Designing the “chapters” of a Rule of Life (see blogs from Monday and Tuesday to get the background on the why and how of a Rule of Life.)
A “chapter” of a Rule of Life may be as long as a few pages or as short as a few sentences. But how does one make the list of chapters? There are as many possibilities as cards in a deck. So here we need discernment.
The important thing is to make each chapter readable in a single setting and not so laborious that you will not want to have to read it regularly. The key to any life-improving pursuit is that it be reasonable and doable. Lofty goals which are never more than goals – are never realized in practice are not very helpful. So you want your chapters to have topics relevant to your living your life and lengths such that over breakfast or as part of your exercise routine or your prayer routine or your morning routine, you can access each “chapter” as a daily reminder of what your hope was and continues to be for the various aspects of your life.
This raises the question of what those various aspects or headings or chapters could be titled. Again, one does not need so many different subjects that the Rule becomes too long or too laborious. St. Francis is attributed with the valuable saying “do few things well” and this applies here also. If you have seven chapters in your Rule then you only have seven issues you are working with and so every seven days, you will begin again at the beginning and are able to manage the entire Rule in a week’s time. This set of few chapters would allow you to work hard on seven issues but after a few weeks it might get dull. One may wish to have 14 chapters so that there is a two-week cycle or 30 chapters for a monthly cycle of daily readings.
Some thought will need to be given to the chapters of your Rule just as one might sit down and write an outline of a book or a list of things to do. One may go to a monastery or take a day of vacation or go sit in a forest to think up the list of possible chapters. I would suggest setting time aside for the development of the initial list of possible chapters and then let it sit for a while – during which you will find that some chapter titles are let go of and others materialize with new awareness and discernment. Once you have your list you can start writing your chapters realizing that at any time along the way you can delete and add chapter titles as your begin working with the material of your life.
Here are some possible titles:
What would your list of 30 chapters look like? try making a list?