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What is a Rule of Life?

Phase 1: Rule of Life & Rhythm of Nature
Workbook Exercise: Other Garden Plots

Watch: What is a Rule of Life?
Answer: Click here to write your answer.
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Transcript of Video:

In this program, we are trying to offer people an opportunity to draft a Rule of Life for themselves.  So first of all we should ask the question, “What is a Rule of Life?”  At first hearing the word rule may sound inappropriate or difficult to some.  We have a negative reaction often times to rules and we don’t want to live by rules.  But when monastics talk about a Rule of Life they’re not talking about a list of rules that we follow.  The word “rule” comes from the Latin word regulari, which has the word that gives us words like regularize or regulations.  And a rule is a way of regularizing our life, of bringing order and an intentional approach to the way that we are living.  So rather than living randomly and just allowing ourselves to respond to the things that happen to us in life, a Rule of Life gives us a chance to step back and to think about what it is that we value and how we intend to live.  What are the values we want to express in our daily living?

– Br. David Vryhof

101 thoughts on “What is a Rule of Life?

  1. I am intrigued with the calling this video gives me.
    Knew of the booklet I ordered but unaware that video is part of this Lenten discipline.
    I look forward to take part.

  2. I try and apply two rules, unfortunately not always successfully!

    Dalai Lama: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

    Desmond Tutu: “When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.”

    Simple to understand but sometimes so hard to apply.

  3. I can see having specific thoughts in mind, or rules for life are an asset, hoping to conform us to the image of Christ. Asking the help of God to actually live it out. Here are our 4 for now:
    Take every thought captive
    Do to others as you would have them do to you
    Love does no harm to its neighbor therefore it is the fulfillment of the law.
    Judge not lest he be judged.

  4. As I begun my rule is very simple.
    1. Do the things of the church
    2. View everything and every one with eye of compassion. This is the most difficult . Compassion for one can be judgement for another.
    “Comfort the afflicted but afflict the comfortable:”
    Can make for very uncomfortable living.
    3. Live more simply that others may simply live.
    I look forward to being stretched and transformed!

  5. I have signed up to do the study for Lent. I have read in the past about developing a rule of life, and I am aware of the structure of the liturgical hours. I like the metaphor about the trellis, the arbor, with the rule providing the support so that healthy growth can happen. I’ve seen gardens where tomatoes weren’t properly supported, and there is less fruit, and what does grow gets rotten from being on the ground. Without healthy fruit, there also won’t be enough seeds for the next season. I am entering a new season in my life – near retirement and all the change that means, as well as other changes in my life right now. I am hopeful that focusing on this study will help give me structure for my post-retirement life.

    • I too am entering retirement. For the first 6 or so months post-retirement I lived like those plants that collapsed in a heap without support. I needed a break from the rule imposed by my career. Now I need to design/discern the rule by which I will be guided going forward. If I stay in this heap I fear i will begin to decompose, but I believe I can still bear fruit with proper support.

  6. I look forward to beginning this journey and members of the parish I serve will be taking the journey as well and growing a rule of life. I was at SSJE last week on retreat and began to prepare by reflecting on my personal rule of life: daily prayer, daily scripture reading( The Bible Challenge), meditation and spiritual reading( The journal of Thomas Merton). For me a rule of life is a process and includes moments of consolation and desolation.

  7. I’m thinking that a rule of life provides us with the method & means to order our life. As a gardener when I hear the word trellis, I think of the many ways that I support my plants in the garden. You can use a pole, a metal frame, a fabric or string, a wooden stick, an old pair of panty hose, almost anything, that provides support to plants. It seems to me that people are as varied as plants & need many different forms of support.

  8. Having gone through an emotionally and spiritually challenging experience a few months ago, a rule of life will definitely help me refocus my energies and deepen my relationship with God.

