the practical buddhist : essentials

8 defining characteristics of a spiritual rebel

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. – Albert Camus

Spiritual Rebels: They embody an innate sense of spiritual and societal unrest and are hell-bent on finding their way in the world. They aren’t sheep that will blindly follow the latest philosophy; they aren’t duped into believing anything.

Their cause, though they wouldn’t most likely label it as such, is nothing short of overt rebellion. However, as we will see in this post, spiritual rebels are non-violent, peace-loving introspectives who look within for answers rather than confront others over the validity oppositional beliefs.

Are You a Spiritual Rebel?

Do you long to seek your own truth despite the influences of Big Religion or societal norms? Are you dedicated to finding the truth about how to live your life according to your own internal moral code?

I’ve given some thought to what I feel are the defining characteristics of spiritual rebels. They certainly define me. See if they come close to defining you as well.

The 8 Defining Characteristics of a Spiritual Rebel

  1. Independently minded – You can’t tell a spiritual rebel what to believe, what to think, or what to do. They have to work it out for themselves. They may ultimately come around to your point of view, but unless they experience it as truth, you’ll not get instant agreement from a spiritual rebel. Spiritual rebels are more likely to take their time in charting their life course. They may experience what feels like an extended adolescence comprising years of exploration that guides them to ultimately decide on a life focus.
  2. Resolute in purpose – The spiritual rebel is like a dog with a bone; Once she has a sense of mission, she can’t be redirected. She’ll either succeed with extraordinary results or die in the process of working toward making it a reality. There are no barriers perceived as insurmountable for the spiritual rebel with a goal. They will push forward without relenting. If one way is blocked, they don’t give up; instead they find another way to achieve their aims. They live out the quote: ‘We will either find a way, or make one.’ – Hannibal, 247 – 182 BC
  3. Distrusts authority – Spiritual rebels don’t automatically trust or take direction from those in positions of authority; leaders have to prove themselves worthy of obedience. Obedience is a never really on the table for a spiritual rebel. Consensus is probably a more accurate term to describe the relationship a spiritual rebel has with authority; they will never fully place their trust in a person of leadership or authority; to do so would relinquish their sense of duty and commitment to themselves. They may express heartfelt respect for persons in authority if they are working toward equitable purposes.
  4. Rejects status quo –  Rebels are forward thinking and not content to do things one way because that’s the way it’s always been done. It seems ludicrous to a spiritual rebel to conform for anything, especially religious dogma or gestures (such a gassho or genuflection), political ideologies, and societal norms. The spiritual rebel probably identifies somewhat with the punk movement of the late 70’s and 80’s that embodied a wholesale rejection of the status quo. Spiritual rebels work to evaluate the accepted practices then go about dismantling it in favor of a more equitable and egalitarian approach.
  5. Focusses on essentials – Spiritual rebels make good minimalists. They eschew ritual, ceremony, and needless structure. They favor the asceticism of less over the opulence of more. They crave the discovery of simple truth, and reject the acceptance of complex belief systems. They reject mass consumerism and aren’t found in the throngs of people pushing and shoving their way through crowded malls and shopping centers, and are instead more likely to support local small businesses and organizations. They curate their possessions which are probably fewer than their non-rebel contemporaries. They view duplicity as superfluous.
  6. Looks within first – Because they distrust authority, spiritual rebels look within their minds and hearts to uncover their accepted truth. They only look to others to validate their own discoveries. They are meditators and often engage in the practice of contemplation on issues that matter to them. They are reserved in judgement and understand that they are the creators of their world. They guard their thoughts knowing they are the building blocks of their reality.
  7. Cultivates awareness – The spiritual rebel doesn’t look to transcendence; instead they work on becoming increasingly aware of the present moment. They develop a mindfulness practice to stay in the present instead of getting bogged down in the past or a distant, hypothetical future.  They understand that working on issues in the present is where life is to be engaged and growth occurs. It’s the present moment that matters to them and they often pause to document it in mind and heart.
  8. Embraces nonviolence – The spiritual rebel embraces peace and harmony and isn’t interested in brute force. They seek out peaceful speech and choose peaceful actions over caustic outbursts and behavior. Though they are resolute and self-directed, they will engage in consensus building and partnership when sufficient goodwill and trust is part of the process. Though they may be crude in speech on occasion, they don’t use langue to impugn others. Their way of being in the world is often associated with grace, humility and dignity.

Did You See Yourself?

These characteristics define my own path of spiritual rebellion and I’m relatively confident in thinking that these same traits are either pretty close to defining your identity as a spiritual rebel or they contain reference to elements of your path on which you’re currently working.