Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crazy Busy and the Rule of Life

I often wonder how can one manage all the emails, blogs, speaking engagements, appointments, relationships in this crazy, busy world. I feel over-booked, over-stretched all the time.

In my spirituality class, we talked about the rule of life. The Latin term for “rule” is regula, from which our words regular and regulate derive. Marjorie Thompson explains that this does not mean to be restrictive. “It is meant to establish a rhythm of daily living, a basic order within which new freedom can grow.”

Many of us Anglicans do not know there is an Anglican rule of life. Owen Thomas says that the Anglican rule has 5 elements:
• Weekly public worship
• Daily private or family prayer
• Participation in the mission of the church
• Spiritual reading
• Self-examination in preparation for the Eucharist*

The most famous rule is perhaps the rule of St. Benedictine, written in the 6th century. Sister Jane Michele McClure, OSB, says, “Benedict envisioned a balanced life of prayer and work as the ideal. Monastics would spend time in prayer so as to discover why they're working, and would spend time in work so that good order and harmony would prevail in the monastery.”

There has been a revival of interest in contemplation and the wisdom of monastic life. When our lives are so chaotic and fragmented, we long for some structure and order.

Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating ADD, has coined a new term ADT (attention deficit trait) to describe symptoms caused by living in a hyper-kinetic environment.

Our brains are required to process data faster and faster, to adapt to new situations quickly, and to solve problems flexibly. In a survival mode, we become easily exhausted, anxious, impulsive, and are about to snap.

Hallowell can’t prescribe a regula, but he can at least suggest some remedies. I have selected those things that are most helpful to me:

• Get enough sleep
• Exercise at least 30 minutes at least every other day
• Talk to people, not just sending emails and texting
• Set aside email until you have done at least one or two important tasks
• Don’t let papers accumulate (I have never learned how)
• Pay attention to the time of the day that you are at your best and do important work
• Clear one corner of your desk/office so that you can work comfortably
• Do an easy rote task when you feel overwhelmed.

Owen C. Thomas, Christian Life and Practice (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009), 8-9.