HOLD ON: A Holistic and Circulair Rule of life or a trellis to train me
My Rule of Life was born out of despair.
It was Spring 2019, and we were about to move from Osijek, Croatia, back to the Netherlands. It was our fifth International move. I should’ve mastered moving around with the family by then. Nope!
I felt extremely overwhelmed by all the tasks that still needed to be done, even apart from the move as a family. Food needed to be put on the table—every single day. The school year needed to be finished at four different levels for each kid. We needed to stay in touch with our family. Plus we needed to find a house, find jobs, wrap up our house and belongings, and settle on the other side of Europe.
We are not even talking about the emotional rollercoaster we were on.
Then and there, it happened at our kitchen table. I found the key for something that had been growing very slowly and deeply inside me. And finally, it was coming to the surface. A Rule of Life. My Rule of Life.
At first I started my Rule of Life, using the words DOMAINS, as a Rule of Life covers all Domains of a healthy life. But I changed it to HOLD ON. Read below why.
And now I am happy to share this Rule of Life with you in the case that you are feeling overwhelmed by daily life and asking yourself, How can I live more attentively?
How to survive in my very full life?
Is it also your experience that life is often very full and demanding? You’re juggling multiple roles, feeling restless and overwhelmed.
There is so much work to be done! Random daily tasks, housekeeping, connecting with friends and family—oh, dear, I also have a body that could use some attention. And nurturing my soul? I usually skip that. That’s a luxury.
Would you like to live with more focus, depth and flow in your life?
Then following a Rule of Life is a playful method to try out.
It is important that you do not approach a Rule of Life too 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. A Rule of Life implicitly breathes the word “grace.”
The playfulness and ‘mercifullness’ 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”.
What Is a Rule of Life?
A Rule of Life is a framework around which to organize your time. I find the acronym HOLD ON to be an incredibly helpful reminder of principles that help shape a 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” is a good start.
O – “Organize your time.” Do not do it yet—just plan!
L – “Let’s do it.” No more procrastination. Implement your plan.
D – “Dear ones around you”—spend time with them and keep your connection strong.
O – “Oh! My body”—It’s the only one you’ve got. Take care of it.
N – “Nurture your soul” – Strengthen your connection with your soul and surroundings.
. – 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 Rest and 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, household chores, food on the table; and oh, yes: I also have a body to take care of, and without it, none of the above is possible.
Make a list of your roles
You may also feel pressure to give attention to all different areas equally. So, think about the different roles you have and approximately how much time you are spending on each of them (e.g., daughter, parent, neighbor, volunteer).
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 on 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. And you finish with rest, bringing the day to a close.
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 (or finish)your first cup of coffee.
Sunday: H – Holy Ground. In order to make a solid start from your foundation, you must always start from rest. Remember who it is that holds you.
Monday: O – Organize your time. What’s your focus, and when will you address it? Sit down and make a plan. Do not get into action yet. Only plan your week.
Tuesday: L – Let’s get to it and implement your plan. This is probably your most productive day of the week.
Wednesday: D – Dear ones around you. Spend time with them, a phone call, or a visit. 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 its closure.
Of course, depending on your circumstances, the days can differ. That is no problem. It is good that you just work full time, but give each day a theme and work with focus on the edges of the day. 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 and playful Rule of Life.
Four Times a year:
Evaluate your Rule of Life. You will likely notice that oftentimes, you stuck to the plant. A Rule of Life works as a dot on the horizon. How you address each category is between you and God. In prayerfully determining how to nurture each area of your life, your personal desires count for something. Don’t feel guilty about writing down what you actually like to do, which will help ensure you actually follow through on it. Praying about and planning these things ahead of time – not to mention writing them down – helps you live intentionally.
In your evaluation, you will also notice things that you didn’t follow through on, however much you might like doing them. In that case, you can ask yourself these questions:
Why did it not work out the way I hoped it would?
What can I do and change in order to make it happen in the next quarter of this year?
What Is the Foundation 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 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 was powerfully struck by the Dutch translation of the following passage:)
“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.” Isaiah 33:5–6
In one of the Dutch translations of the Bible, 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.
A Trellis to Train Me
The bean plant in the garden often does best if you guide it along a trellis. Then it climbs towards the sunlight, where it gets its energy. When it blooms, each flower makes sure it gets enough sunlight. It hangs freely yet is attached to the trunk and leans on the trellis.
A trellis provides guidance, direction, and support. It is not constricting. If you secure the branch with a string, it is important that you do it loosely. The branch wants to grow and breathe. But the connection to the trellis is important. Eventually, when the time is right, that little plant will produce beautiful, ripe, nutritious fruit.
I am still learning to garden, but when I started, I was so happy that a little plant came out of the earth that I forgot to care about the rest. My bean plant got water when it rained and quite enjoyed the sun. It continued to grow, but became wild. The plant could not grow upwards without a foothold and so proliferated on the ground. The fruit ripened and rotted in the mud.
So it is with us. A trellis provides structure so that we can freely grow. It’s about balance.
Q: What is the big branch for you? What is the trellis? And what is the fruit?
We stand in a clear tradition, holding on to the great branch of two thousand years of Christianity with Jesus as Son of God as the Source of our life. And space to breathe, to grow and to seek the Light in this time. Loosely attached to the trellis that gives direction, like a Rule of Life, waiting for the fruit to form and be beautiful, at every stage of its growth.
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 areas 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.
So, print the format that is attached at the end. Write out how you would like to live your life. and what works for your situation. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to connect with me.
Who can benefit from a Rule of Life?
- People who find themselves in a changing situation (recent pressure due to a life-changing event)
- Those who have been living under pressure for a longer period of time.
- Or anyone who likes to live attentively, pro-active instead of re-active.
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?
“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 without a plan in the afternoons. So now I have 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 be overwhelmed by everything I could do. I 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! Julia
Janneke knows how to create peace, and there is a choice of how to work with your Rule of Life. The quiet way appeals to me. Ruth
I have experienced how good and how easy it is to concentrate and start with Holy Ground in a familiar environment. Precisely because that ‘oasis’ was now at home, I can apply it more easily in daily life. Now I’ve experienced that you don’t have to be in a monastery for contemplation (and connection, though to a lesser extent). Thanks to the online retreat, I feel encouraged to visit that oasis at home more often. Thanks again Janneke! Peter (A participant at an online retreat)
“The playfulness and “mercifulness” of this rule of life help me immensely. I often feel myself failing, and this Rule of Life always gives me the opportunity to start over.” (A participant in a personal Rule of Life retreat) Maria
Would you like to learn to live with a Rule of Life?
I would like to help you on your way to gaining insight into which area of life needs the most attention in your situation. This way, you can really make a Rule of Life your own over time, just the way it worked for me.
Send me an email if you think that sounds good. Then, we’ll look together at a Zoom moment of your very own “How To Make My Rule of Life” Online Retreat.
Attachment: Here is a handy print version for you to play with.
Here’s a Free Download: Here’s the Rule of Life on paper.
Here is a handy print version for you to play with during the Christmas holidays: Any Questions? Just Ask!