“Your life, my life, is given graciously by God. Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken.”
― Henri J. M. Nouwen, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
How can you plan for the transcendent?
Let’s begin building a rhythm of virtue by saying yes to more transcendent moments in our lives together. This is a rhythm that forms and informs the people we are becoming. It is less about prescribing a certain way of doing and more about the why and the how behind our actions.
So this week let’s start with the virtue of love, because love is at the heart of who we are, and from the Christian perspective, the telos. We are asked to love God and to love each other. You might not think of love as a virtue to pursue. When we think of the traditional virtues, we likely think of courage, hope, or patience. But Christian faith calls us to love. In Christian Monastic Communities, one method of crafting a rhythm is an ancient practice called a Rule of Life. The word rule originally comes from the latin word, regula, meaning rule or a standard pattern or model. For us, a rule can serve as a way to cultivate practices that align with the person we are becoming. A Rule of Life is like an intake of our rhythms. It is a practice that is intended to help us reflect on how we are already allocating our time, where we would like to spend our time, and how we can carve out time to intentionally invest in the areas of life that contribute to our holistic flourishing.
If this practice feels new or strange to you, we encourage you to start small. Take an intake of what practices you are already doing. As you read through this list, take time to notice what practices seem easy for you to integrate and which ones you are more resistant to. For example, someone who is more introverted may find it easy to carve out 15 minutes a day for quiet reflection or journaling, and someone more extroverted may value a shared meal with friends more. It’s important to honor the unique ways that God has wired us. Whether you’re a self proclaimed introvert or an extrovert who thrives off of being a social butterfly, we all need stillness and quiet, and we all need quality time with people.
Each of these practices reflect our innate need to love God, love others and love ourselves. You may read these and think that some practices resemble something you might expect to see on a self care list. That’s because our capacity to love God and others is impacted by how well we are caring for our own being. Some of these practices are designed to be done alone, but others you could invite a friend or loved one to join you. There are a few reasons behind these practices specifically. 1) They help cultivate love for self, others, and God 2) They intentionally create space in your schedule for you to experience the transcendent amidst our weekly rhythms.
- Reflection: Are you setting aside time each week to reflect? Reflecting can look like taking 5-10 minutes at the end of our days to do a personal intake of how the day went. It might be a time in which you check to see if your actions are aligned with your values. It might be a time when you check in with your emotions to see if they provide you with any insight into the day.
- Prayer: Are you setting aside time to be with God? This can be a time to embrace the liturgy and read along with the Common Lectionary. It could also be a time to be still, to calm your central nervous system through deep breathing, or writing your prayers down in a journal.
- Cultivating Curiosity: Are you seeking out opportunities to grow? Albert Einstein said that “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity opens the door for us to continue learning. It opens our minds to new possibilities which includes more opportunities for us to experience the transcendent.
- Hydration: Are you drinking enough water? The U.S. National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends that men drink an average of 15 cups per day and women drink an average of 12 cups per day.
- Nutrition: Are you focusing on eating foods that nourish your body? Cooking more meals at home and preparing food in advance can help minimize the amount of processed foods we are consuming throughout the week, giving our bodies energy to thrive.
- Movement: Are you making it a priority to move your body? Movement can be as simple as taking a walk around the block on your lunch break, taking a free yoga class online, or meeting up with friends to hike.
- Nature: Are you regularly getting outside and getting adequate sunlight? Plants aren’t the only ones who need photosynthesis. Research has shown that humans can produce the recommended amount of Vitamin D by spending 10-30 minutes in the midday sunshine.
- Sharing a meal with others: How often are you sitting around the table with others? Meals are not only a time to catch up with those in our communities that we might not be in the rhythm of seeing on a weekly basis, they are a time of sharing in traditions and learning more about others’ cultures.
- Listening well to your loved ones: How often do you actively listen to your friends, family or coworkers? We can easily get distracted or distant from the people we interact with the most. Consider carving our time for an intentional check in each week with someone you see on a regular basis.
- Showing hospitality: How often do you consider others as you seek to care for yourself? An act of hospitality could be taking your leftovers to a friend you know has a busy week ahead, paying for coffee for the person behind you in line, or sending a card to a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
- Managing your finances: How well do you orient your budget around your values? We know that unexpected things come up, but the way we choose to spend our money is a reflection of what we value most. You might need to start a journal where you record everything you spend.
Click here for a free PDF of this practice.
Put it into Practice
All of these in some way or another are virtue practices. Our “why” behind the practices we choose tells us something about the purpose we find in our lives. They provide us with the necessary margin to experience the transcendent and escape the dread that can creep in on a Sunday as we prepare for the week ahead. These practices help us focus on what is most important: who we are becoming. By making our being the priority, our fears about getting it all done can take a backseat. The anxiety and stress won’t vanish instantaneously. Yet, our capacity to attune to our own needs and the needs of others in our lives will not only help us live a life aligned with our deepest values, it will give us the capacity to experience moments of transcendence–transcendence that gives us small glimpses into our purpose as the beloved.
So this Sunday consider taking the time to reflect on a Rule of Life. Consider asking yourself what habits you want to hold on to and which ones you want to let go of. To live a virtuous life is to embrace a vision of the good where everyone and everything is able to thrive and flourish. We are all invited to live into what it means to be God’s beloved because thriving entails a vision of the good that allows for the flourishing of all.
King, P. E., Baer, R. E., & Greenway, T. S. (in press). Theological perspectives on beliefs and communities of practice: Virtue systems as an integrative approach for psychologists. In M. D. Matthews & R. M. Lerner (eds. Multidisciplinary Handbook of Character Development Vol 1. Conceptualizing and Defining Character Virtues. Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis.
MayoClinic (2022, October 22). Water: How Much Should You Drink Everyday? MayoClinic.org. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women
Mead, N. (n.d.). Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/
(n.d.). Rule of Life. Sacred Ordinary Days. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from https://sacredordinarydays.com/pages/rule-of-life
Webb, C. (n.d.). How to Create a Rule of Life Based on the Six Streams. Renovare. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from https://renovare.org/articles/rule-of-life-six-streams
McGrath , R. (2023, April 21). The Power Of Lifelong Learning: How Curiosity Forges Mastery. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2023/04/21/the-power-of-lifelong-learning-how-curiosity-forges-mastery/?sh=504dc8286ce3
Resources for further Reading
Barton, R. H. (2006). Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (2nd ed.). InterVarsity Press.
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton Earley, J. W. (2019). The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction (1st ed.). Intervarsity Press.
Mulholland, R. J. (2016). Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation (Transforming Resources). Intervarsity Press.
Palmer , P. J. (1999). Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Warren , T. H. (2019). Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (1st ed.). InterVarsity Press.
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