  9. I know the theory, but right now the reality of a pattern, a ‘rule’ of life is like a distant hope. I want so much to feel a regularity to my life, to spend time with God. But instead I lurch from one thing to the next, always reacting, never really flowing. Feels a bit like ‘The Last Chance Cafe’ for me at the minute…..I hope to find peace with God…and a rule for life..this Lent…..peace be with you.

  10. I have lived under a Rule of Life for a decade now. I find that it needs to be concrete, practical, simple, reasonable, and repeatable. I need to be able to reach the end of the day and ask myself “did I stick to my Rule today, and if not, what needs to shift?”

  11. i guess my rule (before i knew it to be so) is forgiveness and service. I look forward to the focus and direction the discipline will bring to my life.

  12. I love starting my day with the readings from the Ordo, and a walk in the woods and meditation. If I can do those things and pray at each tiny grace or each challenge, them I feel whole. It is when I live in my head and not my heart that I get into trouble.

  13. I want more freedom from “the 10,000 things” pulling me in all directions. I realize that in order to more fully embrace Jesus, I need to let go of other things. I also want to be more faithful in my prayer life, more attentive to my relationships and more intentional about the choices I make in living my life. I think creating and observing a rule will help me to “let go and let come.”

  14. I like this introduction to the rule of life. I especially like the analogy of the trellis; that makes so much sense to me and helps me to understand that spiritual growth does require support from God, of course, but also from community, and of course from the rule itself. I am grateful for this opportunity to participate this Lent and look forward to all I can learn, how much I can grow.

  15. I do enjoy times to be thoughtful, as my life is not one that offers many such. My current “rule” is, be the best “peanut butter and jelly” I can. I’m an aging sandwich caregiver, with a needful adult child at home, and a mother and m-i-l both needing care of differing types and intensities. I also enjoy serving in a few ministries at my church, not to mention using my musical talents to hopefully earn some money. I hope to use this Lenten study to learn how to give myself the fences and trellises that I feel I so desperately need.
    I see that I have used “need” quite a number of times. That’s someplace to start!

  16. This brought to mind the chipmunks when I lived in the Pacific Northwest. Getting fat in summer. Gathering acorns and nuts for winter, they had a plan, an order to their lives. I live in Florida now and the squirrels are always running, eating, and gathering. There doesn’t appear to be a plan for winter, or cold, or anything, they just are. I have become a Florida squirrel. I spent 20+ years in the military and I had a few rules of life, but now I am a Florida squirrel living in organized chaos. A heap of vines on the ground. I am looking forward to this Lenten lesson to perhaps become a Pacific Northwest Chipmunk again. 🙂

    • So wonderfully said! In the midwest, we had 13 stripped chipmunks (a.k.a., as thirteen lined ground squirrels/ striped gophers)— was a great pleasure to my father to watch them through the window scurrying about gathering and keeping to the rule of seasonally caring for themselves.
      Your metaphors are delightful and true. I plan to adpot them for those that need to hear your analogy. Thanks.

  17. I love the Latin word, “regula”.

    When I first encountered it, it was defined as a “ruler” or a “yardstick”, used to measure progress. As a woodworker, the first, middle, and last tool I reach for on my workbench is a sturdy steel straightedge – with increments engraved in it down to 1/32nd of an inch.

    But a yardstick, a ruler – well, it’s static. It’s inorganic. It’s cold, calculating, impartial. Sure, it’s accurate, and that’s a very good thing – but as I grow, I’m less and less of the opinion that the Way of Jesus is particularly interested in accuracy, specificity, and “measuring up”.

    So, I’m grateful for the Brothers’ description of a Rule of Life as a trellis, a beanpole, a framework on which the tendrils, shoots, vines and (hopefully) fruit of a Life of Love can hang – supported and nurtured.

    Here’s to an organic, messy, dirt-under-our-fingernails sort of Lent.

    -CB

    • How well expressed!

