Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

June 17, 2016—July 23, 2016

June 17, 2016
When we open ourselves to the instability/emptiness of people’s forms, they become like salmon, no longer sitting dully in the still water of our mental fish farm, but leaping in their run down the flowing river of time, barely visible yet heart-stopping in their evanescent beauty, never to be fixed by a camera lens or evaluated by someone’s superior judgment.

June 18, 2016
With this understanding, we can be released from the continual anxious pressure to form fixed and correct opinions of everyone and everything. The Third Patriarch calls it the “burdensome practice of judging”: Oysters are more flavorful than shrimp. A war is coming. Gloria is a kind person. The deficit is too high. What does it mean to hold fixed and correct opinions of forms that are continuously in motion, unstable, ever changing, not of a nature to remain?

June 22, 2016
Wherever you go, there you are is a phrase that reminds us that changing location won’t allow us to escape from our suffering Selves. Happily, it can also point to the greatest gift we have, that wherever we go—to another country, to the supermarket, to rush hour traffic, to prison, to the epicenter of an earthquake—our awareness travels with us.

All we need to do is set our dial to that station.

June 28, 2016
When we are not actively mindful, we are training ourselves on a constant basis that whatever is happening now, whatever we are doing or experiencing, is of lesser value than what will happen in the next moment, hour, week, year.

This is how most of us grossly, consistently, unconsciously erode our own worth, devalue our own lives.

July 23, 2016
I used to imagine monastics sitting comfortably peaceful on their cushions and wistfully wonder whether I could someday sit with such blissful ease. Of course, they are peaceful not because they are comfortable and feel no pain. Rather their bliss comes directly from being able to be uncomfortable, to feel their pains and to accept them so that they can sit at peace. It’s what yogis call santosha.

Ajahn Tejaniya tells us of a yogi who came to a retreat center where it was blazing hot, and sitting in an attic room thought he could not bear this heat, until he suddenly realized that his mind was cool, it was only his body that was hot.

I was never a quick study when it came to pain on the cushion, however it finally became clear—that definitive separation of awareness from bodily pains and itches. It is a more profound centering than the withdrawal from the distractions of the outside world, since it is a centering that separates us from the endlessly shifting and distracting and provoking activities of our most intimate companion, the body itself.

It’s rather as if we used to pay attention to a sister or aunt who, when she called us, was predictably kvetching about something, this or that, and we used to respond to her ever-changing complaints, to sympathize or try to make things better, until we realized that we were wasting our precious energy and not providing any real difference.

It’s as if Aunt Belle were calling on the phone and saying, “The pain is in my shoulder!” “Now it’s gone to my knee!” “You won’t believe this but now my nose is itching wildly!”

So it’s not as if we were ending the call—her complaints are still chattering away at our ear, however we are not engaging with them, they are no more than automatic complaints, uninteresting, to be expected, playing out at the periphery rather than the center of our awareness. We hear the words, but not the drama. Of course, if Aunt Belle were to tell us that she found a large, painful lump on her breast, we would take a serious interest and recommend that she do something about it. However that happens very rarely.

As we note the frequency of the body’s constantly changing and entirely unimportant complaints, we can understand at a deeper level what is meant by the value of withdrawal of the senses.