with love. Our joy in living is much expanded if—instead of hoarding together as many experiences as possible of what others have designated to be beautiful—we can look at our whole world more and more through eyes of love.

Just as empathy can be a doorway to compassion, the Grand Canyon, my mottled leaves, “King Lear,” the wrinkled newborn can serve as dharma doors opening us to that joy of seeing into the beautiful and then beyond the concept: to that place where we simply view with appreciation—with the eyes of love—the ever-changing dance of all forms.

This doesn’t mean that we will soon be viewing a pig’s testicles with the same profound appreciation that we feel for a rose. Only that we can know that this is the direction our practice is taking us.

August 12, 2014
The beautiful thing about conditioning is that it is just conditioning—it’s not a life-sentence to a prison. It has no substance, just something that floats about in our minds until we recognize that it has invaded our consciousness—I know you, Mara!—and wave our hands to help it escape out the window.

If we have to root about in it to discover what it has to say before we can send it on its way, we can do so knowing that it is just conditioning, it is not our true being.

August 13, 2014
I like the word “intention”—it doesn’t have the harsh expectation of ”I promise” or “I’m going to.” More important, it connects us with all of nature. Nature is all about intentions. The sapling intends to grow into a tree, the tiger intends to find dinner, nature is continuously working with her intentions. If we intend to meditate tomorrow or to show compassion to a difficult person, we are joining in the pulsing life of the planet.