Embracing Personal Loneliness as the Path to Awakening.

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Mar 6, 2012
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“Eventually, we must give up trying to be something special.”

~ Chogyam Trungpa

The image above—of the Buddha—is sometimes considered offensive by westerners. However, if we are willing to look deeply into the Buddha, we will see that it is a powerful teaching. The emaciated Buddha is a stark reminder of our radical ordinariness and the consequences of ignoring our humanity.

When we embrace this image, we see a man saturated in spiritual materialism, but his pain is not cloaked with the anesthetic forms that usually distract us from the immediacy of our suffering. We see his bones. The image is completely vulnerable.

At this stage of his journey, the Buddha was involved in asceticism. He was taking his journey too seriously. He was trying to overthrow his humanity in favor of something more magical or “spiritual” in nature. But humanity is inescapable. It is who we are. It is so ordinary.

Celestial realms of blissed out magic are hallucinations—constructs of the formed mind. They are examples of spiritual entertainment. The human journey is about relaxing into who we are. This moment of relaxing into our humanity is symbolized, in the Buddha’s life, by his willingness to relate to his physical body and accept the rice milk offered by the young girl, Sujata. Once again, who we are is so ordinary.

Meditation is ultimately a confrontation with this ordinariness. We have to sit with our boredom.

We are forced to choose: Will I embrace the boredom or the absence of entertainment and let go of my self? Or, will I cling to yet another distraction, some thing to keep me company?

Will I take each emerging thought hostage, and transform it into some story that medicates my loneliness? Or, will I allow even the subtlest of thoughts—the basic sense of separation between “I” and the boredom—to pass away in it’s own time?

If we cling to the entertainment, we will be re-born, once again, in a cycle of depression, addiction, and disappointment. We will be overcome by the belief in our own insufficiency: the basic notion that we are broken or some how missing some essential ingredient.

Then, we will become infatuated with a fix or some object that we believe is the miracle pill for all that ails us. Finally, we’ll become disillusioned with our fix, and find ourselves right back at square one, confronted by a pervasive feeling of loneliness. This is the movement of suffering.

On the other hand, if we give up on the idea that we are a solid, separate self, a startling transformation takes place. The idea that we are somehow other than or apart from the basic energy associated with boredom is released. The boredom becomes vibrant or life-giving, and we are revealed to be an incarnation of this energy.

This is ordinary magic. This is awakening.

~ This article first appeared on the Web of Enlightenment ~


Editor: Andrea B.


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.


11 Responses to “Embracing Personal Loneliness as the Path to Awakening.”

  1. Beautiful Ben. You speak so many of my own thoughts and experiences. I will share with my fans tomorrow. 🙂

  2. oz_ says:

    Very well said – thanks for the reminder Ben.
    – Oz

  3. Jamie says:

    Thank you.

  4. Alli says:

    A timely truth. I enjoy the term 'ordinary magic'.

  5. randolphr says:

    Trying to be "something special" ….. now there's an issue I have w/ too, too many of those I encounter within & around the Buddhist community …. so I shrug & wince & look elsewhere ….

    – A short but challenging read …. and it's these encounters I benefit from best … time now to re-read it again (again) … a smile & a furrow & a tussle …. Me, Me, Me ….. over & over, again & again ….

    – Cool article, thanks … truly.

  6. Lola says:

    practical and pragmatic, as Buddhism is…thank you.

  7. Nichole says:

    This is so absolutely brilliant & timely for where I am at right now in my life. You are a gift Ben. Thank you for your inspiration for exploration and perspective

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