Writing a Rule of Life need be neither complicated nor difficult. Those are just thoughts. “It is too hard.” “I cannot write.” “I do not know what I want or how I would like to live my life.” These are just thoughts and that they are thought does not make them true. They are just thoughts.
The greatest suffering which we perpetrate on ourselves and on those around us is not gun-violence or racial beatings or greed-induced poverty. The greatest violence we exact on ourselves and on others – there greatest suffering we make happen on this planet is that we believe our thoughts just because we think them. So, the first thing one needs to do in order to write a Rule own Life is to not believe the thoughts you are thinking about not being able to write a Rule of Life.
The next thing to do is to go ahead and WRITE! Get words down on paper. Set aside time early in the morning or late at night (early works best because you are fresh and well.) What I do when wiring a chapter of my Rule of Life is simply Google for a while. Take the words which identify the title of your chapter and Google those words. Or, grab books off your shelf and see what they have to contribute but really, the ability to search the world through the internet will transform The Rule of Life because we can research a chapter in seconds or minutes. Do not obsess about it either. Set some time – say 30 minutes and google a word or words. Have two windows open on your computer – one for the googling and one for harvesting key lines, phrases, ideas and quotations from your searching. Who you have about 100-200 words, then you are ready to write your chapter. It’s ok if it is not perfect. It will not be perfect. Done is better than perfect. Just write a draft chapter and try to keep it to about 600 words unless you need more or less. You can always go back to that chapter on a snow day or a vacation day or some morning when you are up early and rewrite, add, delete. But for now, just get some form of a chapter written and set in the line of chapters which you will find soon become your Rule of Life. If you write a chapter a day for 30 days you have a Rule! Done! Edit later but do not obsess. And as you write, keep a wide right-hand margin of three inches so that you can write notes to yourself over time as to how you want to change it. But read your Rule, mostly, as a meditative exercise, not an editing exercise. Each chapter is nothing more than a reminder of how you have chosen, discerned, decided how you want to live. It is a living, breathing document, but if it is always under construction then it will always be a distraction to prideful perfection.
Let’s use this chapter on speech as an example. I Googled “speech” but that search was unhelpful so I googled “non-violent Communication” a subject about which I am passionate and fairly well-read due to a few classes and retreats on the subject. That search turned up a few articles which I scanned but did not find helpful until I saw an ad for a book called What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication October 1, 2009
by Judith Hanson Lasater Ph.D. (Author), Ike K. Lasater (Author). Jackpot. The book was one I had devoured a few years ago and it was, i remembered a foundational influence on my thoughts on my own speech. So I went there, like a dog or a trained pig sniffing around in a forest and finding the truffles hidden just under the dirt – I had found what would inspire my first draft of the chapter on speech in my Rule of life. I did not take time to re-read the entire book. I just skimmed it in my library and read on line some of what people said about it. I just needed enough to get started on my own thoughts. And so do you. So just read enough to grease the skids so that you develop your own list of thoughts and then write them down as if you were wiring a letter to yourself about how you want to live this part of your life. Do not worry if that is how you live. This chapter – each chapter – is aspirational. And no need to be Ghandi or Jesus. Just be yourself.
When writing a chapter on speech – simply write a letter to yourself stating what you think about speech,what you know Jesus said about speech (again, Google will help this search), what you have seen others say about speech (especially people you deeply respect – again, Google their name, coma and the word “speech” and off you go on your research. Then STOP the research and write or you will spend all your time researching 9just a little more, just a little more, just a little more…) and you will never actually write your chapter!
Here are my rough and random notes on SPEECH for my chapter on speech:
discernment and discretion
foundational practice of non-harming – hold back speech that is harming
chatter, gossip, slander, lies
the great silence – a time to re-set
meditation practice – a time to fuel truth and right speech
“”My words reflect my thoughts, my thoughts reflect my belief, and my beliefs, especially the unexamined ned, run my world.” Judith Hanson Laster What we say matters
unexamined thoughts will shape what I say like an infection, a virus
Byron Katie: They are just thoughts. No need to believe them. examine them. thy are not true just because think them and they certainly need not be spoken just because i think them!
how words contribute to suffering
“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy. I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Questions raised in me from their introduction:
What is the principle of satya (truth) and the Buddhist precept of right speech?
How can right and careful speech make for peace at in me, in relationships, at home, at work, and in the world?
How can careful speech meet my desire to diffuse anger?
How can I make requests rather than demands or assign blame?
What do I need to do to understand the difference between feelings and needs?
How may I choose connection over conflict when using careful speech and mindful thought?
How may I extend empathy to myself and to others by the careful use of words?
These notes took about 30 minutes to harvest from my readings. Now it is time to fill out the outline of a chapter:
Writing a Sample Chapter of a Rule of Life
What do you see in scripture, church tradition or reason regarding this topic?
What do you see in yourself regarding this topic?
What are your goals for how your life will express this topic?
What measures will you take to encourage the goals you have set for yourself (people, resources, checks and balances, boundaries, etc.)?
What do you seek from God in assistance regarding this topic?
Tomorrow, we will look at the drafted chapter on Speech and see how it turned out. Try yours! What can you find on speech? What do you think about your speech? What would you outline as a possible chapter on your speech? What is your vision for the role of speech in your life? Now, write 600 words on the subject!