The Meaning of Life.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Aug 26, 2010
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Go with the Flow.

Quite often people confuse activities they enjoy or activities that produce positive outcomes in their lives with the purpose of life. As a result, we come to conclusions such as, “The purpose of life is family or being with the people you love,” or “The purpose of life is to contribute something meaningful to the advancement of society.” Of course such conclusions put us in a bind when our loved ones inevitably pass away or we find that retirement age is upon us.

What if life were not some enigmatic thing, existing apart from us? Suppose life is not some riddle or puzzle we are suppose to decipher or figure out. Perhaps life is the purpose. What if living is the point, and being with those we love, contributing to society, or spending a quiet moment at the park are just examples of living.

The meaning of life isn’t really the point of this essay. I only mention it because if living is the point of life, which is to say the only place where life can be met, then it would follow that a whole host of lifelong conceptions would be in need of rearrangement. The point of being human would be to be fully human, which of course means we could put aside all of our plans and designs for becoming something else. This means we could be ourselves. This is not an excuse to slip off into our neuroses with an ontological hall-pass; rather it is a reminder that if we are human then we could probably just be that without being pulled apart by following the competing conceptions we entertain about who we are.

Being could pour forth from silence, as opposed to trying to assimilate to some idea that we inherited from our upbringing or popular culture.

Sanity is the mind’s condition when left in its natural state. Sanity is the state of affairs present when the mind simply reflects truth, and in doing so is truth. Sanity is silence in motion. By silence I do not mean something terribly esoteric, but nothing at all. Openness. Receptivity. A condition devoid of preconceived ideas. Mystics throughout the ages have called upon people to simply be. Being is nothing more than truth manifesting itself through the reflective condition known as sanity, which is the minds natural state. Insanity emerges when thought distances itself from the other organic examples of sanity, and begins to comment on the workings of the mind. This inbred process births the appearance of a solid-separate self that is charged with the organization and maintenance of the organism, which is only vaguely connected to the ego. This self, or the ego as it is often called, is a dead self. It is an imagined character, which by its very nature is cut-off from life or content, and is therefore forever discontented.

In order to remedy this pervasive discontentment, the ego is always talking or ignoring silence. It is constantly trying to acquire up to date information regarding its surroundings, and establish a plan of action. We move through this World, as if we were tourists, commenting on every little thing, “I like this… I don’t like that… Do you know what she said?” Then based on our self-conscious commentary we attempt to devise a plan, some course of action that will arrange the World in such a way that it is suitable to us. Of course these plans never work, which usually gives us more material for internal gossip, and leads only to more plans. Stop!

This is the point of this essay. What if nothing is wrong? Almost instinctively you respond, “Well of course there are problems- life isn’t perfect!” We are all the time trying to create paradise or get back into the garden, but what if we never left. Deflating the metaphor of all its symbolism, the garden is clearly symbolic of life. Not life like the noun but more like the verb, namely living. Life is a process of which, we are a dimension. Life being a process, and we being a dimension of this process, it should follow that we too are a process, or a verb and not a noun. So the point is to flow, and in order to flow or live we must remain empty or forgiving. In doing so we manifest sanity or become truth, and some would say that reflecting truth to such a degree that you and truth are of one substance is the fullest expression of being human!

So the next time you say there is a problem, instead of trying to figure out a solution, question the problem itself. Is this problem real. At first it may seem that your World has been turned upside down, but if you inquire, instead of running after yet another solution, you may find that there is no problem whatsoever, just a new right side up!


About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


17 Responses to “The Meaning of Life.”

  1. Kendra says:

    This is one of the most difficult lessons for me to absorb and put in practice. I always feel so overwhelmed and exhausted.

  2. Ben Riggs says:

    The Buddhist teachings on impermanence are always very simple, very direct. Life is not in motion- it is motion. When I fail to see or ignore the fact that I am a dimension of this movement, when I conceive of myself as a solid/static entity, this unified field of energy is conceptually shattered into a million different things flying at me all at once. The beautiful thing, the grace of it all so to speak, is that this is a misapprehension. At the end of the day we can fall back in the arms of truth. We can remember that we too are in perpetual motion. We take a deep breath in, feel the crispness of the present moment, and rediscover ourselves as an eternal process of evolution, and instantaneously that frozen center which all of "life's" demands seemed to be converging on has moved. We do this every moment of every day- That is the beauty of it!

  3. Kent says:

    I enjoy your reference to the garden. I often consider the concept that the birth of sin was in origin the cognitive process and not the act, a misunderstanding on two persons parts that gave way to doubt, jealousy and judgement on one hand and on the other doubt, pride, even honest confusion. This misunderstanding also tainted an act of kindness and through this change of mind and heart, man embarked on the very troubled journey we see today. Always just outside of grace.
    Though, through the practice of silence you may hear more than you previously knew existed. Opening the door to true communication, understanding and forgiveness. Trust in the Holy Spirit (think about it)
    Enjoyed the article thank you!

  4. BenRiggs says:

    Hey Kent thanks for the comment… Here is an article you might like from elephant journal about the concept of original sin:

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