Here you have it: A Circular and Holistic Rule of Life in a nutshell.
You better skip this blog post if you do not want to dive into this topic!
I am no teacher, but this time I am going a bit in-depth. So please, sit down; maybe even take a pen and some paper, and try to concentrate.
“The playfulness and ‘mercifulness’ of this rule of life is very appealing to me. I often feel like a failure, and this rule offers the opportunity to start over again and again.” – Mary, a retreat attendee, on “How to live with a Rule of Life”.
How have you been feeling these first weeks of the new year? Are you thinking ahead about the upcoming year and trying to bring some order to your life, thoughts, and work?
As you may have read, over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing bit by bit about something that is of great use to me, and that’s why I like to share it: A Rule of Life. In a playful way, I try to make clear what touches me and how it helps me to live with focus and attentiveness covering all areas of a meaningful life.
So, first, a refresher: The letters HOLD ON do have a special significance here. It is important that you do not approach a Rule of Life rigidly. If you do, then you completely miss the point. You can work with it playfully—repeat it, start over, and keep looking for improvement. The whole Rule of Life implicitly breathes the word “grace.”
What Is a Rule of Life?
In short, a Rule of Life is a framework around which to organize my life. I find the acronym HOLD ON. to be an incredibly helpful reminder of principles that help shape my Rule of Life.
The phrase “Hold on.” itself makes me think of two hands clasping each other, not squeezing hard, but securely entwined.
H – “Holy ground,” a good start. The Fundament. Who holds you? Start from silence and awareness of who you are in the sight of your Maker.
O – “Organize your time.” Make a to-do list. What’s your focus? What will you do, and when? Do not do it yet—just plan!
L – “Let’s do it.” No procrastination. Implement your plan. Get into action.
D – “Dear ones” around you—spend time with them and keep your connection strong
O -“Oh! My body”—It’s easy to take for granted, but it’s the only one you’ve got. Take care of your physical self with food and exercise.
N – “Nurture your soul” – Your connection with your soul and surroundings. What makes you deeply happy? See art, make music, go for a walk. Do your thing, and let your soul sing.
. – Full stop. Tie up any loose ends and call it finished.
A Rule of Life has a head and a tail and helps you perfect the Art of Starting and Stopping. It helps you organize and implement and leaves space for you to give attention to the loved ones around you, your body, and your soul.
A Rule of Life is a trellis that gives you the stability to help you grow towards the sunlight. It provides support and guidance in your life.
Why would you use a Rule of Life?
To Create Rhythm
A Rule of Life helps you to bring order to the hectic pace and chaos of life.
There was a time when I felt enormous pressure: school, self-study, community work; contacts with loved ones, your household, food on the table; and oh yes: I also have a body that could use some attention.
You may also feel pressure to give attention to all different areas equally.
The HOLD ON Rule of Life includes all areas of life that you want to give daily and weekly attention to. You start from a calm beginning at Holy Ground. You repeat that over and over and write it out on a day and week planner. Therefore, you live consciously and with attention.
How Does a Rule of Life Work?
It is holistic and circular.
The Rule of Life “Hold on” is circular in that you can start over every day. This is the Benedict way.
It is also holistic in that it pays attention to all areas of life.
Hang a list somewhere where you will see it often and put the letters HOLD ON in a column on the left-hand side.
Go check them out in the morning, while you put the kettle on for tea or pour in your first cup of coffee (or just after you finish it).
Sunday: H= Holy Ground. A good start. The Fundament. Who holds you? Always start from rest.
Monday: O= Organize your time. What’s your focus, and when will you address it? Sit down and make a plan.
Tuesday: L= Let’s do it. No procrastination—probably your most productive day of the week.
Wednesday: D= Dear ones around you. Spend time with them. On Wednesday, there are more important things than work: the others around you.
Thursday: O= Oh! My body. Take care of yourself when it comes to food and exercise. Do not underestimate the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Friday: N= Nurture your soul. What makes you deeply happy? See art, make music, walk. Do what makes you feel refreshed and reinvigorated
Saturday: . Sabbath, wrap up your week, and be satisfied with the closure.
