Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

May 20, 2016—May 30, 2016

May 20, 2016
Someone—Susan Salzberg? the Buddha?—says that we should love everyone as if we were his or her mother and they were our only child.

With people whom we find truly difficult—a ruthlessly competitive co-worker, a sullen roommate, an arrogant politician—we can practice in this way:

Imagine that we are a mother who a couple of days after his or her birth had to give up our beautiful infant—our only child—for adoption. We think of that difficult co-worker, and imagine we are for the first time meeting him or her as our son or daughter again after all these years. Think how shocked we would be at who that perfect infant has now become. We would be stunned to think how abusive or unkind or indifferent the foster family must have been to create that result, we would feel at our heart level the terrible suffering of such a childhood. In our grown child’s face we would see how disappointing their life must have been, and how they knew they were a disappointment to others. Or how they had to build a wall to protect themselves from so much pain. Or how hard they must have had to work to be seen, to get noticed as the best so they wouldn’t be the worst. We can guess how rigid and cold the parents must have been, how insecure and unlovable our sweet child must have felt. Or how those parents let them feel that if they were not perfect, they were worthless.

When we, their mother, had taken in the shock of seeing so much stored pain in the face and voice and manner of our precious and innocent child, we would be flooded with compassion.

May 21, 2016
Or: We could think of each “difficult” person in our lives as a rescue dog. We don’t need to rescue everyone, or take her home, however we can bring to bear the same sympathy we might feel for a snarling or cowering animal that has been loosed into the world after she has been neglected or abused. Whatever difficulty her behavior is causing us comes from a similar storehouse of old pain.

May 30, 2016
Our gratitude is usually highly selective—it takes place when we have already found something pleasant. We can take our practice to a deeper level. To say “Thank you!” to whatever random object our eye lights on (a file cabinet, a dirty dishtowel, a lamp, a plastic bag, a dead leaf)—before we decide that it is beautiful or useful or even worthy—can be powerful and transformative.

In the instant that follows our unreserved “Thank you!” to the lamp or the dead leaf, we are more likely to recognize what in the lamp or the dead leaf is worth thanking for. Perhaps we will glimpse—in that moment—the miracle of all the causes and conditions that had to come together to make it manifest.

With this practice, we open our eyes to the gratitude we can feel for the whole of creation, without picking winners and losers. To think “Thank you!” because we find something pleasing actually can reinforce reactivity and dualism—we are reacting to what we consider pleasurable rather than appreciating something, feces or plastic bag or not, simply because it is.

It is best if we can say our “Thank-you!” aloud, before reflecting even for an instant on what we are thanking for. For some reason the sincerity of the thank-you seems to come more readily after we speak the words—as if hearing the words jogs us to perceive the nature of the gift.

This practice, as it awakens us to the amazing richness of the life around us, can develop in us a profound and wholesome joy.