Discovering Liberation In The Midst Of Suffering.

Via on Apr 25, 2011

In the midst of difficult circumstances, if we allow our sense of self to touch the ground, the metric system that establishes suffering will dissolve into space.

Recently, there have been some changes in my life. These changes are not bad, but different, and different can sometimes be received with a paranoid brand of skepticism. This paranoid skepticism is timidity, which is the most basic symptom of pervasive insecurity.

I have noticed that I have been a bit more guarded as I move into these uncharted waters. I think this has been a bit difficult for me, as I have developed an inflated “spiritual” image of myself. This image makes no allowances for fear and/or uncertainty, which is ashame since certainty is impossible to come by!

Instead of allowing this image to be a motion picture with no beginning or end, I cling to the static image. I deny myself the natural right to undergo revision—to allow the incoming information from this uncharted territory to shape my experience. Instead, I cling to the expired image by obsessing over it. This clumsy form of consciousness is sustained by blaming my predicament on circumstances.

I want to say that it is my girlfriend’s uncompromising behavior… That I am stretched to thin with work… I want to blame it on capitalism… Hell, I want to say that the problem is the fault of anything other than me!

Truth is, the way I feel is the result of me ignoring space—ignore-ance. I haven’t the time to read and write, not because I am busy. Rather, I am busy because I want to create clutter, so that I may ignore the unfamiliar and uninterpreted texture of the present moment. From a self-conscious point of view, space is threatening because space facilitates change, and change challenges the static image or status quo. So, insecurity transforms life into a quagmire that I must manage, which is a full-time job. When the situation changes this insecurity is magnified, and I am forced to work over-time. Therefore, I feel exhausted and busy, but never finished. I have made controlling the new environment my number one priority, and, in doing so, forgotten the only real priority I have—Mindfulness.

Who I am is eternally questioned by the intelligent movement of impermanence. Since I assume that “Who am I” is a question, I feel afraid and uncertain, but what if I am a question? Then, “Who am I” becomes a statement, a declaration of my true nature.

Identifying with a static-conceptual image installs a degree of separation between me and life. Experiencing myself as though I am cut-off or other than life leaves me feeling lifeless or without content. This is the pervasive sense of discontentment that fuels the endless search for confirmation. Failure to acquire confirmation reaffirms the belief in my own insufficiency. There is no way to undermine this belief, apart from listening to my surroundings.

I am afraid, not of my girlfriend, our new apartment, or my new job. I am afraid of the words that I put in their mouth—my own neurotic, fear-based speculation. As always, the only real problem I face is the fact that I am ignoring the very thing that requires my undivided attention, reality. I accomplish this by obsessively mulling over the self-conscious commentary between my ears.

Change provides us with no ground to stand on.

The experience of change is the feeling of falling; realizing that there is no ground to stand on. This is a strange feeling because, at first glance, this groundlessness is perceived as threatening. This is the ego’s interpretation of space. Without ground to stand on, the ego feels insignificant, like it has fallen off the planet. An ego-centric mind is a needy mind, because it is fueled by a mentality of poverty. Without something constantly validating it’s existence—some reference point screaming louder that life, “Yes, I can see you!”—the ego feels invisible.

Everyone wants to play with fire.

On the other hand, there is a strange, but natural, infatuation with this sense of falling or perpetual motion. I believe this infatuation or eternal curiosity is closely connected with the fact that perpetual motion is my true nature. In the final analysis, the true self is no-self at all. In other words, I am not a noun, but a verb. Life, of which I am but an example, is change without beginning or end. I am not an answer but a question, which is a statement!

The only reason “things” appear to be changing is because I create and install static characteristics in these “things.” As Achaan Chah said, “things do not bother us, we bother things.” My girlfriend,in truth, is no girlfriend at all. She is energy that is forever seeking to express itself in all of the uniqueness that I have come to love. However, when I attempt to control her, I ignore the unique manifestation of intelligence that she is, by trying to force her to act in accordance with some dumb and expired image. I ignore her, and I do this by clinging to or obsessing over some static expectation about how she should be, which is inspired by my fears—how she shouldn’t be.

