My Last Words.

Via on Mar 9, 2011

All of the difficulties I have faced, whether in or out of a relationship, on or off the cushion, employed or unemployed seem to have one thing in common. This general theme is insufficiency.

This belief in my own insufficiency is not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem, and this symptom seems to sustain the ego’s entire operation… In other words, the ego-centric mind seems to be financed by desire and attachment, both of which are birthed out of a sense of insufficiency, neediness, or a poverty mentality.

When I have taken the time to observe my mind and its activities I have noticed that there is an insistence upon experiencing myself as some one or some thing that is apart from or other than life. From this point of view, life is reduced to a mechanical procedure. It loses any sense of spontaneity, and as a result there is no joy. Life has become a task or chore; it is something that I do. It is an activity that I involve myself in. I have to get out of bed in the morning and go do life…

Every interaction, every relationship, whether it be with another human being or a cup of coffee, is experienced as though it is alien or foreign. I, almost instinctively, label the entire experience of life as, ‘that.’ Of course, labeling everything else as ‘that’ implies that I am ‘this,’ and ‘this’ is embarrassing… ‘This‘ is vague; it has no role to play, no sense of identity. ‘This‘ is naked. So, I become obsessed with acquiring a wardrobe…

This is the origin of neediness.

Now there is nothing wrong with being naked. I was born naked, and will die naked. I am naked right now. The nude self is the true self. It is the enlightened mind. It is the experience of life, free not only of reference points, but of the need for reference points. Nudity is the experience of pure being… God describes himself as nude. On Mt. Sinai, when Moses asked God, “Who should I say has sent me?” God replied, “I am.” This is the experience of pure being. I am not this nor that. Neither am I other than this or that. I simply am. The naked mind transcends distinctions such as ‘this’ and’that.’ This is an experience I have forgotten.

Misplacing this experience was no accident.

I have eaten a fruit with hallucinogenic properties. This fruit grows on the tree of this and that. As I mentioned earlier, when everything else became ‘that‘ I had the experience of being ‘this.’ I forgot the basic experience of I am and became ‘this.’ From here everything went to hell in a hand-basket… I am THIS, turned out to be the birth of self-consciousness. It created a conceptual fracture in the spectrum of experience, and “this” became aware of I am. In other words, I knew that I was naked. The problem rests not with the fact that I am naked, but with the self-conscious knowledge of my own nudity.

This is the origin of insecurity.

So, as I said before, I became obsessed with acquiring a wardrobe… I frantically tried to cover myself up.

In fact, this obsession or sense of busy-ness was the first garment I acquired. I created a distraction. My business or my obsession with entertainment served as a diversion. It enabled me to ignore the fact that I was naked. ‘This’ was no longer naked, or so it thought, because ‘this’ was doing ‘that.’ Of course, my being naked was not my fault. It wasn’t anyones fault, but I didn’t see it that way. Through self-conscious eyes, nudity is a real problem, and a problem has to be blamed on someone. So, ‘this’ pointed the finger at ‘that.’ And expectation enters the scene…

I expect life and everyone in it to clothe me… To provide me with validation. I pluck leaves from the branches of life to cover myself. Gaining dominion over other or naming ‘that‘ is the ego’s holy grail. If I can name other, I can acquire some sense of identity for myself. If I name ‘thatboyfriend, then ‘this‘ becomes girlfriend. This provides the ego with some sense of identity or role to play. I have become so infatuated, not with relationship, but with the vouchers or proofs of purchase I receive from these interactions, that I am capable of ignoring the principle of life that underlies, not only ‘this,’ but also ‘that.’

I want to freeze or conceptualize ‘that.‘ I want to own it, and I want to own it so bad that I am ignore-ant of the fact that it is alive. It is a form of slavery. I am willing to shove a living, breathing being into a conceptual cage, denying them their right to freely express themselves, so that I may pretend to be something I am not— clothed. I am willing to suppress the creative intelligence of another, by holding them hostage, in order to play dress up!

