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Why write and keep a Rule of Life?

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

Watch: Why write and keep a Rule of Life?
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Transcript of Video:

Some of you may be asking, “Why have a Rule of Life at all? Why go to all the trouble?” I am reminded of a well-known poem by Mary Oliver called The Summer Day, and at the end of it, she asks a question. She says, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” So, in a sense, a Rule of Life – that’s the plan; it’s the plan for what you do with that precious gift. I also begin with the understanding, with the sense that life itself is a very precious gift that we have been given by God. So the Rule is what we plan to do with that very precious gift.

So a Rule may be a way of intentionally enhancing our lives in some way, a way of cherishing this wonderful gift that we’ve been given. I think sometimes if somebody gives us a gift their hope is that we are going to not only use it – we’re not going to lock it away someplace, we are going to use it. We’re also going to care for it and cherish it and value it, but we’re also going to enjoy it. So another example comes to mind: let’s say somebody gives me something really nice like, let’s say, one of those fancy Italian sports cars. If they give me a gift like that they’re hoping I don’t put it away in the garage and close the door, but I’ll take it out, I’ll care for it, keep it nice and shiny, and I’ll actually enjoy taking it out on the road, at least once in a while. So the Rule of Life is our plan for making the most of this very precious gift that we have been given. Living life to the fullest.

– Br. Mark Brown

65 thoughts on “Why write and keep a Rule of Life?

  1. For me to keep a rule of life allows me to live a life of stability. With all the daily demands placed upon me and my tendency to react to many of these demands, a rule of life centers me and reminds me that God is in charge. That no matter what is happening I am stabile in the knowledge that God is with me.

  2. To create the necessary conditions for growth in my life with God.

    That phrase said it all. I’ve spent most of my life caing for others with little or no regard for my own life. My garden suffers from neglect.

    I hope to change that towards creating growth in my garden.

  3. I was struck by the Brothers comment that he might also be intended to enjoy the sports car and drive it, not just take care of it. I am hoping to build in ways I can better find joy in life.

  4. When I was growing up and right into adulthood my mother would ask me, on a periodic basis, what is your program? She taught me from an early age that a program, which I interpret, to be a rule of life, is needed to guide, to structure, to deepen, to enliven, and to support me through all the hills and valleys of my life. What is really important? How do i prepare and nourish myself? What am I doing to grow? What path do I want to walk on and I how can I keep on the path, or wisely, step off the path if that is what is needed? These are all questions that help me with my “program.” My mother is no longer alive but the questions and the desire and the need are still there.

  5. Growth requires movement. Movement requires direction. Direction requires a plan of thought about where we want to go. I hope, with this Lenten project, to further a plan of growth and movement towards God’s plan for me.

    • yes! and I need to develop discipline in order to grow and in order to make the most of this gift of a life that God has given to me; without structure to my day, I’m finding that the time goes by in a flash and I haven’t accomplished what I would have liked.

  6. Rules bother me. Always have. It always seemed that they missed the point. So I shy away from saying I have a rule of life. Instead, I’ve tried to live by certain precepts. The first is to do as much good as I can. Another is to laugh & smile as much as possible. Hopefully its a head back, eyes closed full on guffaw but any giggle will do. Another is to say ‘thank you’ as many times as possible giving recognition to the many wonderful people & things we encounter each day. Another is to never resist a generous impulse. These seem be enough. I’d hardly call them rules. They are more like the concepts of life that lead my actions.

  7. My rule of life is both my guide for living in the fullest, richest way possible, and a statement of the ideals that support my growth in that direction. God is at the heart of it all…the richest, fullest life I can imagine is to strive to grow into the person God visualized when God created me…God’s dream of me.

  8. The sports car metaphor reminds me of Ferris Bueller and the Pearl of Great Price. I’ve wondered about the value of such a Pearl — what do you do with it other than stash it away and maybe brag, and maybe by bragging invite theft. Like the Rabbi’s Hole-in-One golfing of the Sabbath — “Who can I tell?”

