Spiritual Practice: Rule of Life

trellis

 

When I hear the word “rule” the rebel in me instantly reacts. Most of us can’t keep a New Year’s Resolution, let alone a list of rules to live by. But a Rule of Life is not about making a list of rules, it’s more about discovering what is important to you and building a trellis upon which those values might grow.

The Rule of Life came out of the desert mothers and fathers from the 3rd and 4th centuries. Interestingly, I recently did a Vision Board with some friends and found the process of working through the Rule of Life very similar. I once hired a business coach, (she’s amazing; here’s her link) and she also took me through a very similar process to find my goals for my business as an author. So, as with many spiritual practices, this wisdom from so long ago, has entered many different areas of our world today.

An important caution about creating a Rule of Life is the need to take your time. What you’re looking at are the different areas of your life: Your spirituality, your family, your work, your health, your friendships and how you give back to the world. When you find your core values in each area you can see everything else more clearly. It’s a clarification exercise. When you find out what is most important, you can make better decisions about what you want to keep and what you want to let go. Your Rule of Life can help you get back on track when you find yourself lost on a rabbit trail.

lonely-man-on-bench

Here are two different ways to start.

  1. Brainstorm a list of fifty values that are important to you. Then narrow the list to only ten. Try living with that list for a week or two, looking at it daily. You may have to drop or add values to your list until you come to your top ten most important priorities.
  2. Another way to begin includes a vision exercise. Sit comfortably in your chair and breathe. Picture yourself on a bench somewhere safe and comfortable. Have Jesus or a spiritual leader you respect sit next to you. Tell that other person what you value most and how you want to live faithfully in the world. When you are finished listen to what they might say about what is important. (This idea comes from www.SSJE.org)

Once you have clarified your top values for each area of your life take your own pulse in each area. Are you doing what you really value with your time, energy, resources? Be gentle and loving with yourself here. This is not a “beat yourself up” moment,  rather it’s a time to free yourself from unhelpful things and help you focus on the gold.

Recently I was walking under a big tree that was dropping its leaves for fall. The leaves were stunning, red, yellow, orange…and I thought, “What a beautiful waste. Why does something so lovely have to be discarded?” I knew the answer of course; the tree had to make way for new growth in the spring. Often, we have to give up good things to make room for better things. That’s what a Rule of Life can help you do.

Once you have refined your list of important values you can make a set of statements or goals to keep and place it somewhere visible. That list, is your Rule of Life. Of course, it can be revised over time as priorities change, but it’s essence will probably not change much.

Have you ever done a Rule of Life? I’d love to hear how it has helped you.

Photo Credit: Rose Trellis
Man on Bench

Try more spiritual practices here: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening

Advertisements

Spiritual Practice: Giving a Blessing

Mother and daughter
Words are powerful. We see it every day when someone uses the wrong word on social media and a career is over, or a relationship, or… The wrong words can inflame a nation to war, but the right words can move a people to peace.

Recently I ran into a familiar face during my yoga class. Afterwards I said, “You are so familiar, how I know you?”

She said that we had worked together in the school district over fifteen years ago. She remembered me because she had just moved to town from a different state and knew no one. Another woman and I hosted a party for her and made her feel very welcome.

The thing is, I remember none of that; I’m absolutely blank about the whole story. But kindness stays with us, and she remembered. Then she added, “You look fantastic! You look younger now than you did back then.” Well, that made my month! Every time after that, when I thought of her words, a smile lit up my face.

Bad words stay with us too. In fact they are stickier than the good ones. I can probably remember every mean thing ever said to me. Thankfully there weren’t too many, but you can see why bullied kids sometimes take their lives.

Last week I was in a medical office and the office staff greeted me with, “Unfortunately our computers are down so please be patient with us.” I took my clipboard to sit down with the rest of those waiting patiently when a man came in. He got visibly upset when he heard the computers were down. Somehow, it was as if the office workers had done it personally to him. He threw a fit and stomped out shouting that he “didn’t have time for this sort of bulls**t.” It was very disturbing.

I went on to my appointment and on my way out heard the office workers still discussing his behavior. I imagine that it set the tone for their whole day and they would probably be retelling the story for a while. That man needed a good dose of the book of Proverbs, which has a lot of say about our words including: “A gentle answer turns anger away. But mean words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Unfortunately, we live in a time when it is easy to say bad things about others. People from both sides of the political spectrum seem eager to hurl insults online that they would never say face-to-face. I have found myself in this mindset too and I am trying to replace this behavior with either silence or kindness.

I’ve noticed that when I get attacked online, if I either don’t engage or continue over and over to respond with kindness, it takes the fight out of people. I’m trying to live from what the New Testament book of James has to say about our words, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19b

blessing 2

So, how do we push against our baser instincts and bless others? Here are some ideas:

First, the best way to bless is not by speaking, but by listening. If a person feels listened to they will feel loved. If they are sharing something you don’t agree with, you might say, “wow,” or “hmm,” but you don’t need to volunteer your opinion unless asked. This builds trust and relationship for a more open conversation later on. Who doesn’t like to be listened to? And here’s a bonus: the elderly and the otherwise marginalized are RARELY listened to – what a gift you can give.

Second, sometimes we toss the word “blessing” around, as in “God bless you,” when someone sneezes, or “Blessings,” at the end of a letter. But, what does giving a blessing really mean? Well, if you’ve ever received one from someone you respect, you won’t soon forget it. Have you ever had one of your parents look you in the eye and say, “I’m proud of you,”? Or a mentor that touched your shoulder and said, “Good work,”? Or had someone pray a blessing over you that sent waves of peace and love flowing through you, suddenly you’re crying and you don’t know why? These are real blessings that come from the heart. It’s as if the person giving them is giving you a part of themselves. Even if we haven’t experienced receiving these kinds of blessings, we can still give them to others.

Third, another huge way to bless is to ask for and offer forgiveness. Recently, when my boss and I had a big disagreement, it took a few days to work it through as I strongly disagreed with a decision he made. But still, he is my boss and I trust him, so at the end of the conflict, when I had calmed down, I went up and offered him a hug, saying, “I understand why you did what you did and I’m not mad at you.” He was very grateful for those words of forgiveness. And, just so you don’t freak out, I work in a hospice – we hug.

So, here is our challenge. Let’s spend November sharing blessings. It is the month of gratefulness anyway and we can give others something to be grateful for. Listening, blessing and forgiving will help bring light and love into a desperately hurting world.

How have you received blessings? How have you given them? I’d love to hear your stories.

For more on spiritual practices check out my new book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening which is out in eBook and releasing in print January 2nd. Pre-order now! 

Photo Credit: Top Picture, Second Picture