      I guess the analogy of the trellis makes the plant one that is in a garden, not in the “wild,” one that is in the care of someone who has placed the trellis so that the plant can grow to its best potential. And the plant then might be something we have selected for our garden, something we value and admire and place with intentionality. And if that plant is represents our values, there is the sense that we have to care for those values.

      a wandering mind.

  18. I want to find this guide and obtain God’s support for my life so this learning series seems to be right on the mark for me. I hope to learn and later to share though my new guide to Beloved living with friends and family.

  19. A rule of life is a support and a comfort. I say “comfort” because, once established is it an additional encouragement to keep a person/me on a path, with a stronger will than previous to having the rule(s).

  20. I am going to use this study to build on the progress that I made during the last Lenten Series on time. This past year, I have been acutely aware of how I use my time. I am deliberate in the things I choose to give my time to. When asked to do something, I think to myself, “What do I have to give up in order to do this new thing?” If I feel like I need to do “such and such,” I will find something in my life that I can and will give up. Otherwise, I just won’t do it. This year, I am so excited about the idea of a “rule” as a means to help me grow to be what I am meant to be. Rather than being constricting, as most of us consider rules to be, this is the most freedom I have ever felt as I journey toward that place where I am naturally drawn to all things holy and perfect. Nature is a PERFECT place to look for that. St. Paul writes that even people who have never heard the gospel must know it because of the beauty of nature. I wish I could go on….I won’t. However, I will say I am enthusiastic about examining the garden of my life; seeing what is flourishing and seeing what is not flourishing. Then, letting God prune away as His had is never closer!

    • Your excitement about developing a rule brings to mind Psalm 119 which is a psalm of praise to the law in every verse. It sounds paradoxical in our modern era with its emphasis on freedom and personal autonomy but rules can actually free us from slavery to impulsive and instinctive decisions. Rules free us to discern God’s call and give us the discipline to make the choices which will serve our deepest desires, which often require time and nurturing.

  21. I am ADHD and fragmented by nature. I dream of a great many things, but I lack of structure and discipline. My life is full of starts, stops and do overs. I hope this course will help me develop a framework and a way forward in finding the peace of mind that I am living the purposeful life I desire.

    • I definitely relate to what you’ve said, sister. Sometimes all those voices in my head get the best of me too. Though I’ve learned to be thankful for them at times and live more peacefully with my ADD tendencies as I age, structure is definitely needed.

  22. I am overly busy, allowing external demands to pull me this way and that. It is my hope that working on a rule will create structure, and a method to judge more clearly which activities are worthwhile.

  23. Friday, Februray 12, 2016 — Reply Comments to Day One — This topic / ordering life / is very much of the moment for me as I am doing that very thing — reordering my waking/walking(life)/&sleepining patterns. Knowing apporximately 21 days are needed to re-set an habit, I am listening to this winter time of snoozing hybernation – a time for incubating the thought capative I was and setting myself to re-emerge in rythmn with age and stage and dreams in tact and ready for the promise of spring.

    This Lenten Practice – is a good help along this dreampath into a reality living into the promise and the possibility of what can be now.
    Thanks to each for their thought & contribution to mine.

  24. A rule of life is something that one uses as a support and guide each day. It helps one to know the gifts we have been given, and to use them to grow into the people God intended us to be before creation. It gives boundaries and disciplines which can help us make the right choices each day, and keeps us from spiritual laziness and torpor. Ultimately it gives us God Himself, or rather He is able to give us Himself so that we can love and be loved; both God and our neighbours, ourselves too.

  25. Wow! What significant responses you have gotten from your good homily! I loved reading all of them. Thanks to you, and to all those who wrote in response.
    Two words come to my mind which I am adopting as my rule of life this Lent: stability and consistency. I want to be more like my Christ living the life and walking His way day by day.

  26. When I think of a Rule of Life, I think of my relationships in life. Are they balanced or not? This applies to my relationship with work, family, my husband, friends, food and drink, exercise and my spiritual time. If I have a rule of life that I can follow, I can more easily attend to my needs and the needs of others and live more intentionally.