    My problem with simple rules of bathing, oral care, taking pills — is it takes such will to maintain them that I drop the ball early and often and devolve into PRN. One does not take an antibiotic PRN. I stopped taking one med, in fact any meds, when the label read “Very important not to skip a dose.” The inevitable result of any rule I try to establish is suicidal, fetal, catatonic depression. I live PRN, And it’s a deficient life. One more try at altering that — with Lent and this series as a crutch. Will it hold my weight?

    • Hey, I sure can relate to how come you feel that way, and come to think I have hope for you. Thanks to the Church, you have God’s home plate available to you. Believe.
      It’s not funny to want to have new things in life, you battle with countermeasurement and the Hope you should Most Blessedly keep get intervened to some spring!? Is that funny?? So you have high hopes, and because you believe, you have Hope that springs eternal? I, too, now see I have to believe in the Hope churning and gushing out of those tasks. We are often afraid to see. God bless you. Please take good care. Peace,

      Henry M. Age 34

  9. Being aware of the natural patterns can be a start. I get more attentive to the work and social patterns at times. All contribute but the balance of awareness makes a difference. More aware now of natural rhythms.

  10. What a powerful phrase: “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” So, in a sense, a Rule of Life – that’s the plan; it’s the plan for what you do with that precious gift. It touched my heart deeply and of course immediately sent me into a tizzy – am I doing well with my wild and precious life?? I suppose that moves me into discernment with regards how I am following a rule of life, how I might establish one that does impact, support, love, nurture the precious gift I have been given. Wow…

  11. A rule of life keeps me grounded. It’s easy to just drift through my days, taking everything for granted without pausing to reflect.

  12. My rule of life is my family. I have had a very strong family upbringing. I promised myself that my rule of life was to become a Dad and carry the gift of family given to me forward with the next generation. I am now a father of two wonderful children and I feel very blessed by God at what gifts I have been given. My gift to my children is a passing along of the gift God gave me in the strong sense of family.

  13. My role model in life was my Grandma. I held her hand as she passed away 11 yrs ago. She lived her faith, much like the Mary Oliver quote. She wasn’t afraid of anything. She knew God was there for her because she was there for God. This is how I want to live. I want to let go of anxiety. I want to embrace my “one wild and precious life.” I want to live freely with the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God and that is enough. That is the Rule I want to live by. I never want to stop learning and growing.

  14. It has often occurred to me that my life cannot best described as a wonderful gift but rather as boot camp without drill instructors and with skills to be learned and refined for better use, further refinement after life.
    A rule of life will hopefully become a kinder, clearer look at relationships (all of ’em) and a less reactive, more consciously intentional approach to my responses.

  15. I have always lived as if this were a “wild and precious life.” But, as I get older I find that I can’t possibly do or cherish or enjoy everything. In an age of over-choice there must be a larger, guiding rule that gives purpose and intention to my choices. My no’s and my yeses.

    • As I have gotten older (now retired at 63) I feel that I have so many things pulling me in different directions, so many interests, so many distractions – not enough hours in the day…but I want my life to be firmly grounded in my relationship with God and I think developing a Rule of Life will help me grow in my spiritual life

  16. In fear I withdraw from rules, afraid that they will prohibit me from enjoying all that life may offer, all that comes my way or that I may seek out.

    This study is causing me to turn my mind to the benefits of rules, specifically a rule of life. Wondering how to shape my trellis, how to design it so I do not have to turn down invitations to enjoy this life because it’s time to practice my rule. Wondering if there’s a way to not have a rule be time dependent. Maybe have it be more nature of event based. At times of eating / consuming be grateful and show that thankfulness by ______. At times of giving do so with a heart of love and respect, standing beside the person receiving. At times of study, pray for an open mind, steady awareness, insight and passionate questions. The list goes on.

    It seems it might turn my life into a whole series of events with God present, that every moment could be my time with God.
    Do I need to have those events set to a schedule? Do I need to have a dedicated daily time for devotion and prayer?

  17. She says, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” — Mary Oliver —
    I am personally engaged in what I have coined/named: A Restorative-LifeReview: That cycled through to an optimally useful Restoration – I begin my ‘Regula-21 Day/Plan’ to tweak (- sense #2 – improve (a mechanism or system) by making fine adjustments to that system) my wherefore/whyfore to a comfortable workability in order to do: Live what I value and do what I intend, always rechecking back to evaluate effect, that that is so. In short: Amen – Make that so.

