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Grow Rule Offering

Week 6 Day 7: Do It in Pencil

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 7: Do It in Pencil
Draft a written Rule of Life that will enrich and enliven your relationships.
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Transcript of Video:

During this course, we have been exploring the elements of a Rule of Life and how to create your own Rule of Life. Now we come to the exciting bit, which is bringing all the elements together and actually writing down a Rule of Life for yourself. And I would say right from the start that this isn’t a task so much as kind of fun. It’s something to really enjoy and saying, “Gosh, I really long to become more the person that God created me to be and I just know that if I can put certain things in place in my life that they will enable me to, as it were, be free enough to receive the grace of God,” because it is all about God and what God is longing to give to us. All we are really doing with a Rule of Life, rather like a gardener, is helping to create a terrain, helping to create enough space and other things to allow a young plant to receive the sun and the rain, and that’s really the model, I think, for a Rule of Life. We put certain things in place so that we are more able to receive what God has to give to us and of course, that gift is the gift of life itself, the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

So when you’re making this Rule of Life, first of all do it with a certain lightness of touch rather like creating a garden saying, “Hey, it would be good to do that – let’s see what that will be like,” and if it doesn’t work – well, change it. So make the Rule of Life do it with pencil so you can erase it later and say, “I thought that would be helpful, but actually, if I’m realistic, I simply won’t be able to do that, so I won’t do that.” I think God would just be delighted for your desire. Your desire to make of your life something which kind of honors God by putting in these elements of a Rule of Life, which will open you up to receive all the wonderful gifts that God has to give you.

So be patient, try it out, see how it works and be realistic, and be full of hope, and full of joy, because God is the one who, I believe, has encouraged you to do this because God so loves you that he longs for this deeper relationship with you and to give you that life, which is his great gift to each one of us.

– Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Week 6 Day 6: Boundaries

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 6: Boundaries
What boundaries would it be helpful to put in place for yourself?
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So you can’t have openness without limitation, because without limitation then I would say if it is my own limits, and I don’t know my limits, or I don’t (observe) them, then I am just everywhere and there is nothing other than me everywhere. If that makes any sense. Where I end something else begins and that immediately introduces the notion of mystery, whether it is God or another person. In a rule we also talk about when we are relating to other people not trying to make them into images of ourselves or making these demands of control. That requires openness to another point-of-view, just anything other than me. I have a limit and therefore I have needs. I need other people and I also need rules, for a lack of a better word – structure, guidelines. I need a container for which to hold me, which I think is what attracts me to this life and what attracts me to having a Rule. I have resisted this as much as anyone of having rules imposed or structure. I mean I’d love to just lay in bed all day if I could and do absolutely nothing. But would I have much of a life or do much with my life that I feel is a divine gift? Absolutely not. So I need rules, I need structure in order to go further and further. And I find that for me what begins as sort of resistance to that, you know, I think first approaching this need for rules and structure hesitantly and reluctantly more because I have to and eventually tipping over to the point where I do it because I want to, because I see the benefit of doing it.

– Br John Braught

Week 6 Day 5: Redirect Growth

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 5: Redirect Growth
How will you direct your energies towards that which gives life?
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Well, I think a helpful metaphor for giving things up is pruning. The reason plants are pruned is to, number one, sometimes give them shape, a better form visually. But it also redirects growth. If you prune a branch from a tree or a shrub or a vine, it will actually stimulate growth in another direction. So the monastic life is about saying no to some things in order that our energies can be directed in other directions. The vows, especially celibacy and poverty, are about saying no to certain things – and saying no to partnerships and sexuality expressed with others is a way of directing generative energies in other directions. Saying no to the acquisition of wealth and property is a way of experiencing life in community and sharing everything one has with other people, and not being distracted by the need to acquire wealth and status and power in those terms.

