Wednesday, April 27, 2005

On Refitting my Rule of Life

My life is pretty well balanced at present. I need to eat better, exercise more, take care of time, use money a bit better; but I am well placed to make a few changes that can make more differences. This all relates to rethinking and renewing my own rule of life; and I have been thinking about the head-heart-gut-groin connections lately: how to honour and balance between ideas, feelings, convictions, and desires. Here is some fairly rough-draft thinking in process.

There are four places to focus:

Head/Mind: how I see, articulate, and meet the world both inside and outside my head. Here are the ways I connect intellectually, with myself and with the others I meet in history and community: where I put the framework of ideas and images so that the world co-inheres, hangs together. I learned to do this first as an undergraduate in American Studies at UC Davis in the mid-seventies; then sharpened it up when I was at seminary and worked on a rule of life for the first time. It’s a good exercise: to have a coherent and articulate paradigm on what matters and how to live life - and to relate, sharpen, live with, these theories in daily life, so that the rubber meets the road.

Heart/Feelings: has to do with how I affectively connect, enjoy, love, relate and respect the “others” in the world: the people I am related to, live with, work for, deal with; avoid or enjoy. Animals, vegetables and minerals belong in the category; Thanks God for two cats I know well who keep me more human and lively. But this also is the place where I notice, relate, give thanks for weather, trees and flowers, the noisy world of insects and birds. Lately, driving the Eastern Freeway makes me gulp my breath with the amazing exhibits of geology in the place where I live. How much I learn and enjoy in living in Australia! But do I give thanks, enjoy, make love and do right by the world I am connected to? My relationship with my own body fits here as well the bodies of others, the corporate body, the body of believers ( and of belief) as well.

Gut/Convictions: how I stand up for what I believe is important in the area of ethics and values. How I treat my neighbour and live my life: issues of honesty, justice, community. Robert Egan SJ, who was my spiritual director for much of the 1980s and 90s, used to say, “How uncomfortable do you let yourself be for the new creation?” How eagerly do you work for the children of God to be revealed? How wakeful am I to see good works done, people treated well, helped to heal and grow? How much do I put my energy, time, money and life on that line?

Groin/Desire. Not just looking for somewhere to plant individual seeds for future harvest, and not just the erotic need to connect physically - though all that is an important part of it - but honouring the whole constellation of that in me (and others) that longs for connection, conversion, growth and community in the deepest desires of life. This is the place where dreams, poetry, radical yens can turn us around and send us towards a new way and a new set of relationships. It can often be found in the realm of the artistic, creative, symbolic, like music that sets us singing and dancing – it doesn’t have to say much at all, but the images and ideas that make our whole lives come together in a new way.

Writing this out, I see how the inter-relationship between the parts is integral, they cannot be separated, although they each have some distinct areas that are helpful to look at individually. Once again it is the balancing of the whole, bigger than belief, constellation called life. Like Zen’s finger pointing at the moon. Not the thing itself; but helpful.

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