Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

Foreword to More Gleanings

The gleanings that follow document four more years (March 2009-October 2013) of insights from my practice.


In these years I’ve continued the work I began (May 13, 2008) as Spiritual Care Counselor at UCSD Medical Center. This work has been a great gift from the universe that has enriched my practice of loving-kindness, my understanding of the Buddha’s distinction between pain and suffering, my appreciation of the universality of buddha nature. The privilege of making deep connection with many hundreds of patients has made clear to me that the suffering that we so often lay upon pain—that second arrow—has its origins, I believe always, in early childhood.

The hospital setting, the opportunity to be listened to in that setting by a stranger whom you will never see again, who has no agenda except to ease your suffering if she can, creates an almost perfect environment for inter-being. During these years, my memory loss has allowed me to experience the present moment, as I did in the years of my partner Barbara’s Alzheimer’s, with deepening appreciation. Since I can’t spend my time replaying what you and I said yesterday, what I should have said or done last week, what I had for dinner last night, I am freer to fine tune my awareness in the Now, to find the peace that comes from living closer to my spirit, my deathlessness. Through these years, that freedom has allowed me to bring fuller awareness to my suffering—grief, anger, fear—when it arose, as for example, in October 2009, June 2010, May or July 2010. As I worked with dukkha that seemed to be triggered by an event in the present, my practice allowed me to see that it was crying out from some element of childhood suffering that was still unprocessed. I was able to process at ever deeper and more discerning levels the impact on me of my sister’s cruelty and awaken my respect for who Little Cynthia was. Cultivating the ability to recognize those moments when the past intrudes on the present has felt a marvelous freedom. Whenever we can separate the past from the present, we are separating out the unreal from the real.

In the spring of 2012, I quite suddenly had to sell my beloved desert cabin retreat, and in the same period of time separated from Bettina as my life partner, though we continue as loving sangha partners. I had practiced for years with impermanence—reminding myself, without anxiety, that I could easily lose the cabin in an earthquake or a fire, and that Bettina and I could separate, indeed because of our age difference, probably would. As with the Buddha’s five daily recollections, I would picture those happenings and take in that they were just a part of life. So in 2012, there was no shock, no sense that the unimaginable had happened. I didn’t feel as if I had been hit in the stomach. I felt more like, “Oh! This is the time I’ve been preparing for.” And there was almost a happiness about that, as when the power goes out and you go to the closet and see that you have plenty of batteries and candles.

More Gleanings concludes twelve years of deeply rewarding practice. As I send these words into internet space, I send the wish that even one sentient being will welcome them as companionship on her or his path. —December, 2013