  27. I just turned 76 so I feel my rule must start with my overriding purpose. I am hearing that I am to live into Jesus’ commandment—to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as myself—not as one of the guiding principles in my life but as the overriding rule of my life.

    • I am in my early sixties but share your ‘rules of life’ as our dear Lord taught us. Love our Father with all our hearts and love our neighbours as ourselves and I look for daily guidance in how to put this into pracitce.
      I try to show my love by doing my best in helping others .
      From this sermon I will see this more as a supporting structure rather than a ‘rule’.

  28. I have difficulty thinking of a rule as something distinct from thinking about purpose and calling.

    The metaphor of a trellis is certainly powerful, but it implies a rule that is static and fixed. As a lawyer who has worked with administrative regulations and had a bankruptcy practice, much of the work that calls for lawyers as opposed to bureaucrats is figuring out principles for making exceptions to rules and for creating space for judgment and creativity within a set of bounds.

    The search for principled exceptions to rules arises when the goals the rules are supposed to support cannot be realized in some set of circumstances, or changed circumstances, through strict adherence to the rules. The wicked problem of climate change is such a dilemma on a grand scale.

    I wonder if there is a dynamic metaphor that could be invoked. Perhaps not.

    • So nice to encounter another lawyer. I share your view that lawyering, in the best sense, is about finding principled exceptions to the rules. Aristotle said that equity is required where law fails because of its generality. I think that much of our resistance to rules arises because of the overly positivistic way we have thought about law for the last century or so. In developing a personal rule I feel we need to recognize that for the life of faith laws/rules/commandments carry within them God’s love and mercy. God’s purpose in giving us laws is to support us not control us. Even God cannot write laws that cover every situation, sometimes they need to be rethought when strict application results in an outcome contrary to what the law intended.

  29. As part of this Lenten exercise, I have added a “Creating Rule” tab to a digital notebook that I have been keeping for a number of years. Other tabs in the notebook are my ongoing reflections on faith, notes on recipes and cuisines, and research pertinent to “mental fitness”, physical fitness and training, mindful diet, aging, genetics and evolution, and our microbiome.

    Further, the tabs in that one notebook are distinct from tabs in other notebooks that keep track of activities and ideas that I have about things that I am undertaking in one way or another.

    With regard to prayer and faith, I have found Bishop Griswold’s book on prayer and Chloe Breyer’s book on her first year at seminary and the challenge of developing a prayer life both helpful. Neither of these resources, however, points toward creating a prayer “rule”, but rather searching out how prayer rises within and finds expression — and accepting that: “praying as one can, and not as one ought”.

    I am going through this exercise now because it is an opportunity to integrate and consider further within a framework matters that I have given a lot of attention over the years.

  30. Listening to your video, it brings me to think that a “rule of life” is the framework, including guidelines and their interactions that, when followed or referred back to, will facilitate our bringing to fruition our vision and our mission. With a Godly vision and mission, our rule of life guides us into a full and rewarding Godly life here on earth, for ourselves and for those whose lives we touch.

  31. A rule of life can be a powerful guide for decision-making. I have a couple of opportunities on the table that I’m not sure are aligned with how I want to live. I’m looking forward to developing my rule of life in hopes that it will help me make such determinations.

  32. It is the one “rule” /belief that informs everything ( or I try to make it everything) that I do. But this is so much more challenging than I ever imagined.

  33. This is program is wonderful! Simples rules are a skillful means of managing the growing complexity of life. I think of the seven “habits” by Steven Covey as seven “rules”. I am really forward to this experience.

  34. A rule is a regular practice, a spiritual guide, which over time without our knowing exactly when, brings us into alignment with God’s Will for us.

  35. A method by which I try to live my life. I am 77 years old and I feel I have used up all my sins and have been forgiven by God and myself, but I should sin no more.