Of course, depending on your circumstances, the days can differ. That is no problem. It is good that you give each day a theme, and work with focus. And when you look back at the end of the week, you will have covered all domains.
So HOLD ON. Start again in good time with this holistic, circular, playful Rule of Life.
Would you like an example of the formats?
Here is a free download thanks to the man behind the scenes.
What is the fundament for shaping your Rule of Life?
This Rule of Life begins with Holy Ground, which is the foundation.
When I started developing my first Rule of Life, a few years ago, I first started with the word: DOMAINS. I loved that it has the root word Dominion. I work on my Rule of Life together with God. He is the One in control, and I commune with Him. Later on, I changed the word to HOLD ON, because I am still holding on to Him (and it is easier for the translation in Dutch).
In Isaiah 33: 5 and 6, we can read: “The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness; and He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.”
In one of the Dutch translations, we find the sentence “and He will be the stability of your times” the word “houvast,” which literally means, “Hold on.” He is our Hold On or Stability.
Words that characterize this Rule of Life
Holistic, playful, creative, focus, attentive, rhythm, circular, organic, contemporary.
It is like the leaves, which hang loose yet are deeply connected through the branches, trunk, and roots. The leaves also start all over again. Your Rule of Life is never finished. And that is fortunate! You can leave it at the end of the day as it is for now and pick it up again tomorrow.
There is always a new beginning—just as Your Faithfulness, oh Lord, is new every morning!
Three ancient terms from the monastic tradition:
Obedientia (“Obedience”) is that we obey what is asked of us. We take time and listen carefully to ourselves and our environment.
Stabilitas (“Permanence”) challenges us to stay true to who we are – something you constantly (re)discover if you live consciously and plan moments of reflection in communion with God.
Conversio morum (“Daily improvement of attitude and lifestyle”) In Benedictine spirituality, this means a positive, growth-oriented lifestyle in which you learn good habits with small steps.
How do I apply the Rule of Life to my life?
It is important that you have a clear idea of which area needs the most attention in your life. Are you recovering from an illness? Then your area of focus will be different from what it would be if you just started your own business as a freelancer. Has your life changed radically lately? Whether you just started your first job, are single, are a parent in a growing family, or are just retired, this Rule of Life is a framework that offers a helping hand for every situation,
but it is especially for
- people who find themselves in a changing situation (recent pressure due to a life-changing event)
- or who have been living under pressure for a longer period of time. (long-term pressure)
Earlier, I wrote: Hey Janneke, how do you live with a Rule of Life?
One question for you:
Think about it: Which areas (of the letters HOLD ON) do you want to pay more attention to in this coming season?
Here’s a Free Download: Here’s the Rule of Life on paper.
Would you like to learn to live with a Rule of Life?
I would like to help you on your way to gain insight into which area of life needs the most attention in your situation. This way, you can really make it your own over time, just the way it worked for me.
Send me an email if you think: “That sounds great!” Then, we’ll look together at a zoom moment of your very own “How To Make My Rule of Life”
Testimonial from Julia:
“It was good to fill out the pages and think about how I want to fill my time or what is important for me.
My mornings are already well structured and I liked that, but I was often planless in the afternoons. So now I took one Hold-On -goal for each afternoon in the week and so far it is great! I finally do practice the banjo and yoga. It is good for me to have the discipline but also to not being overwhelmed of everything I could do but just say to myself “that is for another day”.So thank you for your input! I´m still playing with it and finding my own way with it, but that was your intention anyway and I wanted to tell you that it does work!”
P.S. Do you know that we’re already in days 59-66 of the 100 words a day /100-day Challenge?
Next week, I’ll continue with the letter O in “Hold on” (Oh! My body)
And just wait till I let you in on my list of inspiring books on this topic…
So, stay tuned if you made it this far and are still interested.
Till next week.