The Mindfulness Manifesto.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Jan 16, 2011
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Grounding our voice in silence…

As a people, we tend to organize our thoughts, ideas, and feelings into a type of self image by projecting it upon varying tribes that share similar fears and expectations. We consider ourselves democrats, republicans, Christians, Buddhist, or atheist. We learn our place in this world from media, culture, our parents, friends, and family. In this way, our identity becomes some inheritance, or hand-me down persona. Something we never really get comfortable with…

Through this sort of social and psychological assimilation we become what we are told to be. We are assigned a role to play, and we act it out on the stage of life. We use religion or politics as a superficial costume that molds our self-image. If we are Buddhist then we do not eat meat, and go around campaigning for non-violence. We wear malas and chant mantras, or something like that. If we are atheist, then we have to brush up on our reading so that we can play the role of a rigid intellectual. If we identify ourselves with some political party we have to back our party regardless of whether or not the candidate really represents our true convictions. We become die-hard members of a team that cares only about winning because, our own self-confirmation depends upon our teams victory.

This is a sad situation…

I do not think there is a problem with politics or religion. In fact, I believe that religion, in it’s truest form, is the saving grace of humanity. The contemplative traditions of the various religions around the world offer us incredible insight into what it means to be fully human. Religion is not an identity card— it is a path to discovering the direct experience of being we all participate in…

The problem is not with religion, politics, or whatever; the problem is internal. Confusion brings into this world a sense of self, which is solid and apart from life— a conceptual portrait of sorts… This static image then hijacks these systems in order to finance it’s own enterprise of self-validation. The ego holds hostage every ounce of creativity in order to justify and rationalize it’s own existence. It protects itself with deception, and in the process squanders our remarkable potential.

The effects of this co-dependent dynamic are disastrous…

The groups which we associate with, the ones that validate our self-image, become us, and everyone else is subsequently transformed into them. Unfortunately, on the basis of self/other or us/them conflict is the inevitable result. This is so because, us is used to co-sign on our self-image or validate our expectations. Therefore, they are experienced as a threat to our very identity, or a confirmation of our fears. If we overly identify with a particular group, then open and honest discussion with them will be experienced as threatening. This is so because, it challenges our very idea about who and what we really are, an idea that is static or without room for compromise…

When we perceive something as threatening we immediately become the victim of fear, and fear unchecked always leads to aggression…

In order to vent this agonizing fear we succumb to varying degrees of hostility. We perceive this fear as being something installed in us by an external force. We demonize other, so to speak. So instead of working with the internal causes of our fear, we set out to exorcize the object of our confusion! That is to say, we seek an external solution by means of force or aggression. We try to run them off, instead of engaging in an open and honest relationship. This invites them to react… This exchange of tit-for-tat does little more than reaffirm our initial paranoia, namely that they were out to get us. The grounds for conflict become more and more solidified and fighting seems more and more justified. So the situation becomes unbearably claustrophobic…

There has always been war. That is not to say that it is natural, but it is to say that it is the unavoidable outcome of an us and them approach, which is the inevitable result of a self-centered world-view. So perhaps, creating an enlightened society has less to do with modifying the behavior of our apparent enemies, and more to do with cultivating understanding of the human condition. As Chogyam Trungpa once said, “Too often, people think that solving the world’s problems is based on conquering the earth, rather than touching the earth, touching ground.”

A conceptual self, which is to say an expired and contrived idea dependent upon confirmation, has to conquer and occupy territory. It needs something other than “I” to vouch for it. In the same way that you cannot define left without right or hot without cold, you can not define self without other. So we have to create and villainize other in order to determine and justify our own position. So our ego-centric world-view is actually dependent upon the continuation of this conflict. That is why we prefer conflict, or bad attention to no attention at all…

It is unfortunate that few people appreciate the utter complexity of this debacle. Perhaps we could develop a great deal of admiration for sanity, if we paid more attention to the disastrous effects of insanity. If we ever came to know the enormous amount of intelligence that was wasted in this ridiculous project of self-confirmation we would be absolutely convinced that we had a far greater purpose and capacity. However, most people never even question the situation, they simply go along with what they are told to be or not to be.

