Rules and fear and fundamentalism

I’ve been trying out some different meditations on YouTube lately.  Something I’ve appreciated from a few of them has been instructions that allow for you to do the meditation either sitting or lying down and no specific requirements beyond that.  Over the years I’ve run into a lot of teachers and teachings with long lists of specific things you must do in order to successfully meditate or tune in to the divine, etc.

As one who’s always struggled with rules, I squirm when an instructor teaches that only those who perfectly obey a set of rules can achieve enlightenment, or succeed at meditation, or connect with divine/Buddha nature.  I’ve encountered instructions ranging from never to cross your legs or ankles, always to sit cross-legged, say only an exact script, wear a shawl wrapped a certain way when you meditate, your spine has to be absolutely straight… Personally, when I go to a workshop at which a teacher says stuff like that, I will never be attending another event with that teacher.

My mind starts asking questions like:

  • Really, All That Is created the universe and can heal the sick and raise the dead but can’t interact with a human who has her legs crossed?
  • If you can’t have your legs crossed OR uncrossed, are you supposed to have your leg bones removed so you can do a Gumby pretzel kind of thing?
  • so if your spine has to be absolutely straight does that mean people with scoliosis can’t become enlightened?  Really, God has an “oh those sinning scoliosis people, let’s ban them” thing going on?
  • Divine Consciousness has rules like a social club; gotta follow the rules or you can’t be part of the Buddha nature group?  Seriously.  People really think All That Is is petty?

Okay, my mind’s a scary place but when people make up rules that are so easy to break down into nonsense, I can’t accept those rules–and I really don’t get why so many people do.  I’ve been fascinated for years with the great love so many people have for lists of rules to follow.  Sometimes it’s a way of defining an “us” and a “them”.  I’m pretty sure some spiritual teachers want to sell people on their own set of “must follow” rules to keep people paying them.

Some rules are the ones that let people in fear believe they will be saved or reach their goal, get to heaven, reach enlightenment, etc.  I see it as the basis of fundamentalist thinking.  And I see that fundamentalism in those who want to create a path to higher consciousness paved with rules to follow.  I don’t think you have to be at the extreme edge of religion to be a fundamentalist.  Just afraid and looking for reassurance through a structure of rules providing an illusory guarantee…

I understand some of the sitting, wearing, etc. rules as rituals intended to focus intent and belief on accomplishing whatever the spiritual practice is meant to accomplish.  It just seems people wind up confusing the ritual with the end goal and somehow come to believe the precise steps of the ritual are integral to enlightenment or great meditation,etc. instead of an aid.  To me, tools are just there to use if I need them and if I benefit from a practice using my own way of doing it, the success is just as real and maybe more sweet.

Me, I don’t get along with rules so well.  I like a meditation that says I can sit down or lie down and how I do either doesn’t matter…

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8 thoughts on “Rules and fear and fundamentalism

  1. I love this post Leigh, you are so down to earth young lady…’and the truth shall set you free’ 😀
    My first ‘contact’ was while waiting for a mediation to start, sitting on the floor twisted all over the place while reading out loud from a book about spirituality. Mid sentence I just stopped and burst into tears as this incredible understanding ‘touched’ me. When it is time, it is time. And the rest, as they say, is history 😀 ❤

  2. So true, Leigh – “I’m pretty sure some spiritual teachers want to sell people on their own set of “must follow” rules to keep people paying them.” I often hear ‘spiritual teachers’ and ‘soul coaches’ justifying the use of neuromarketing (‘pushing the fear button’) to enroll people in their ‘miracle day’ or related types of programs.

    The basic foundational practices and shared root-teachings have a lot of merit (long-tried and true), but the man-made rules seem, as you say, centered more around fundamentalism, fear-stirring, and the elite social group distinction.

    Our own body sense/wisdom and inner guidance, once we recognize it, will guide us in terms of posture, etc.

    Thanks for sharing this musing and message!

    Blessings,
    Jamie

    • Yes, exactly — the Eightfold Path, for instance, provides the basics I think are in every major tradition I’ve ever explored but the practices, means and ways to incorporate them into life proliferate and I think they all work for anyone who believes they will…
      Thanks so much for adding your thoughts. Always enjoy drinking in a piece of your wisdom.

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