Rules are beliefs about how things should be. They are helpful for maintaining the social order, but they can limit spiritual growth.
Who sets the rules? Usually it is men who are in positions of power. These men create rules that keep the poor in places of poverty. Their rules keep the disenfranchised people powerless. As a spiritual practice a person or a group of people can work to create new rules, rules that liberate and create equality.
The most destructive rules are often the ones people set up for themselves, such as the rules in their head that come in the form of “shoulds.” Our adherence to “shoulds” limits our possibilities. By doing what we should, such as the noble thing, for example, we forsake our dreams. Yet those dreams may be the leading us to where we need to be to thrive. By adhering to the rules in our head, we forgo becoming all that we can be. We fail to use our unique gifts and talents, and may miss the purpose of our time here.
It is easy to follow some rules blindly, and in doing so we miss a higher calling. For instance, we betray a friend because someone with so-called authority presses upon us to do so. We believe we have done right, but we have not followed our conscience. We miss the higher calling of loyalty. Following the rules has become an easy way out of the moral dilemma.
A dilemma is a choice between two negatives, and in these situations the rules fail us. “What should I do” becomes the question. Yet, there may be no right answer. We may choose the course that does the least damage.
Particularly self-damaging can be the rules we picked up along the way that have served us in the past, but are no longer useful. As a spiritual practice one can begin observing and challenging their own unwritten rules.
We may have learned all sorts of rules as children, rules to help keep us safe. But as adults, we may no longer need them. We may have adopted unspoken rules about who to associate with, what to wear, how to be, or how to handle our emotions. But these rules can be challenged, and by challenging them we open ourselves up to growth.
Developing autonomy and an internal locus of control is a spiritual practice that calls for honesty. We give up black and white thinking and accept new information and allow it to shape a new world view. We work through the evidence, and the pros and cons, and live with greater integrity. We give up childish simplicity and work to become more open and accepting.
Challenging our own rules is an act of moral courage and deep spirituality and spiritual development.