It is almost as if I have entered into forceful negotiations with life… I am trying to coerce or seduce life into my little conceptual cages. Each label or name is a cage, and each cage consists of various bars that are expectations. These expectations are the borders or boundaries that protect my fears. So, I want life to conform to my expectations by playing the role I have assigned, but the role I have assigned is inspired by my past. Basically, I am trying to get life to pretend like it is dead. This of course is a hopeless endeavor. Not accepting the hopeless nature of this enterprise leads to all sorts of friction, conflict, and disappointment. Life will never meet my expectations, because my expectations are dead.

As I have said, this obsession with forcing life to conform to my expectations creates a blind spot— a type of ignore-ance. It is this blind spot that is the problem. The experience of ‘that‘ and ‘this‘ set the whole cycle in motion, but the experience of ‘that‘ and ‘this‘ was an hallucination. In the context of this hallucination, insufficiency is the first consequence. Experiencing myself as if I am other than life separates or divorces me from life. It puts life over there some where… Therefore, I feel lifeless. This fractured experience creates the appearance of a void. The search for confirmation is an attempt to fill this void, but it never works, because the void is an apparition. I still feel cut-off or disconnected from vitality and content. So, I remain dis-contented or insufficient.

But wait… Wouldn’t it follow that the consequences of an hallucination were also illusory in nature?

Sure, there is a certain sort of momentum that the belief in our own insufficiency has gained… We have believed in the doctrine of insufficiency for years. We have raised  generation after generation under the mistaken notion that they were somehow broken or incomplete and in need of some repair or missing ingredient. We have indoctrinated ourselves with the ideology of  inadequacy to the point where self-disdain is second nature… But it is second nature.

At the end of the day we are still naked. Right here-right now, we are nude. We are whole or complete; in need of nothing. If spirituality is anything, it is the recognition of simple being— I am.

The spiritual path is hijacked the moment the ideology of self-disdain becomes the prevailing doctrine. Our practice is transformed into another valiant attempt to whip ourselves into shape. The spiritual path becomes the grand arena, and we take to our cushion or mat as a silent gladiator prepared to do battle with the forces of darkness. We fight tooth and nail with ourselves, in order to prove to ourselves that we are worth while. The ensuing battle is violent and unfortunate. We are forced to deny ourselves in a great act of heroism that feels more like an act of terrorism. This does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of insufficiency…

The cushion is not the grand arena, and you are no gladiator.

Spirituality is not a battle between the forces of darkness and light; it is the unification of these two forces.

Meditation is not an answer to the self-conscious question of insufficiency… It is a silent inquiry into the institution of self-consciousness.

If we attempt to justify our nudity or vulnerability from a self-conscious point of view, the justification will never be sufficient, because the validity of our rationalization will be determined by the doctrine of insufficiency.

Nudity is not the problem. Self-consciousness is only an hallucination. Ignore-ance sustains the whole situation, and ignore-ance is protected by busy-ness.

So, if I really want to cut through the whole institution of dissatisfaction and get to the real problem, ignorance, I must retire… But by retire, I mean really retire. I cannot retire from busy-ness and take up the project of stopping. This is just shifting the object of my obsession from activity to laziness. This is just saying, “I am neurotic and busy. If I really want to be sane and healthy, I must learn to be quiet and still.” The I proceed to beat myself calm… I try to force myself to relax, which is, of course, impossible. This is what meditation looks like when the mentality of insufficiency hijacks the practice.

Retiring means giving up the notion that you are insufficient all together.  Simply sit. Watch as the network of thought which suggests that you are apart from or other than life and consequently insufficient, arises and passes away. In this way, meditation gets behind the illusion of ‘this‘ and ‘that’ to discover isness. This is the discovery of who you were before you had a name. This is the remembrance of simple being… I am. This primordial experience is complete or whole. It is in need of nothing, so neediness slips away. The whole doctrine of insufficiency is revealed to be a terrible hoax… An illusion.

Insight burns through illusion…

The experience of ‘this‘ and ‘that‘ is an illusion…

The feeling of being broken or incomplete is a symptom of this illusion… It is the child of a barren woman!

We cannot kill the monster in our closet… All we can do is look in the closet and see that it is empty.

Meditation is nothing more than the observation of confusion.