There is release or freedom to be found in letting go.

Falling off of the planet: Watching the new job takes its own course. There is joy in getting out of the way and listening to what she has to say, without calculating how what she is saying affects me. Getting out of the way means forgetting myself, which paradoxically means taking time for myself.

The way to nourish our relationships is to invest in our own sense of sanity, to come back to the present moment.

In the midst of hard times, I tend to think being mindful is difficult, because I believe that leaving all of my fears and anxieties behind is a prerequisite for being “spiritual.” Nothing could be further from the truth!

Spirituality is the observation of confusion, so our fears and expectations are the path!

We can bring all of our hang-ups to the cushion. That is the point of the cushion. In fact, “the cushion” could be defined as the point where confusion and insight meet. To sit and see our deception. Not change it, or even fix it. Simply see it. Allow it to breathe. When we sit and relax our minds, we discover the gap between thoughts. This is mindfulness. It is the practice of meditation. When we allow our fears to breathe—to touch reality—a revolution of consciousness takes place.

From a self-conscious point of view, thought supplies itself with content. This is inbred thinking, and it creates a stale and musty mind. It is cut-off from freshness, vitality, or life. When we allow our thoughts to breathe, reality serves as the inspiration for thought. This is the restoration of sanity. Insanity is a poor state of mental hygiene characterized by thought thinking about itself. Sanity is revealed when thought is touched by reality. At this point, the true nature of mind is revealed to be reality itself.

In silence, the basic assumption, upon which all of our fears and anxieties are constructed, is challenged. All of our preconceived ideas are questioned. We see that life is not some thing apart from us, happening to us. In fact, we remember that we are a dimension of Life. This is empowerment.

It is so easy to get caught up in the idea that the problem rests with my girlfriend or job… But it doesn’t. Not even a little. Realize this, and you will never again be stuck in your own shit. Realizing that you are the creator of the world in which you suffer is liberation, because it is also an open invitation to stop creating it!

The problem rests with the fact that I cling to some expired image of myself, which is dependent upon a static image of my girlfriend or job. From this point of view, everything seems personal. When circumstances change, as they inevitably will, it seems as if the change is happening to me. This is why our fears seem so intense. Everything appears to be personal. I think “she” is doing that to “me.” I think “work” is stressing “me” out.

If we allow that one thought—the self-conscious experience of ourselves—the space to breathe, the whole network of dissatisfaction comes crumbling down. In the midst of suffering, if we allow our sense of self to touch the ground, the metric system that establishes suffering will dissolve into space. It is called space because it isn’t cluttered with all of our ideas about how things should or shouldn’t behave. When it is discovered that the fixed-personal self is a gimmick there is no longer any need for ideas about how things should or shouldn’t be. There is no longer anything to feel threatened, so we are content with things as they are. From this centerless point of view, Life is revealed to be so whole and so complete that it can accommodate our job or partner as they are.

This is Love.

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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3 Responses to “Discovering Liberation In The Midst Of Suffering.”

  1. Iamlove says:

    i love it, always inspiring!

  2. [...] Self-liberation is up to each one of us. We have to do our own homework, mixing our meditation and the dharma with our experience. This requires having sympathy and warmth toward ourselves, particularly during the tough times. When loss, pain, blame or poor reputation hit us hard, we can emulate the example and be inspired by the teachings of the great lineage figures or the great teachers of the present day. And when we tend to get swept away by pleasure, praise, gain or fame, the Buddha—who sat immovable through it all—is a great reminder. We are not helpless. We can hold our seat. [...]

  3. John Marens says:

    Thank you Ben,
    I have been struggling with this whole “the self is not real” thing … reading this has been a great help … be well … j

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