“A rule of life invites a rhythm into our days, weeks, months and years”
A friend and I were talking the other day about how we have a tendency to push through life, as if we’re walking through it in a strong wind having to lean forward to stay upright. This push can be subtle and go unnoticed, for many of us it’s a way of life that’s been in operation for years. It’s often driven by the desire to get through all that’s requesting our attention or to do ‘just this one more thing’ before stopping for the day. This push feels hard-edged and cold, wall-like in its structure and I know for me that I’m being invited to live more habitually within a life that’s softer, more malleable, warmer and welcoming.
How do we begin to live in a softer way? To live life as if in a gentle breeze rather than a strong wind? It helps to develop a rule of life or a rhythm of life.
A rule of life invites a rhythm into our days, weeks, months and years that creates space for softness, for slowing down and for letting our shoulders sink. It’s a rhythm that works uniquely for us and enables life to be what we need it to be in order that we keep growing and thriving. It’s a rhythm that keeps us connected to God and grounded in what is true and real. It helps us live in a way that invites ongoing transformation and a deepening of our spiritual lives – and therefore our whole lives – body soul and spirit. It will look different for everyone but invites prayerful consideration so that it’s sustainable. As you consider your own rhythm of life, perhaps these questions and possibilities may help.
A daily rule of life.
What do I need every day in order to stay connected to the source of love, God, myself and others in a meaningful and healthy way?
This may look like a daily contemplative practice ranging from a 20 minute Centering Prayer time to drinking the first cuppa alone and in silence.
You may want to get out into the air and take a walk, being present to what you’re seeing, hearing and sensing and how God is connecting with you through that.
You may decide that four times a day you need to stretch, take two minutes for some deeper breaths or simply remember who you are and how much you’re loved by The Trinity.
Your daily rhythm may include some form of centering exercise or movement that connects you to God.
You may desire time to read the Bible undisturbed and contemplate the words and how they’re speaking to you, perhaps in the form of a Lectio Divina practice.
You may like to put a pre-sleep Examen practice into your daily rhythm to help you look back over the day.
A weekly rule of life
What do I need every week in order to maintain a healthy equilibrium for body, soul and spirit?
Our bodies have inbuilt rhythms and for me, I know that every seventh day my whole being is asking for deeper rest and stillness. I aim to give myself this in the form of a weekly Sabbath. The form this Sabbath takes is going to look different for everyone but it’s worth thinking about what your body, soul and spirit need in order to rest.
For some this may mean being with friends and family, for others it may mean a day of quietness away from people. It may mean being outdoors, getting more sleep, reading and moving more slowly Whatever it looks like it’s a day that will be different to the six that have preceded it.
I’ve written a blog on Sabbath if you want to read more.
A monthly rule of life
As months roll by in quick succession, what is my heart telling me I need in order to take a deeper breath and check in with how I’m doing and how life’s unfolding?
How will I steady my course and stay true to how God is inviting me to live?
Months can come and go in the blink of an eye and we can get caught up in the movement they generate. Perhaps every month or so it would be helpful to put aside a retreat day as a way to linger with our hearts, with how life’s going and any changes we’re being invited to make.
This day needn’t be anything organised by anyone else (although there are plenty available online. I too run regular online retreat days) but is simply time set aside to linger with God, reading, praying, being still, being creative and giving space for what is emerging as you do so.
A yearly rule of life
What is God inviting me to in order to get extended periods of time in reflection, prayer and silence?
A yearly rhythm is perhaps the most challenging to make space for as it requires resolve and a greater surrender of time. It’s easy to let these longer times with God go as seemingly more pressing needs clamour for our attention. They may also require something from others – a partner releasing you to spend some time away, organising childcare, possibly the use of household funds. They will also invite something from us in the preparation, both practically and internally. When leading up to time away, it can often feel easier not to bother and simply stay put.
Although our yearly rhythm may mean going away to a retreat centre, this may not necessarily be the case. There is so much being offered online now and putting aside a long weekend where you can pray and reflect facilitates a more extended time with God.
It’s important with any rule of life to follow and listen to your own life in partnership with God. For some, a silent retreat at a retreat centre may be perfect, for others walking for a few days may provide them with the same outcome. However it looks, the aim is always the same – to give space for The Trinity to be with you, to sit, to linger, to listen, to see, to feel and to experience.
For any extended retreat times, it may be helpful to consider checking in with your Spiritual Director a couple of times as a guide or booking a couple of sessions with a Director at the retreat centre you attend.
In exploring a rhythm of life it seems important that it’s held within space and fluidity. If these rhythms become too stringent their sound can drown out everything else and create more to add to an already long list. It’s important to remember that a rule of life is to help life move with more ease, as if oiling a machine allowing it to run more smoothly. In the same way that life changes so will a rhythm of life – time, family commitments and finances ebb and flow and with it the rhythms we need and are able to give ourselves to will do so. We are invited to stay present to what we need in any given season of life, to check in with God and ourselves making changes along the way.
A rule of life creates space and movement for us to move with God, in rhythm to what is being offered and invited. I invite you to see it as a dance rather than an immovable structure, a dance to be enjoyed, a dance that gifts your life with deeper resonance, purpose and meaning.
As a way to end, I finish with some beautiful words from an article I recently read. May our rhythms of life lead us to this place where God is already waiting…
So, we stop and draw breath, remembering that God is already here, waiting for us and gazing on us in love. Before the world was made, in the silence before creation, God was waiting for this moment: for me to be here, to give me the gift of prayer he has for me. I give myself enough space to make a conscious choice to be fully present and to receive it.
Antonia Lynn, Community Warden and Director for Professional Development at the London Centre for Spiritual Direction.