Honor Your Inner Rebel

Meditating With The Radiance Sutras
Written by Dr. Lorin Roche

You never know where your spiritual self is hidden. We’re told to find it through the discipline of practice. Because this is meditation, and not the Army, your impulse to rebel against discipline is as important as your desire to change yourself for the better. You may have noticed in the past that when you try to get yourself to do a self-help program, you wind up tyrannizing yourself. Then you rebel against the tyranny. The rebel becomes a saboteur of your program because you left her out. The way through this is to embrace the rebel right from the start.

Welcoming the rebel may mean listening to the feeling, “I don’t want to meditate today,” and finding out what it wants. To honor such a feeling means taking it so seriously that you would be willing not to meditate in your usual way, but rather enter the feeling, explore it, let it teach you. Welcome the rebellion, then listen to it. The rebel is there to make sure you do not become enslaved in an external system that takes away your inner authority, your inner freedom, or oppresses you in any way. If you don't start with freedom, you won't end up there.

Meditating the rebel’s way may seem very strange. Once I was working with a schoolteacher, and she was getting restless just a few minutes into the first session. I asked, “What are your impulses?” She said, “I just want to be outside.” We went outside and since we were on a mountain we could see vast horizons. She breathed a sigh of relief.

It turns out that she prefers to be outside as much as possible, even in winter. She dresses warmly, and sits in the snow, and has a great time meditating. The rebel in her is her spiritual part. For another woman, her rebel insists she stay in bed and be cozy to meditate on certain days.

A man I worked with had an amazing Zen practice, he could close his eyes and enter The Stillness and stay there. But his body was through with it. His impulse was to jump up and dance wildly, then sit briefly and savor the combination of free-flowing passion supported by inner peace. That became his practice, and he began to thrive in his life as never before. The rebel can sound like an Ayurvedic doctor, prescribing just the treatment to balance your constitution.

The rebel in you is probably more useful, smarter, and healthier than your “spiritual” impulse to practice meditation. Many people, when they imagine meditating, conceive of it as some sort of confinement, an inner prison. Your inner rebel will immediately alert you if you start making up Odious Rules, such as, “You can’t think, you can’t feel, don’t wiggle, you can’t scratch if you itch.” The rebel will have none of this.

The way in which you rebel is your individuality. We are in human bodies, so the whole point of meditation is to explore and delight in the intersection of the body with universality. Individuality is heightened and illumined by contact with the vast forces of life.

So honor your inner rebel. As you practice any meditation, be alert for the voice of skepticism in you, the voice that says, “Hey, wait a minute, this is bull!” The rebel looks out for your individuality. Invite it in, no matter how much trouble it seems.

As you read and explore meditation notice anything you hate or don’t want to do. Always take your own side. Be willing to hunt to find your own path.

Lorin Roche, a meditation teacher for more than forty years, is the author of The Radiance Sutras and Meditation Made Easy: lorinroche.com.