  36. “Rule” presumably also gives us ruler, as in measuring things, and running things. Although these may have negative associations, the personal rule of life also should have some kind of direction as well as measurement. Too, without a “rule of life,” one is going to be at the mercy of the bad kind of rule(r) who imposes things, or prevents us from freedom of action. In other words, there’s going to be a rule one way or another so you might as well have some input in the process sooner rather than later.

  37. A Rule of Life is a guide for me to follow as my allotted days go by, until I return to the Maker. I travel through so much of my life as if I am sleep-walking, numb or blind to the important events, and over-wrought by the unimportant. I am working on my Rule, and I hope it will include forgiveness, acceptance, and striving for goodness while fighting evil.

  38. I need in particular to be able to focus on life on a daily basis. After the death of my husband, so many things have come blazing at me that my mind has become very scattered and focusing on one thing at a time is very difficult.

  39. “Rule of Lifes” should give me structure and a plan for operating throughout each day. These rules need to be positive and based on what I believe to be valuable and be truthful based on God’s will. Self-reflection/ assessment, physical exercise and healthy eating habits pull rank in my rules to establish a foundation. These things I can usually understand and feel good about. I also need mental stimulation, creative outlets and social connections. From this foundation I reach for God to guide me creatively and intellectually to be a useful person to others. Gratitude follows and so begins the process all over again.

  40. I like the image of a trellis for a rule a life. A rule of life gives us direction for our lives and like a trellis many variations or choices are available which will hopefully lead us to where we want to go. A rule of life helps us to avoid inaction or stagnation. I also believe a rule of life can help us contemplate and perhaps avoid reacting to incidents. A rule of life is our game plan.

  41. I believe a rule of life consists of guidelines to help us order our lives and keep us focused. Much like the Gardner plans the garden and orders it with rows, supplies some plants the mound or stakes they need, and tends the garden by weeding, providing food and water for continued growing. Thus the planted garden can come full circle and provide the Gardner with food from vegetables and fruits .and perhaps beauty in flowers.

  42. One rule for me, perhaps the most important, is to be positive. My mindset sometimes forgets what a tremendously blessed life I have had. When I’m down there is little to do for others, or rather, I’m stuck doing nothing for others.

  43. I’d like to start with a self care rule of life. I hope to be able to say at the end of each day, “today I loved myself as God loves me.”

  44. I would like to make a rule of life to become more active and disciplined in a weekly worship. I think the support and input of other Christians is so important to my personal relationship with God.

  45. A rule of life is a pattern of living that keeps God in the forefront – to live according to His truth, to live to fulfill his commandments, to live in service to others. The Rule provides the structure to accomplish this, and to strengthen me and gird me to accomplish this.

  46. A rule of life can help me avoid my scattershot and undisciplined attempts to grow in my love and devotion to Jesus Christ. It can provide a framework to grow – with regular feedings of worship, the Word of God, prayer, instruction, and expressions of my faith.

  47. Once a week I meditate with a small group. Once a week I attend Sunday services. Occasionally I participate in study groups. I am looking for a “rule” that will extend those spiritual experiences, spiritual guides into my everyday life. I want a rule that combines my spiritual and material lives.

  48. I look at the “rule” and see past “resolutions” that were either trivial or dropped. I am afraid of a rule that says I will be a better person, be more empathic, be kinder, be more aware. Can I do these? Keep these before me? Resolutions? Rules? (Bob, don”t talk yourself out of this!)

    • Bob, I appreciate your honesty & your humor. I also am one to make resolutions & drop them. I would encourage you to not be afraid of creating a rule of life that will guide you toward empathy, kindness & awareness. With God’s help, you can grow in these areas. You CAN do this, Bob! I hope you haven’t talked yourself out of it yet. 🙂

  49. Keeping in the fore front how to care for those things that I value. How do I care for what has been given to me? What must I do to insure those things that have been given to me will stay with me in a way that is growing with me. There are things I will and will not do. What I do to care for my body. What I do to care for my soul. What choices I make always protecting what is important to me. I have a rule for just about anything.