– Br. Mark Brown

Week 6 Day 4: Companions on the Journey

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 4: Companions on the Journey
How might others support you on this journey?
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We need companions on the journey. We need people who we feel safe with, who we trust. We need to be with each other and to experience the wonders of life, to share them as well as to share the heartache and the sorry and the challenge. As one mentor told me, God has given us our companions. We may ask for others but most often, our companions are already given; we have neighbors. But it is a choice to interact, it is a choice to trust, it is a choice to invest to be with them, and to also let them change us, to receive the gifts that they have to offer. That’s part of this practice of life. That’s part of becoming more like God is to be choosing to be in relationship and to be interactive.

– Br. Luke Ditewig

Week 6 Day 3: What I Shall Be

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 3: What I Shall Be
How will your Rule help you grow into the person you can be?
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So a community that has shaped me profoundly before coming to this Society has been a church community called “The Crossing” here in Boston. And a chant that we used to sing at the beginning of worship with “The Crossing,” the words are something like, “Take O take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be. Set your seal upon my heart and live in me.” And so when I think what challenges me personally about living a Rule of Life, I think about one challenge being complete trust in who I am, what I am just in this moment, as being completely beloved of God. So this, “Take O take me as I am,” part of the chant, the reality now in this moment is that I am enough, that God loves me completely, and in a way, that’s it. I can rejoice in the beauty, the truth, of that reality. And also, the work isn’t finished. That God has envisioned so much more for the unfolding of my life, for the ways that I am to give expression to God’s kingdom in the world, to the ways that I am destined to come to greater self-understanding, self-integration that I haven’t yet. So the “summon out what I shall be” part of the chant.

So I think that with a Rule of Life, with a balanced Rule of Life, there is a really healthy and whole holding of both a person’s present reality as completely beloved of God, and that there is so much more to unfold in the future that God has in store for us.

– Br. Keith Nelson

Week 6 Day 2: Say Thank You

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 2: Say Thank You
How does gratitude show up in your life?
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I think I’d start by saying – I’d begin with a sense of deep gratitude for the gift of life itself. That we are, I am, these living beings that God created and the gift of life is a gift. And I think the best way to say thank you to the giver of that gift is to use the gift and cherish the gift and enjoy the gift. For me, a Rule of Life or building a trellis, which is a kind of Rule of Life, is about optimizing the conditions for my own life that give me a kind of balance and maximizes exposure to light, to use the plant metaphor growing on a trellis. It is a way of providing stability in my life when other things are unstable or unpredictable. The trellis also in some ways has its own integrity, its own beauty as a structure. I am thinking of a trellis in the garden; in the wintertime you just see the trellis and the plant is dormant. And sometimes we go through these winter times of life when life feels a little dormant but we have this structure, the daily rhythm, the daily routine, that we do anyway and it has its own beauty, even if we are not quite connecting with it in the moment.

– Br. Mark Brown

Week 6 Day 1: When Life is Very Difficult

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 1: When Life is Very Difficult
What has sustained you through challenging seasons in the past?
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In this phase of growing a Rule of Life, we’re looking at how we can grow a Rule which will help us through all the seasons of life. I had the great joy of living for several years at our country monastery, Emery House, where I’m sitting now, and during those years it was particularly wonderful to sit every day in our chapel looking out over the beautiful countryside and as the months passed, seeing the trees change and everything take on the color of the changing seasons. And in the summer particularly, and perhaps the spring, it was particularly beautiful and it was a joy to be out in the gardens helping grow fruit and take care of the property. But I remember when the New England winter came, everything changed and it became really quite bleak and cold and I really didn’t want to go out at all. And in a kind of interesting parallel, I think growing a Rule of Life is very similar to that, that at times it’s actually very easy to live the life of faith. Prayer comes to us naturally, we feel drawn to God, and we look at God’s creation and our hearts are filled with joy.

But there are other times in our life when life becomes more barren, more bare. Perhaps we have experienced a bereavement or a change in our plans or our hopes. In those times, it’s much more difficult to embrace life. But actually, in my own experience, it is exactly during those times when having a Rule of Life in place becomes so important. It is then that we really need to turn to those rhythms, those disciplines which we have grown and established, because they will uphold us and they will support us and strengthen us when we feel that life is very, very difficult.

