Rule of Life

Most of these, I’ve taken from various monastic orders, but I’ve changed some, and they’re still a work in progress, so they *will* be changing over time.

1.            I will maintain purity of body. Take care to maintain the health of the body. Give it what it needs and avoid what harms it. Listen to my body. Make as much of an effort as I can, given my means, to keep from ingesting the pollutants of modern industry and agribusiness.

2.            I will maintain simplicity in my possessions. Avoid rampant consumerism. Buy what I need and keep it simple. If I buy something new when my old one is still perfectly serviceable, find a good home for the old one. Recycle. If I buy for pleasure, make sure that it is something that will continue to give me pleasure for a long time.

This monastic principle says: If I have less, enjoy and appreciate whatever I have. If I have more, enjoy and appreciate whatever I have (and be generous with others). In other words, even while working to achieve my goals and dreams, be content with whatever I have right now.

An adjunct to this principle of contentment is the principle of simplicity – finding contentment in the peacefulness of simple enjoyments, such as a simple walk through nature, deep conversations with friends and family, and taking time to focus on improving ourselves from the inside out through meditation, prayer, self-examination, contemplation and other methods.

3.            I will maintain clarity of speech. Playing games with words, euphemizing, not saying what one means, these are roads to misunderstanding.

4.            I will strive to live sustainably on the Earth. The Earth is sacred. Treat her as such.

5.            I will place no commitment of the heart above my commitment to God. Maintaining loving relationships is important, but when those relationships interfere with living rightly according to my spiritual path they need to be carefully examined. No matter how much I love someone, sacrificing my own soul for others is never the right answer. The exception is for minor children, who are dependent on me until they are grown.

6.            I will commit only to honorable work. No matter what my work is, do it in a way that I can be proud of. One’s job should contribute more aid to the world than it causes harm. It should not create artificial needs, nor pollute unduly.

7.            I will maintain clarity in my relationships. Lying to those close to me is never a good idea. Neither is lying to myself about them. Be honest with my loved ones, even when it is hard.

8.           I will sustain clarity of faith. God is real, and while others may choose modalities (names can represent archetypes or individual faces of the Divine), I will not.  This faith of mine is a living faith, not a fantasized security blanket. The code I live by is not merely a nice idea. Believe it.

9.          I will submit humbly to honorable authority. The keyword here is honorable. Hold my leaders to high standards, but don’t let my issues with past bad authority make me react reflexively to them as if they were the tyrants of my past.

10.          I will strive always for mindfulness and clarity of soul. We are constantly working to come to a clearer understanding of ourselves, and to strip away our dearly held illusions. Know myself. Question why I do the things I do, and challenge myself to change for the better.

One purpose of monastic life is to turn one’s attention inward instead of focusing on the outer world. This present moment focus can translate as the practice of mindfulness in whatever I am doing, whether cooking, gardening, or arranging various affairs.

When I’m focused in the present moment, my mind becomes calm, like a lake without ripples. When the surface of a lake is calm, I can more easily see into its depths – so it is with the mind.

My mind is a great tool; in fact some sages describe the mind as a portion of the infinite universal consciousness that has created everything. The mind can be either my friend or my enemy, and is often a bit of both. Focusing on the present moment allows my mind to be friendly, clear, and patient. After all, when I’m in the present moment, what could I be anxious for but another present moment?

In terms of economic challenges, when I’m focused in the present moment, I’m enjoying what I have today rather than spending today worrying about what may or may not happen tomorrow. I’m able to approach the present moment with focus and inner strength and take care of whatever preparations are appropriate to make for the future, but my attention is on the eternal now as it manifests in each moment.

One way to practice present moment focus is to look at myself at any time and ask, “Am I okay right now?” Unless I’m in extreme physical or emotional pain, the answer is hopefully, “Yes.”

Through this practice, I come to see that in spite of some challenges, setbacks, and fears about the future, I am fine in each present moment. Then I can change my practice to declaring rather than asking, by stating, “I am fine right now.” This affirmation helps to not only define but also welcome my present state as being fine all the time.

11.          Principle of Priorities:  Assign a number one to the things that are most important to me – perhaps taking care of family and pets, living alone without a roommate, having personal transportation, or having cable TV and computer access. Items in this category are things I definitely do not want to eliminate from my life if at all possible.

Assign a number two to things I really could do without right now. The first thing to go is the cell phone. I certainly don’t need to be accessible by phone at all times in my simple new lifestyle. For me, clothes were also on this part of the list, since my somewhat reclusive lifestyle didn’t require me to be especially fashionable.  Another is the television – there’s just too much else to do that doesn’t require pacification with a TV.

Everything else goes into category three: things I keep if I can. If finances go down to the point that I have to let some of these optional expenditures go, well then i’ll just have to do that.

Once I’ve arranged my priorities in this way, even if I miss certain enjoyments, the great thing is that I’ve hopefully managed to fund all the items on list number one and will still have those things that are most important to me.

One thought on “Rule of Life

  1. Pingback: Lent 2 | Passage of Hours

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