  50. God wants us to know that He has given us a purpose to life. It is never easy nor obvious to discover this until we have gone thru trials and tribulations and soul searching. When we do identify our purpose, we should consider it a true gift from Him. at this time, we have direction and growth.

  51. I’m liking the idea of the garden and the trellis contained in this series. I hope a rule of life becomes a more tangible definition of how choose to live my life and makes me more conscious of the choices I make.

  52. We are never too old for structure in our lives. Having a rule of life will keep me on track in all areas of living into what God wants me to become. I need the focus and daily reminders to myself and this trellis will help support me in my faith, family , care of self and care if others.

  53. I’ve recently retired and have found the first months of this time a necessarily unstructured time. I’ve called it my unraveling. But I still have a lot of time to live, at least I anticipate that. I recognize that work has been a de facto rule of life for me. Most of my time has been structured by the daily ebb and flow of work and also by the annual rhythm. Now I have the opportunity to be more intentional about how I structure my time. I want to do so in a meaningful way. There are a few specific things I want to do, but I also want to leave room for the Spirit.

  54. Several years ago, I began to read the daily lectionary lessons upon awakening, thinking that it would “help” me. It has taken hold of me. Now I try to integrate that peace from God into my daily life, decisions, behaviors and thoughts. Thoughts from these lessons hold me up throughout the day (when I let them). They can be my shield and armor (if I let them), protecting me (from my own evil), soothing me from my own fears, guarding me from my past patterns, protecting me from acting out on fears and anxieties that get in the way of being with God throughout the day. I have added particular sayings and try to keep them with me in a little notebook as I go about my (retired) day. They can hold me “in check” like a gentle rider with a horse, in rhythm but not overly controlling to cause anxiety, etc. If nothing else, I can then return to (peaceful) sleep, soothed in the everlasting arms of God, to awake refreshed.

    • What u say is totally true. I read the Bible for years with some change. But reading the BCP daily selections molds the mind/cleans or washes the mind.

  55. New to Episcopal ways but not a new Christian, but did not have these extra “tools”, “seeds”. teachings. I am excited for the following: 1) daily office lectionary BCP,lectio divina, meditation, contemplation, 2) learning all the psalms plainchant and singing to God hymns 3) Practicing the presence of God 4) keeping in remembrance God fights my battles and goes before me, 5) choose simple, modest appearance and price clothes and work toward poverty vow in managing resources, simple discipline in eating, really freeing!, 6) wear holy reminders to keep rule present in my mind and keep rule in attitude and share with others if they inquire (cross or smock), icons, soothing religious tv programs and art 7) nurture happy thoughts, avoid negative news that doesn’t affect me anyway,8) gracious speech, 9) kindness, compassion, lifting up others when speaking to them, 10) discipline in chores and daily routine. Thank goodness I have lots of time to try out all these tools/seeds! A fun, fulfilling journey!

    • The questions that I have involves follow through. I can write a rule but due lifes circumstances or personal issues it is torpedoed. I. Become discouraged and attempt a rewrite and then drift away from it. How do I not become discouraged and write rule that is appropriate.

  56. This is my second attempt to go through growing my rule. Sometimes I think that I am to entertainment and computer orientated. I struggle with focusing issues which of course leads to distraction and laziness.
    A rule for me tended to be a set of ideals and steps to follow such as prayer life and then praying three times a day. Most of the time I would set the bar to high and then give up.
    The garden example gives me encouragement it does not start as lofty ideals but is something that grows and is nurtured in are lives.

  57. in the past a rule was a means to organize and become more spiritually minded. In terms following my adhd would get the best of me and nothing would be accomplished.

  58. I love the idea since I am scattered and disorganized. I fear however, not sticking to it and feeling failure. All my attempts at getting organized have not worked out well.
    I do have a morning meditation of centering prayer that I have done for 25 years and that’s the one constant practice I do. But I am going to give it a try.

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