Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

August 30, 2016—October 21, 2016

August 30, 2016
If we have closely investigated the often startlingly swift rise and fall of our own feelings about others, and learned how our painful reactions are triggered by earlier experiences that have nothing to do with the person we have attached them to (however nicely she may have served as a receptacle for that old anger or fear or contempt), we will begin to take things less personally when others behave harshly or judgmentally or indifferently or rudely towards us.

September 17, 2016
If we can take in that our bodies are no more than a suit of clothes (August 16, 2016), it may be helpful to continue the non-identification practice with parts of “our” body: “our” eyes are “the eyes of the body,” “our” ears are “the ears of the body,” “our” brain is “the brain of the body.” These parts of “us” are like the buttons of the coat—to be respected and cared for as important for the coat’s functioning, however destined someday to fall off.

If it is convenient in ordinary life to speak of “my” coat or “my body,” we do not need to believe that the coat or the body is part of our essential being.

September 18, 2016
Having a self is like living with a demanding teenager, always insisting on what he wants or doesn’t want, on me and mine. However attached we may become to that drama-filled identity, when she matures enough to leave for college or the work force, life just becomes simpler and easier.

September 25, 2016
At both doors of what we call life, there is, as the Buddha reminded us, suffering. It is very painful to leave our mother’s womb and it is most commonly very painful to leave our human form. If we look we can see immense kindness in this pain—in both instances, the pain allows us to go willingly in a direction we would not have chosen, in order to be freed from our suffering. The infant emerges from the painful constriction of the birth canal. At the other end of our human experience, it is a familiar comfort for family or friends to say, “Well, at least she doesn’t have to suffer any more.”

The infant cannot be aware of the underlying kindness, however as adults this understanding can perhaps help to reconcile us to our own process of dying as well as that of others. It can inform us, one last time, that there is “nothing wrong.”

October 21, 2016
Our aging body is like a house. Throughout our life, it was sometimes drafty in the winter, had occasional plumbing problems, and the roof leaked several times and had to be replaced. It took quite a bit of maintenance. Still, it was pleasant to inhabit, there were times when we took great pride in it or reveled in its pleasures. Besides, it was our house, so we identified with it, saw its advantages and liabilities as ours.

As we age, it is as though from time to time floods keep invading the bottom floors, until in the last storm the house floods so badly that we have to abandon it—there is no way we can continue to live in it. That feels sad, like a loss, as if we are losing some essential part of us, however as we are preparing to leave it, we can see that there is dampness upstairs and down, it is so filled with mold that breathing is difficult, and the boards have become so rotten that we can’t walk across the floor without stumbling.

If we have wisdom, we will see clearly that our house was not only never of a nature to remain, it was never “ours,” was never an essential part of us, and as we step out the door we can let any grief melt away, feeling the “rightness” of the reality that it is time for us to leave.