  18. We need to grow and keep a rule of life in order to keep us on the right path; the path that God has planned for each one of us alone, from the very beginning of time. We are supported by a rule and given boundaries, which free us rather than hem us in. Boundaries which give us joy.

  19. Kind of like rope, a rule of life is a steady strand that looms the work, my life’s meaning into a garment of hope that covers the landscape nearly exactly as I am growing; rather, it is I who am tugging, feeling, pulling away the strand from a scene that is always already woven, making sublime and curious claims to my own.

  20. I want to write and keep a rule of life in order to remind myself of all the blessings God has given me. I will cherish and use these gifts in order to serve God and my fellow human beings.

  21. Why write. To help remind yourself on the goals, direction and commitment you are making. Also to asee as your work and see your changes. And to see where Grace touches you

  22. My rule is to love God and to love my neighbor as myself.
    Writing my rule will help me be clear about what I am committing to; sharing it will help me keep the rule. I’m looking forward to planting what I need in my love garden.

  23. I see a chicken/egg problem here. A rule of life should support one’s purpose or calling, or more generally, what one expects will make for a good life.

    For me this is an ongoing challenge. I believe that my search has been informed by both progress in social science and by the insights I continue to get from reflections on scripture, e.g., the essay on gifts of the holy spirit in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. As my sense of purpose and calling evolves, my sense for how to live in furtherance of that purpose evolves as well.

    • Your comment was helpful because it helped me think about why I’m resistant to writing out a Rule of LIfe. I’ve written out Rules of Life before, and it seems like I then have a list of things that just frustrate me because I don’t always accomplish what I’ve set out to do in the Rule, or that what I’ve written down feels constrictive. Like you, my life has been informed by many insights and experiences, and now I’m thinking that my rule of life is simple–as each day unfolds, I seek to be aware of God’s presence and guidance throughout the day. And that presence and guidance may have to do with my purpose or calling, or it may be calling me beyond my current purpose. So yes, I agree about the chicken and egg problem.

  24. Brother Mark couldn’t have said it any better. I agree a rule of life, my rule of life, will be the plan for what I do with this wild and precious gift. I love all the fullness and potential this thought entails. It makes me excited to get started.

  25. A written rule of life reminds me to be intentional with m life, not to while away my days without asking God to guide and direct me to my larger purpose.

  26. Thank you for assembling this Compilation. My first email came on Ash Wednesday, so I never saw these first four lessons. Their substance is in the workbook, but actually seeing them now as “prequels” helps me to understand the whole thing better.

    I must admit that I have a strong tendency to be “disobedient” … that is, I practice the premise that some rules are made to be broken. That doesn’t mean that I am a lawless, problematic troublemaker; just a bit of a maverick with a healthy touch of disregard for rules and regulations which I feel are unnecessarily.

    That being said, I find the idea of crafting (or growing) a rule of life intellectually interesting. Yes, I believe that those who make a plan and act upon it are the ones who accomplish things, but I also believe that one must be flexible and (at least sometimes) spontaneous in your endeavor to accomplish your goals. And, you know what? That sounds to me like a pretty good way to lead your life. Perhaps a rather simple rule to follow, and this is a rule which is absolutely reasonable, if not actually respectable. Nobody telling you what to do here at all … except you, and … God within yourself.

  27. …why write…writing is a gift and many cannot conjugate the verb “to be.” …learning the ancient languages makes one understand their own language…and enables one to read the Scriptures, which can open horizons. Words create!

    Writing a Rule…one cannot seek what they do not know so if you’re seeking something you must already know something about it otherwise you could not seek it!

  28. An old saying goes, ” a faint writing is better than the smartest brain” So its absolutely mandatory that ones rule of life be written down. However, just writing it does is not enough. It should be looked used regularly. It should be checked routinely and improvements made to it and or reduced as you progress in your journey through Life.

