How and why do you follow your Rule?

  • 7 replies
  • 464 views
*

Sage Ambue

  • *
  • 10
    • they/them
    • Clann Bhride
How and why do you follow your Rule?
« on: June 02, 2019, 11:34:48 AM »
I'm still relatively new and uninformed about many monastic concepts, but I've seen this idea of a Rule passed around in a few different contexts. From what I understand, this could be both a regular order of liturgy/prayers as well as a collection of expectations for behavior and such that one tries to live under as a monastic-leaning individual. Am I on the right track? If you have a Rule, how did you come by it, and what is it like following it? Have you adapted it over the years or do you find it more important that the Rule is unchanging? Is the Rule something your deity/spirit/friends on the other side passed down, or something you imposed upon yourself, or a collaboration of the two?

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2019, 10:25:01 PM »
I've seen this idea of a Rule passed around in a few different contexts. From what I understand, this could be both a regular order of liturgy/prayers as well as a collection of expectations for behavior and such that one tries to live under as a monastic-leaning individual. Am I on the right track?

Yes, you're on the right track. I'd say a monastic Rule provides the guiding framework that most readily differentiates votary religious practice from lay religious practice. Monastic Rules vary in emphasis and scope, but in general they express the central structure to which a monastic community holds itself accountable.

Probably the most well-known monastic Rule is the Rule of Saint Benedict.

The Order of Engaged Buddhists writes that a monastic Rule is "what makes a monk a monk." And the Northumbria community (mixed Christian) has a piece I like about their Rule of Life that addresses the question "What is a Rule of Life?" Here's a quote (bold emphasis mine):

"A Rule of life is absolutely essential to any monastic life. It says "this is who we are, this is our story"...[...] Monastic stability is based on accountability to the Rule of life; it serves as a framework for freedom - not as a set of rules that restrict or deny life, but as a way of living out our vocation alone and together. [...]

"A Rule then is a means whereby, under God, we take responsibility for the pattern of our spiritual lives. It is a measure rather than a law. The word rule has bad connotations for many, implying restrictions, limitations and legalistic attitudes. But a Rule is essentially about freedom. It helps us to stay centred, bringing perspective and clarity to the way of life to which God has called us. The word derives from the Latin regula which means rhythm, regularity of pattern, a recognisable standard for the conduct of life. Esther De Waal has pointed out that regula is a feminine noun which carried gentle connotations rather than the harsh negatives that we often associate with the phrase "rules and regulations" today. We do not want to be legalistic. A Rule is an orderly way of existence but we embrace it as a way of life not as keeping a list of rules. It is a means to an end..."


If you have a Rule, how did you come by it, and what is it like following it? Have you adapted it over the years or do you find it more important that the Rule is unchanging? Is the Rule something your deity/spirit/friends on the other side passed down, or something you imposed upon yourself, or a collaboration of the two?

I wrote about the process of deciding on the Rule for Black Stone Abbey elsewhere on the forum so some will have seen this story already, but I'll copy a slightly edited and expanded version of it here for easy reference.

In 2011, when I started the first blog for the Abbey (which was up until recently called the Black Stone Hermitage) based on a vision I received, I began working under my own monastic-ish rule that centered around the concept of "sacred endarkenment." I wrote a lot about sacred endarkenment on my blog and in my private journals, but I didn't formalize it until after I read about the Rule of Awen in the GCC Manual and Book of Liturgy. I then realized there was a way to develop what I'd been working with into something more structured without choking the life out of it.

So I wrote about it, and thought about it, and meditated on it, and prayed about it, and wrote about it some more...and one day I woke up and something clicked. I sat down immediately to write, and I barely even looked up for several hours because the words were just pouring out as fast as I could type. When I finished, I let everything sit and simmer for a few days. Then I came back to it and I knew immediately: there it is. That's it.

The Rule, as I received it, is:

"Follow the Ways of Non-Contrivance."

I still don't know what it means. But I know that it's right. And when I sit down to write, I can sense when I've received something that is linked to it. I can't explain how I know that, but I do.

So while the "starter rule" I was using was a rather nebulous concept, the Rule of Awen helped me formalize "sacred endarkenment" so it could be stated as a Rule.

To answer your questions more directly, Sage, the Rule for the Abbey came to me through a series of visions, dreams, and meditations. I adapted it, formalized it, and decided to live by it after I was exposed to the GCC's Rule of Awen, which served as one model for what could be done within a polytheistic context.