At this point the game is up. The ego’s entire enterprise was fueled by neediness. Having realized that neediness was the product of a misunderstanding, the ego utters its last words, “I am sufficient.”

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About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist & Christian spirituality and politics for The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, The Web of Enlightenment, and is the editor & chief for Henry Harbor--an online magazine concerned with art, culture, spirituality, & politics in the deep South. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Looking for a real bio? Click here to read my story....

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31 Responses to “My Last Words.”

  1. NotSoSure says:

    Fantasic post. Best explaination of ego, grasping and the true purpose of meditating that I have ever read. This post hit me at a visceral level. And it explains why I have such a fear of meditation. This may be "The Post" that help to get me back on the cushion on a consistent basis.

    Btw, I am naked also. I just got out of the pool. And it is cold in here. Shrinkage. Dammit.

  2. Rhea says:

    Wow, Ben, this was very powerful language! Sounds like it just flowed out of you. I loved the metaphors. I agree that sometimes we just have to stop. I tell myself that all the time and not force myself to relax or what not, just stop because I need it. But sometimes stopping is too much and I have to move with the currents and not fight those either.

  3. marilee r torres says:

    yeah, wow, so much said, so need to read agaian and reread and reflect and reread-beautiful and powerful

  4. Well done, Ben. Another powerful piece.

  5. Ramesh says:

    :) Wrote my comment on FB, but thought I would add some good words here too. Article absolutely resonates with me. Thanks

  6. Lacy says:

    Thanks for sharing that. It was exhausting. I can relate.

  7. Randall Smith says:

    I really dig your writing. Extra super deep. Don't stop.

  8. adamwrichard says:

    Thanks Benjamin. I recommended the article to all of my Facebook friends. I hope many of them read it.

  9. yogiclarebear says:

    Finally, a piece on EJ about nakedness! Seriously though, it is refreshing to read about nakedness in this context, instead of celebrities, advertisements, vulgarity, etc that has been prevelantly argued here lately.

    "Meditation is not an answer to the self-conscious question of insufficiency… It is a silent inquiry into the institution of self-consciousness." Just this morning in my sit I found myself coming back to this. I'd realized that I've been doing my practice with a bit of ego-intention…penance maybe or with intent to "fix" brokeneness or "get God points" or something. I laughed in the middle of my sit when I let it go…stripped down a bit I suppose, in your context.

    Loved it Benjamin, thanks.

  10. SriDTMc says:

    Riggs does it again! Spot on.

    Made me uncomfortable in the best way, unavoidably pointing out the extent to which i indulge in the perceived battlefield of the spiritual path, and thereby perpetuate separation instead of cultivating unity, as my ego insists its doing (subversive turncoat, that ego…).

    Seem to be at my best when I forget to get dressed.

    Thanks!

  11. Ben, great article. I definitely can relate. The issue one has is, "how to get rid of that scarcity complex". Meditation might help. But not sure its sufficient.

    • Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

      Thanks for your feed back. Means a lot… You're a great writer. Why do you not believe it is sufficient? If the problem has its origin in a misunderstanding wouldn't it follow that insight or observation would be a sufficient resolution?

  12. [...] Discontentment is nothing more than a type of neediness, and it was this neediness that fueled our obsessive search for self-confirmation. We saw ourselves as broken or incomplete, and spent the majority of our time and energy searching for some-thing to repair or complete our tattered self-image. [...]

  13. Tamara says:

    Well done Benjamin~You have a book on your hands. I hope you're considering that!

    • Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

      I have tried my hand at writing books before… I have actually wrote three, but never been able to get published. Thank you very much for your feed back!

  14. [...] There was no role to play, nor was there any sense of identification. Ego was without credentials. There was just the vague experience of this-&-that. In other words, the ego had nothing to confirm its existence other than the sense of [...]

  15. [...] is anything, it is the recognition of simple being. It is showing up without credentials. ~from My Last Words by Ben [...]

  16. [...] is nothing more than the observation of confusion.” ~ from My Last Words by Ben [...]

  17. Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

    I have written an article that address this "riddle of life." You might find it interesting. Here is the link: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/10/painting-t

    Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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