  29. A rule of life helps give me a direction to follow. God is the direction to follow and the bible has the answers.
    Very simply, do we want to get our direction from the world or from God?

  30. I need a program to live by that provides me the opportunity to enjoy and take advantage of my gifts, (talents, personality, aspirations ) and share them with others. I am also learning to appreciate gifts from others with more humility and less selfish expectations in return for something I have done.
    If someone has given me a precious gift, like a new house, it is my responsibility be grateful, to maintain it, and enjoy my time there. Spread the joy!! I will always have to work at keeping it “clutter free”!

  31. Having a rule of life will keep me centered on what I am doing with this previous life. It will support me and give me something to fall back on if needed. The rules can be a place of rest and restoration then the courage to go on knowing I am supported in the arms of God.

  32. For me the reason to write a rule of life is to slow down plan and be intentional and mindful of how I choose to spend my time my life and my love. To find a way of living that gives structure purpose faith and time for communion with my family friends congregation and with God.

  33. How can I harvest a garden if I don’t know what I have planted? How do I know what to plant so that It will grow well? How can I build a home without a plan?. For me , a plan is essential to keep me on task, working towards my goal. Surely, plans can change because of wrong decisions made or other circumstances. Yet, having a plan helps me deal with with the driving desire – How can I grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ?

  34. Writing is the first sign of commitment. I can look at what I have written , see if I have kept the rule, judge if it has been beneficial, and change it for the better.

  35. Some people need to see it on the wall. Do unto others. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Wipe you feet when entering. Take your shoes off you are on holy ground. Kneel when you first come to church. I feel my soul is always kneeling. That I am always treating people as I would be treated. I never wear shoes in the house and are always barefooted and lastly I am in constant conversation with God. So to kneel puts God in one place when God is every place.

  36. I believe that writing accesses a more reflective part of my brain, so the first reason to write the rule is that it is like to result in a rule that comes from a deeper place within me. Reflecting on the rule before adopting it also gives me the opportunity to create one that is richer and more robust. A written rule also has more solemnity, more seriousness. Finally writing the rule provides as a touchstone or reference point that can be referred to in future, which will help with following it.

  37. For me, this is about revising my rule of life to intentionally reexamine it for application to myself – the things I promised to do/be for others, I must do/be for *me*, or I’m out of balance. I must be sanctuary for myself. I must worship for my own good, not simply to help others worship. I must I must serve my own wellbeing and not neglect it in the service of others. I must heal myself and not harm myself in the attempted healing of others. I must fellowship with those whose spirits feed me, and not just those whose spirits I feed. More balance in all of these things, you see.

  38. To help others, but not give everything of yourself up. We are all part of the cosmic soup, however we do each have our own unique flavor and texture.

  39. I N E E D I T ! I need it for stability of mind, maturity, use of resources and time, for more intimacy and happiness with God and man.

  40. I have written a couple rules for myself all I have not kept but never from the perspective of life is precious. All of them were ways to fill time in a Godly manner but we’re outwardly focused. I have a hard time seeing my life as precious.

  41. This is something I have understood for a long time. My problem has been making the Rule to complex and doing nothing. I start out with good intentions but with enthusiasm sometimes I get carried away and it all falls apart.

  42. I have heard it said that our lives are God’s gift to us; what we do with it is our gift back to God. In that context, we should be good stewards of what we have been given. To make the most of our lives, we must have order and structure so that we can flourish. Nature, even the Universe, has order and structure. Therefore, a plan for our lives is only natural.

  43. I have lived too carefully in some ways. Looking at a Rule of Life for myself with open eyes and heart will help me not squander this precious gift.

  44. Pingback: One Wild and Precious Life | CHARIS

  45. I want a Rule of Life to guide me in my journey to God and to enjoy life. I’ve been far too depressed, far too sad, far too lonely and far too unhappy for the past five years. I don’t think this is what God planned for me.

    • It sounds like you’re already on the path God wants you on to change your life to one of joy! Praying for your success, Andre.

  46. I need a rule of life so that I am not overcome by the stresses of the world. I seem to have moved away from those practices that have helped me in the past, so I’m hoping this will help me reestablish my rule of life.

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