Why do I follow it, and what is it like following it...? Well, I'll be writing a lot more about that in the Abbey's newsletter after it launches later this year, but for starters, in another thread I recently took my first stab at publicly explaining the meaning of the Rule:

Following the Ways of Non-Contrivance means cultivating space for "emergent" (uncontrived) contemplative practice. Broadly speaking, the intention behind it is to shape the monastic structures for Black Stone Abbey through guidance arrived at by "bottom up" spontaneous animist intuitions rather than imposing structures through "top down" centralized planning. Following the Ways of Non-Contrivance means creating conditions that invite a certain quality of attentive engagement with the world - an ease that flows from silence, solitude, "doing nothing," and deep listening. There's no way to codify the Ways of Non-Contrivance because they're different for each monastic, and as I understand it, that's by design.

There are multiple meanings for this Rule (again, that's by design), and I have a hunch that I'll be discovering them in layers or stages over a long period of time, so this is just a start.

Hope that's helpful!

[NB: Edited by Danica to remove the strange characters that the database added to the quoted text above when WeepingCrow rebuilt the database after our recent downtime.]
« Last Edit: August 31, 2019, 11:04:35 PM by Danica Swanson »

*

Sage Ambue

  • *
  • 10
    • they/them
    • Clann Bhride
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2019, 12:37:58 PM »
Monastic Rules vary in emphasis and scope, but in general they express the central structure to which a monastic community holds itself accountable.

Ah, accountability and structure. I've been playing around now with my own Rule and finding that the rough draft was more a list of 'thou shalt's and 'thou salt not's.

Quote
Probably the most well-known monastic Rule is the Rule of Saint Benedict.

What a list! I really resonate with this concept of ora et labora (pray and work) as being at the core of a monastic life. I love the idea of centering a community around a familial structure. I can see Brighid Herself acting as abbess in this case, which would make devotional and contemplative practices all the more important. Can't easily walk up to a deity and ask for a straight answer after all. ;)

Quote
The Order of Engaged Buddhists writes that a monastic Rule is "what makes a monk a monk."

Thank you for this example. Lately I've had the strongest fascination with the idea of a zen structured retreat with a Brigidine focus. This idea of being able to temporarily engage in rigorous structured practice, deep meditation and stillness (not to mention the overlaps I've noticed between Brighid's Work and zen Buddhism...) is incredibly appealing to me.

Quote
And the Northumbria community (mixed Christian) has a piece I like about their Rule of Life

Heads up, this link goes back to the Order of Engaged Buddhists!

What a great quote though from Northumbria. Structure that brings freedom because you're given space to focus on what's important instead of getting bogged down with minutiae. I'm thinking also of the phrase "the authority you call home" because there's this interplay between obedience (to a deity, a Rule, a community, an abbess) and finding the place you're called to.

Quote
"Follow the Ways of Non-Contrivance."

I still don't know what it means. But I know that it's right. And when I sit down to write, I can sense when I've received something that is linked to it. I can't explain how I know that, but I do.

I understand that Rule, somehow. At least, what I think immediately is the idea of effortless effort, or the empty part of 'form and emptiness.' You want to make space for this spontaneous bottom-up experience of the Divine. I actually really, really like that phrase and it's giving me a lot to chews on.

I look forward to reading more about your experiences with living out your Rule. :)

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2019, 02:14:59 PM »
Heads up, this link goes back to the Order of Engaged Buddhists!

Fixed. Thank you for catching that!

I understand that Rule, somehow. At least, what I think immediately is the idea of effortless effort, or the empty part of 'form and emptiness.' You want to make space for this spontaneous bottom-up experience of the Divine. I actually really, really like that phrase and it's giving me a lot to chew on.

I look forward to reading more about your experiences with living out your Rule. :)

I really, really like the Abbey's Rule too, even though I also feel like I've barely begun to understand it! And yes, I'd say the paradox of "effortless effort" could be another way of getting at it. If I can let go of straining, "shoulds," and habituated effortful ways of engagement with the world, I might find a greater sense of ease and trust...and from that space, old embodied holding patterns I've acquired can gradually give way to Ways of Non-Contrivance. This teaches me that I don't need to fall back on my conditioned intellectual habits of "figuring out" or "contriving" ways to do things, because there are better and more intuitively driven ways for me to engage with the world if I can get out of my own way long enough to make room for them to emerge.