Most of us either, never look into such questions, or when we do, we only go half way before we are carried off in an even more subtle and elusive portrayal of the same ole drama. We get hung up on a particular leg of the journey, and start to think we’ve got it figured out. We become self-righteous, as if we own truth. Infected with such a belief, it becomes our duty to save the world from itself. We become distributors of truth. We simply create another group, enlightened vigilantes that have the one unmistakable path to true liberation. Of course, the criteria for membership in our new group is approval or confirmation of our preordained conclusions about the world— this is fundamentalism.

Now we are ready to take our message of peace and love to the streets in pseudo-pacifist protest of aggression- demanding change, truth, and justice. We burn flags, shout obscene and demeaning comments, and undermine others opinions all in the name of love, peace, and freedom. We have simply created another conflict; the war between those who stand for truth and peace, and the ones who perpetuate deception and violence. We think they are trying to rob us of our inalienable rights. We fall victim to fear and therefore aggression, in the same way because, we are living in a half-truth, which is no truth at all. We get caught up in trying to protect our rights, as if they could be taken from us. We are still buying into a contrived self-image, and as a result we still feel fragile. Paranoid. There are blind spots in our logic. We still think that the origin of this cyclic conflict is external— a conflict created and maintained by some-thing or some-one other than ourselves.

In order to truly transcend this ongoing battle with life, we have to observe the causes and conditions that gives rise to this conflict within us. The observation of confusion is insight.

The causes are internal. Life is not at odds with us- life sustains us, all of us! We have to see that we have been held captive, made a prisoner in our own skin. However, we have to go further than this. It is essential to realize that we are not only the captives, we are also the jailers! We have to accept the situation as it is, and see how it is us not them, which creates and sustains this conflict. There is no such thing as them, and it is this insight which separates Gandhi, King, and Dalai Lama from your run of the mill activist. We have to realize that the conflict we witness in the world is nothing more than a projection of the conflict within us; the ongoing struggle of ego to establish and maintain security.

The ego is a phantom, so it has to constantly fight tooth and nail in order to assert and maintain it’s position in the world. This fight is cyclic but futile because, in truth the ego has no ground to stand on…

The struggle is not with other people, opposing groups, or warring ideologies; it is with ourselves! The ego’s attempt to produce and maintain security is an up hill battle that can never be won. Them is an illusion because I is an illusion, and no amount of effort can make an illusion a reality because, in reality it exists as an illusion. A moments hesitation, a mere pause or gap in this continuous struggle will reveal the ego as a fake, a mere apparition.

This gap is meditation…

Ultimately the answer to this schizophrenic skirmish is trust. Not trust in some doctrine or guru. Not trust in some particular group of people, rather trust in our true-self— taking refuge in original intelligence.

We can directly experience what it means to be fully human; not fully Buddhist, Christian, Liberal, or Conservative. Such an experience transcends these simple conceptual identification cards. Religion is not a means of self-identification. It is a path that leads to the discovery of human nature— an intelligence present within everyone. Such an experience tears down the walls that appear to separate us, and reveal us to be members of a single family- the human family.

The intelligence that binds us together is wisdom.

Wisdom is a type of intimate knowing revealed in love or openness. It is not the product of our efforts or processes. It is uncreated or self-existing, and only discovered by unknowing all of these contrived and futile efforts to be some-one or some-thing. Chogyam Trungpa and Thomas Merton described this process of unknowing as meditation.

When we cease trying to produce or create some kind of self-image we discover our true identity, selflessness. The discovery of selflessness is the death of ego, which may seem bleak or dismal, but it isn’t. It is in fact, the experience of luminosity or clarity. The experience of selflessness is the discovery of life because, in life there can be no solid self. Life is change without beginning or end, so there are no accommodations made for finished products!

In the realization of selflessness we are overcome by love. This love is the pure energy which has always been present, but was distorted by our fragmented-dualistic consciousness. It is direct contact with life. Once such concepts as self/other dissolve, a type of open-mindedness or spaciousness emerges that allows others to be as they truly are. This open-mindedness or love can then be communicated with precision and honesty, and this sort of communication is called compassion.

We no longer see life as threatening because there is no solid idea to be threatened. Therefore we are capable of working with the situation as it is; instead of how we think it should be. All struggle and conflict ceases, because we have discovered that the origin of this conflict was an internal hallucination.

