The Essential Spirituality Checklist.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Nov 24, 2010
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Photo Courtesy of Akuppa John Wigham

Oh, Come off it!

Perfectionism can easily be mistaken for spirituality. In a flash the whole path is reduced down to a checklist, a host of ideals that I must become. This is spiritual violence, as I deny everything about myself in the hope of becoming a thought, an idea about perfection. The spiritual life then seems to be laced with guilt and shame, since I can never measure up to the standards that I have imposed upon myself. At times it may seem that there is hope of fulfilling these standards, almost as if I have gotten over a hump, but in the end there is only failure. I have never been able to express the spiritual ideal. I have never been able to press out my ideas about myself.

I suppose this is because, I cannot be reduced to an idea. The human being just isn’t that one-sided. I have more texture than that, more complexity. Every time I try to become an idea of who I should be, I oppress humanity on the most basic level; I ignore the richness of the human condition.

The shame and guilt, far from being a painful indication that I have once again fallen short, is in reality an inspiring reminder that I have sold myself short. They are in truth a function of natural intelligence, which is pointing out the fact that my legacy as a human being far surpasses the limitations of a static ideal.

I am not a picture to be painted or a checklist to be completed. There is not some spiritual standard that I must meet or some discipline that I must adhere to in order to become fully human. I am fully human, so fully human that I cannot even accept that fact- I am that fact!

I am the space that accommodates guilt, hope, love, sorrow, anger, and compassion. I am the energy which begets thought. A far cry from the poverty mentality that suggests we must become spiritual or fully human, our inheritance as humans is one of being.

There is nothing for us to become because, we are being!

We need not bother ourselves with earning freedom, achieving happiness, or learning how to live life. This only makes us a slave to our own ideals, which cause us to be unhappy, and transforms life into a huge problem in need of a perfect solution. All we need to do is nothing…

Or as Alan Watts might say, “Oh, come off of it!” Stop. Breathe. See. Listen. Feel. Taste. We are not alive; we are life! We are whole, complete, in need of nothing-. We are perfection!


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.


13 Responses to “The Essential Spirituality Checklist.”

  1. tortugo23 says:

    Whew! that's a rellief!

    I gonna go out a get me a bottle of mezcal!

  2. Padma Kadag says:

    Right Fucking On!!!!!

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Ben…thank you for your genuine response and clarity. Naropa was ripe for Tilopa. Tilopa's words and actions came from eons of karma between the two. Every moment we are ripe for what appears to be arising. My concern is the not so skillful way we throw around "kill the buddha", etc. We humans are very impressive and delicate. There is nothing more beautiful than a person that decides to set out on the buddhist path with taking refuge. That never ceases to move me. When body speech and mind are coming together in some small taste of realization that is a living tradition. But we pound these words and concepts into our keyboards for what? Mostly onto deaf ears. This is an oral tradition that depends upon the symbols and words at the right time in order to liberate one's mind. Tilopa's instructions at one time were not repeated until it was a moment which the words did a greater good. Our tendency to "billboard" Dzogchen or Mahamudra does not benefit.

  4. Brendan Burroughs says:

    Hi Benjamin,

    I admire your thoughts, and in doing so I incorporate them into the flow of similar thoughts I had today, when meditating- still, quiet, and open. In being- we are open to experience, and through being, others have space to be.


  5. BenRiggs says:

    Glad you enjoyed it Brendan…. Even happier to hear you incorporate or experiment with these concepts in your own life!

  6. BenRiggs says:

    Well… I do not guess there is much one can say to that… If you think that people are "billboarding " Dzogchen & Mahamudra then you think that. If you think everyone that reads these billboards have "deaf ears," then you think that.

    I however have complete and total faith in the human condition. Therefore I believe that those who have "deaf ears" maybe be inspired by these "billboards" to investigate the immense potential that is their inheritance as human beings. I also suspect that some of the people passing by these "billboards" are ripe!

    Intellignce is tricky thing… It may emerge after years of intense practice or after a terrifying car crash, but intelligence will emerge!

  7. Padma Kadag says:

    "Billboards"…hahaha…well..Buddhism in the west…has become formulaic with little result. Intellectualized. This is not commentary on you by any means. Lets understand this from the git go. Buddhism in all of its shapes and schools is an organic process, for no better description. Important teachings once reserved only when a student was ready or ripe were taught. Now with no regard for individual development important texts are quoted and discussed. These are the deaf ears. When you shift something in your mind… you know it. We are making the uncommon common. Conceptualizing as if we know….and we don't.

  8. Padma Kadag says:

    You are right about the East and buddhism. Raised in generations of buddhism they are incredibly "faithful" with little teaching. I am not arguing against you so much as I see a disconnect with
    how the west markets buddhism and the engaged style of buddhism with an authentic teacher in an organic relationship. The blogoshere is perpetuating not only ordinary unsocial habits of the inability to communicate but then also the disjointed, out of context, argument winning, buddhist discussions which are completely unrelated to the concept of "skillful means". Then the discussions which are like "Bob vs Buddhism" showed that not only the author had no real grasp on Buddhist practice but the source of his information was based mainly, it seems, on blog responses and discussions which he participated. There was nothing in that entire blog which resembled Buddhism.

  9. BenRiggs says:

    Well the whole point of Bob vs. Buddhism was that Bob, the author, was trying to understand Buddhism! That does not mean what he has to say is invalid or pointless.

    Engaged Buddhism comes from the East…. Thich Naht Hanh started it in Vietnam I believe?

  10. BenRiggs says:

    Rhea it is good to hear from you!
    I hope you also have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and yes I will say hello to John for you.
    I did not know you were a yoga instructor…

    I do not mean doing nothing, like cease all activity. You can do nothing while running down the street, doing yoga, etc. Doing nothing is referring more to the complete and total acceptance of this moment, and releasing the illusion of control. It is about realizing I do not control those body movements, the breath etc. That control is an illusion and then letting it go!

  11. Rhea says:

    oh yes, this is exactly what I meant. I was just trying to clarify as I saw the term nothing was leading to some confusion. Take Care!

  12. Joanna K says:

    Thank you.
    I feel so inadequate and so lost in my desperate pursuit of binding my western mind and easter spirituality. Please help me….

  13. […] Resting in a basic awareness or appreciation of this complexity is the simplicity of being. ~from The Essential Spirituality Checklist by Ben […]