Interviews

Strategies for Living:

Ben Riggs talks about the mind-body problem, opening a meditation center in the South, & working with hot button issues w/ host David McMillian

Strategies for Living the Television Edition:

A Local Refuge: Shreveport Meditation Center Promotes Sanity & Well-Being from HenryHarbor.com

walking meditation fountain

story by Christine Bradley

And that was the main motivation Benjamin Riggs needed to form the Refuge Meditation Group, currently the only center of its kind in the area. The Refuge Meditation Group is an alternative approach to spirituality for many locals. The group encourages a wakeful society: one that is inspired, spontaneous and creative.

He is not only the director of the meditation center here in Shreveport, he is also a Life Coach, as well as a featured columnist for Elephant Journal and the Good Men Project, and editor-&-chief of Henry Harbor.  Riggs has studied and practiced within Christian and Buddhist monasteries in both the United States and India.

“From my point of view, spirituality is not an option. If you want to be a sane, healthy, happy human being, then you’re going to have to invest in your own well-being,” he said.

Meditation practice is a way to make that investment—a means of coming back to who you are, as opposed to who you think you are. This becomes a process of what Riggs describes as “un-knowing” or a way to “un-train your brain.”

“We’re so invested in what we think about ourselves, and we’ve extended that investment out onto others. We’re caught up in this bondage where we can’t act outside of this sort of public relations life that we live,” he said. “Meditation un-knows your pathology, so that essentially ‘nature,’ ‘truth,’ ‘God’—whatever you want to call it—can come into your life and restore you to your original condition.”

Hosting morning meditation at their Jordan st location six days a week, there is also a guided practice, instruction and discussion on Wednesday evenings—an ideal opportunity for beginners and those interested in learning more. The new location at 622 Jordan st. has been instrumental in the growth of the Refuge Meditation Group and their ability to offer more workshops, retreats and services. Since its inception in February 2008, the group moved from three different buildings before settling in the Highland area last June.

“I feel a huge part of meditation practice and spirituality in general is the space in which you do it. It has to reflect the integrity of the practice,” he said. “It has to personify or manifest the spiritual principles that you’re looking to practice.”

With a permanent location, Riggs said they can now meet with smaller groups and delve into more profound aspects of the spiritual journey. He is also currently offering Life Coaching services to provide guidance on an individual-basis, to help re-awaken a sense of inspiration through mindfulness-based techniques.

“Once that sense of inspiration has been resurrected within their life, they have to allow that sense of inspiration to discipline them. They have to become a disciple of that inspiration,” Riggs said.

Paige Parker, who helps to lead some of the meditation practices, first started attending the Refuge Meditation Group in 2009. Interested in spiritual growth but still skeptical about meditation at first, she said it was going through some personal struggles—including the loss of her father to a short battle with cancer—that drove her back to meditation.

“It was the desire to understand my pain and work through it,” she said. “I enjoy it because it allows me to look at my life as workable. I am never stuck, if I am willing to be honest about exactly who I am in any given situation, good or bad.”

Whether it’s an interest in Buddhist meditation, questions about life coaching, a personal struggle, or the search for a sense of accountability, the Refuge Meditation Group has several opportunities to help cultivate and further one’s spiritual journey. They hold regular workshops and sits, even book studies.   Wednesday night meditation practices are free to attend; donations are accepted to help sustain the group. The group also hosts open mic the second Thursday night of every month at Naked Bean.