Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

Foreword to First Gleanings

I began these gleanings a year after I began to meditate. My partner, Barbara Macdonald, died of Alzheimer’s in 2000, and starting to meditate, along with resuming my political activism, joining a fitness gym, going for walks in Balboa Park, taking up yoga again, trying pilates, trying to paint with acrylics, was part of my experimentation with my new life. Meditating seemed an easy thing to try, and since it involved concentration, I thought it might be helpful for my attention deficit disorder.

I learned about meditating by sitting in a bookstore leafing through some books by Thich Nhat Hanh, and later participating in an afternoon event when he visited San Diego where he gave a dharma talk and led sitting and walking meditation in Balboa Park. I meditated at home at the kitchen table, often with open eyes looking out the window, and once a week I attended silent meditation at a Chinese temple, though I didn’t attend the lectures or dharma talks provided for Westerners. After awhile, I began to go three times a week to the temple, for silent meditation and the reciting of the sutras.

Mostly I chose not to read or listen to others “explain” Buddhism. Different people find different paths, but for myself I am grateful that I made that decision. I’ve never had to deal with the kind of doubt that comes when knowledge is based on something other than our own experience. Perhaps I have overdone the Buddha’s injunction to be a lamp unto yourself. After I read my first book, Everyday Zen by Joko Beck, I remember waiting a long time to read another and telling the person at the Buddhist bookstore, “I don’t want to get ahead of myself.” By now I have read a great deal, but mostly I read what confirms or illuminates my personal experience and have resisted mightily being told what I don’t, in some form or other, already know. However smoky my lamp may have been, its light has remained steady.

I have changed over these years and might express some things differently if I were writing today. What I trust most is the place these entries came from, and I hope that whoever reads them will find that they meet that place in themselves. —March, 2009