Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

March 20, 2015—April 24, 2015

March 20, 2015
For almost fifteen years I’ve been meeting with a very small meditation group at Dale’s house. Dale has been gradually losing his hearing, and now his condition is acute.

Meditating in a group that includes a deaf person feels especially meaningful, since meditation welcomes silence and transforms it, at the same time that it can transform the suffering of unwelcome silence.

April 11, 2015
The reports by survivors of their “near-death” experiences should be unsurprising to a practitioner, especially the experience of leaving the body and hovering above it. As we grow our awareness, we often experience it as a kind of spacious floating above, during which we are not directly involved and simply observe the scene rather than inhabiting the pain, the emotional flow, or the outside events. It would seem that these experiences, the near-death experience and the everyday awareness of the practitioner, are not only similar states—they are the same state.

Since the person reporting is usually coming from a conventional consciousness, they will report this experience as “I was up on the ceiling looking down”—the only language available to one who has no means of thinking in terms of non-self.

In the same way, the other experiences often reported with near-death—the tunnel, the light, the reunion with loved ones—can be seen as attempts by the conventional mind to assimilate an ultimate experience. In the bardo between life and death, when the body is almost left behind, yet not completely, the tunnel obviously represents the transition to another way of being, the light the dropping of defilements, the reunion with loved ones an unconscious search for what images from the conventional world would produce in that person the sensation of their most profound peace and joy.

Whether that state continues after the heart stops permanently is above my pay grade, though it speaks to the larger spiritual nature of our awareness.

LATER (December 7, 2015)
I don’t mean here to solidify awareness so that it becomes “my Soul,” or to solidify the concepts of life and death by using the language of “transition.” Language can be tricky. Still this passage offers a way of apprehending a well-known experience that can be useful (as it was to me) in loosening our holds on the form of death, and so can bring us closer to an understanding of the reality of no-death. As the Buddha might say, “There is no transition, and that is why I speak of a transition.”

April 12, 2015
If a spider were able to think as a human being and could glimpse how we experience the world, she might think: “What a ridiculous and hopelessly distracting overload that species has to deal with—it must be exhausting! How inferior to a consciousness where information is tailored to our needs.” Just as we might feel of the spider’s experience: “What a strange and hopelessly restrictive way of being in the world! How inferior to a consciousness that provides so much more information about our environment.” Each of the multitude of species—spider, elephant, catfish, dog, bedbug—experiences radically different forms for its survival.

Speciesism is the belief that our human perceptions are the “true” and “real” ones rather than—as with spider and elephant and dog—an organizing principle for the requirements of our species.

April 23, 2015
When we say we are “playing it by ear,” we often speak it slightly apologetically, introduced by a diminishing “just.” And yet it is a beautiful phrase that tells us exactly how we need to be doing life in every moment. Whenever we “play it by ear,” we have freed ourselves temporarily from a conventional script composed by others. We are mindful, very much present in the moment, listening attentively to our inner being, to the signals of life.

April 24, 2015
If we simply respond, rather than react, we become more spacious, can afford to take in more. Reaction—tension, aversion, anger, greed, wanting, not wanting—narrows our field of vision. It interferes with our ability to expand our consciousness, to absorb more reality, and so to respond with more subtlety and wisdom.