To create space for the emergence of Ways of Non-Contrivance is not the same thing as imposing these Ways upon myself or others.

Sometimes I frame my intention in developing a monastic practice through the Ways of Non-Contrivance as "learning how to be supported by the intelligence of the Earth," as opposed to "supporting myself."

*

Janet Munin

  • Feral Abbess
  • *****
  • 33
    • She/her
    • Feral Abbey
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2019, 09:57:41 AM »
I'm in the early stages of developing a Rule for myself, in conversation with my gods.

Similarly to Danica, for me the desire for Rule is a combination of structure, accountability, and clearing space in my life. I live alone and work full time, so while I don't have a relationship to potentially take time away from my spiritual practices, I also don't have anyone with whom to share the daily chores. (I'm working on spiritualizing them more, but I'm a long way from being able to hold that mindset even most of the time.)

I have always chafed at imposed rules, and I know that if I don't perceive a good reason for a rule I ignore it, so I'm building my Rule slowly and with room for revision. I look both at things I aspire to (morning devotions *every* day), and practices which I have found open space (at 7pm I put away any distracting pursuits and focus on my Work for at least 90 minutes). Odin wants me to do a rune draw every Wednesday and spend the next few days meditating on that rune. I'm working on these few right now, but expect to add more over time.

I haven't taken vows around any of these, and I don't know if I ever will, but I enjoy the feeling and experience of gradually building a structure which helps me deepen my practices.
Janet Munin

*

threadhawk

  • *
  • 6
    • they/them
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2019, 05:47:05 PM »
From what I've read from Christian monastic sources, Rules are usually an entire document rather than a sentence or two, while vows encapsulate the spirit of the Rules in a few words. I would consider myself sort of a postulant at this point, but I think the Clann Bhride touchstones (the nine do-my-best promises) would be an excellent start for forming a more expansive set of Rules.

*

Danica Swanson

  • CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) at Black Stone Abbey
  • *****
  • 117
  • Contemplative Norse polytheist
    • she/her
    • Black Stone Abbey
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2019, 08:30:15 PM »
From what I've read from Christian monastic sources, Rules are usually an entire document rather than a sentence or two, while vows encapsulate the spirit of the Rules in a few words.

Yes, as far as I know a Rule generally refers to an entire document. While the Rule we were given at Black Stone Abbey is currently just one sentence, I suspect it will eventually expand into a longer text as we work with it and learn more about what the Abbey "wants" us to do to bring it into its fullest form in the world.

I think the Clann Bhride touchstones (the nine do-my-best promises) would be an excellent start for forming a more expansive set of Rules.

I like the format of Clann Bhride's touchstones too, and I think the general idea of putting together a short, succinct list of values and aspirations that can shape a monastic Rule could be a good way to start for other polytheist-animist monastic Orders as well. 

*

James Miller

  • *
  • 17
    • he/him
    • Worship from the Hearth
Re: How and why do you follow your Rule?
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2019, 07:26:26 AM »
In my experience rules also differ by monastery (even if under the same large rule) and then to some degree by individual. I was a Zen Practice leader for some time (Silent Thunder Order) and my rule currently has quite a Zen influence. Mine borrows from the Orthodoxy Church and Zen groups. I tend to gravitate to the Orthodox as it differs for the Western forms in some basic tenets. More individualized- they don't have the concept of "original sin" that the west does and that makes a difference in many of the forms and rules. They are more about Theosis (union with God) than becoming pure or getting rid of some bad human nature or mortification). For them salvation is theosis. They are also not as organized by order and tend to reflect the land and situation on witch they find themselves (like the Zen folks).  If interested "The Arena" is a monastic manual  and "Way of the Ascetics" is another. The Rule of St Basil (Rule of the Basilians)  is an interesting monastic rule that was influential on the Benedictine model. I find those differences make it a bit more palatable and transferable than the western forms esp in reference to Rules.

I have also found the Clann Bhride's touchstones helpful. I also like the vows that Buddhists take - they take a few to start and add them as they progress.  I also like the paramitas https://dharmagatezen.org/six-paramitas/ or perfections. they are also understood more like a guide / do-my-best than a moral rule.

I know that many of the more established pagan groups have lists of virtues and such as well and I have been trying to think of my rule as practices on the path to those virtues.