As I stated earlier such a discovery begins with trust, genuine trust in the basic intelligence of our situation. Such a trust can only be discovered by unknowing all of the factors that give rise to distrust. We have to genuinely befriend ourselves by letting go of all the things that we are not. This practice of unknowing is called meditation or contemplative prayer. It is through the practice of meditation that we can move beyond the cold and rigid cerebral existence of ego, and come to rest in our true nature.

So in closing, I hope more people will realize that the most potent political decision they can make is to invest in their own sanity, which consists of nothing more than observing their own confusion. The observation of confusion is the discovery of wisdom, which is something we could use in political discourse today. When we take the time to appreciate the gap between thoughts, we allow thought to touch the present moment. Then, our thinking is inspired by reality. Our thoughts are revealed to be a reflection of truth. In this way, our very being becomes a protestation against injustice.

This is the mind of a prophet… This is something that Martin Luther King, Jr. brought to the table, and is greatly missed today…

In Honor of Dr. King here is a video clip of perhaps the most powerful words ever uttered on American soil!


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.


15 Responses to “The Mindfulness Manifesto.”

  1. Roger Wolsey says:

    Wonderful, truly wonderful. Just to help connect the dots (and heighten the profundity) a bit further, that video clip was of the last few minutes of Martin Luther King Jr's speech that he gave in Memphis, the night before he was killed.

  2. Rhea Morales says:

    Very well written and coherent. I can't help noticing how much I am not like the "we" you mention. I do not try to label myself or identify with a tribe. I follow my heart and my own curiosity. I look deep and go to the source. I listen to other people's opinions but do not worship them. Though I teach yoga, I have my own interpretation of all works of spirituality I have ever read and if my yoga guru tells me something that I feel is wrong, I will happily question him/her. I'm thinking, lately, that the source of much confusion is that people hear so many contrasting ideas of morality and instead of molding their own principles from experience and their own gut instincts, they assume that everyone around them must be right. We must learn to look deep and ask questions so we can be sure of our own purpose. If we realize we are wrong, then there is nothing wrong with changing our minds. Looking deep can be something as simple as reading the entire thing before judging it or asking ourselves how we are all the same. I find that going deep is the key to wisdom. I think people mistrust others because they are afraid of going deep. They would rather stick to a "tribe" and feel safe with it even if they don't really know what it is that tribe stands for. But I ramble

  3. TamingAuthor says:

    Ben, do you believe there are people who are inherently spiritual beings who can achieve enlightenment and also people who tend to be aggregates or compilations of karmic form that are incapable of enlightenment? Are there sentient and conscious beings that can exert will and also beings whose nature is robotic and computational and not susceptible to enlightened awareness?

  4. Ben Ralston says:

    Truly wonderful article Benjamin. I only wish that this would go viral!!
    With love

  5. BenRiggs says:

    No… You ready for that discussion series?

  6. BenRiggs says:

    Thanks a lot man.

  7. Ben_Ralston says:

    Heartbreaking. He knew… but also uplifting for us to know the depth of his wisdom and power. What a man – truly, as Benjamin said, a prophet.

  8. […] King had made the decision that he was going to carry out his life’s work by embracing peace and knowledge as his only weapons. He lived his entire life fighting without arms for what he knew was the future of the world in which he lived—for what was right. Even after multiple threats on his life, on the lives of his family, and after his home was bombed, he stayed true to his path. […]

  9. […] can’t. This is a country of freedom, and Dr. King fought for freedoms that were once thought imaginable. His image, no matter how much mud is slung around, will never be tarnished. He inspired change on […]

  10. TamingAuthor says:

    Getting warmed up for the discussion…

  11. catlyn777 says:

    "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
    Dwight D. Eisenhower

  12. […] we have discovered that the origin of this conflict was an internal hallucination.” ~from The Mindfulness Manifesto by Ben Riggs on Elephant […]

  13. […] and confuse our minds let us embrace the chaos and allow it to elevate our consciousness. Activate mindfulness online by employing these 5 nifty […]

  14. […] because we have discovered that the origin of this conflict was an internal hallucination.” The Mindfulness Manifesto by Ben […]