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Dec 01, 2017 | Luke Ditewig

Rhythm of Life: A Monastic Tool for Health and Wellness

Touching your neck or chest, feel your heart beat. Whether relaxed or stressed, healthy or sick, the heart pulses a beat. It sounds the rhythm of our life’s dance. We are rhythm at the core.

Rhythm means pattern: the presence and absence of sound, of notes and rests, long and short, more and less, doing and refraining, ebb and flow.

As a monk, I live a rhythm consciously shaped to balance prayer and practicalities, common goals and individual needs, work and rest. In our community, the specifics of this rhythm are dictated – as they have been for monastic communities since the fourth century – by a document we call a Rule of Life. The word “Rule” here is potentially misleading, since it’s not a list of rules. It’s actually a supportive framework that, by describing the way we wish to live and what we most deeply value, gently guides us on our way and helps us grow in our life with God. The Rule is not just about theology or overtly spiritual practices. It takes up the health and wellness of our whole beings, reminding us to care for our bodies, for our creativity, and for the spaces we inhabit. In its attention to the mundane and the sacred, the individual and the collective, our Rule shapes our life into a rhythm that is life-giving and full of meaning.

Writing and keeping a Rule of Life might come from the monastic tradition, but it’s not just for monks. We all need tools to help us live with balance.

What about you? How’s your beat? What sets the tempo of your life? Do you shape the way you spend your time, or does your to-do list – or the relentlessly growing email inbox – shape it for you? And how about rest? In life as in music, rests define the notes and create the rhythm. Without rest, music would just be unbearable noise. Do you have enough rest to give meaning to the notes you play? And how do you move through your day; what are the steps or style of your dance? Is it rushed? Heavy? Joyful? And who are your dancing partners; what kind of time do you devote to each of them?

No matter your walk of life, writing a rule can help you to clarify your most important values, relationships, dreams, and goals, allowing you to live with intention and purpose in the present moment. It will help you know when to pause and remind you of what makes you pulse. A Rule keeps us conscious of the rhythm of our life and tunes our awareness of the One with whom we dance.

To learn more about keeping a Rule of Life – and to draft your own Rule – explore SSJE’s six-week series, Growing a Rule of Life.