There is a hymn, which I love, which we sing at Easter. Most of the hymns at Easter are joyful hymns. There is one which is in more of a minor key and you will probably know it, it’s called “Now the green blade rises, from the buried grain.” And the underlying imagery of that hymn is that, when we look out at a wintry scene, it seems that everything is dead, but actually underneath the surface something actually very powerful and wonderful is happening and something is slowly growing and when spring comes it bursts out to life again. And that hymn talks about particularly those times when the fields of our heart are dead and bare and we feel really quite desolate. But it’s at those times, when we remain faithful to our commitment to our Rule, it is precisely then that we can experience the wonder and the miracle, as the hymn puts it, of love coming again like wheat which springs up green.

I think this phase of looking at our Rule of Life encourages us to think of the rhythms of our own lives. The rhythms, the summer, the winter, the spring, the autumn of our own lives and how we can maintain our life of faith, our relationship with God, our love for God, during those difficult times and to ask who can companion us during those times and who can help us to cultivate the garden of our lives through every season.

– Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Week 5 Day 7: Restoring Balance

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 7: Restoring Balance
How will you find a healthy and meaningful connection with the natural world?
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One of the things that I have discovered gardening here at Emery House is if they are always planting the same thing in the same place that slowly but surely the soil is depleted and, interestingly enough, once the soil is depleted, the only thing that will thrive in it are the weeds. So in order to keep the weeds out you have to constantly be renewing the soil. So as you think of your life this week, you might want to think about creating your own collage. Think of where is the good soil in your life, where is the stony soil, and where is the soil full of thistles. And as you do that, look at your life and see where is the balance (where is the good soil?), and where are you out of balance (where is the soil full of thorns or the soil full of stones?). So you might want to think what is your relationship with money, is that “in balance”? Is that producing abundantly? Is that producing abundant fruits or is that controlling you? Where is your relationship with consumerism? Where is your relationship with food? Is that in balance or out of balance? And if you want to restore balance to those, what exactly do you need to put into it. What exactly do you need to think about, pray about, ponder about your relationship with money, food, consumerism and begin to restore balance there. Just as the gardener is constantly trying to keep the balance or maintain the balance or restore balance to the good soil so that, like the gardener, the soil of your life can product abundantly.

– Br. James Koester

Week 5 Day 6: The Flow of Blessings

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 6: The Flow of Blessings
How can you connect with nature in ways that bring life?
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I think one way I try to keep myself open to the flow of the blessings of the natural world is to be in it as much as possible. I have a kind of peculiar habit of enjoying a cup of tea most mornings, late morning and often in the afternoon as well, and if it’s at all possible I like to be outdoors to do that. If I’m at the monastery I love to sit out in our beautiful cloister garden among the trees and bushes and be under the dome of the sky. I think being outside, out of the sort of boxed in spaces and under the dome of the sky gives me a sense of connection with the infinite. And certainly being surrounded by the living things growing up out of the earth in all seasons and the sound of birds in the background, I think these things confirm in me, that strengthen in me, a sense of biological connectedness with all of nature.

– Br. Mark Brown

Week 5 Day 5: Being Pruned

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 5: Being Pruned
Where could your life be pruned to bear more fruit?
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My own experience of being pruned is that, though I can present myself in prayer more likely than not as being willing to be pruned, the actual pruning happens out in the world as I am rubbing up against other people. So this is another way where I am not in control of the pruning and sort of living in community, but not just in community, and all my interactions with other people – noticing what brings me joy and happiness in my interactions with other people, what rubs me the wrong way, quite literally and figuratively, and where are those rough edges and where are the things that need to be cut away in order to allow my movement through this life to go more smoothly, and seeing that as God’s invitation to grow and to change and not as sort of the external circumstances or as this person is acting up or doing this. That it’s God showing me where these things are that need to be removed or cut away.

– Br John Braught