Rules, rules, rules. They get a bad wrap for sure. In a society were freedom of expression and liberty trump common sense and morality it is easy to fall away from basic obedience. Prayer Rules, Exercise Rules, Dietary Rules and countless others make their mark on one’s life. They teach the Biblical concepts of obedience, determination, perseverance, stamina, etc. They cultivate the landscape overtime preparing us when turmoil strikes and often times ward off trouble at the onset.
Even a small rule is vital and better than no rule at all. For example in the most common banal sense, brushing one’s teeth every morning is the least we can do for oral hygiene and the overall health of our teeth gums and body. To really address care of our oral health, we should eat less sugary foods, brush morning and night and after every meal, floss and see a dentist every six months. But even quickly brushing once daily can ward off infection, cavities and poor hygiene.
A consistent prayer rule, though small will have an even greater effect as the need is vital to our spiritual, physical and social health. A prayer life is an imperative. The established rhythm found in the Church calendar is not dead rituals but provide the very certainty and assurances we need for training our mind, body and soul for what life brings. Like the training of an elite athlete we can’t always be pushing stressing the limits of our ability. On the flip side too much recovery too much comfort compromises the fitness and ability and slowly it slips away. There is a natural ebb and flow.
So for us mortals living outside the monastery walls let’s do the basics: attend Church with regularity, pray daily (even simple small prayer) and read Biblical text (don’t underestimate a verse or two) and established readings (just a quote). Try and watch movies which provoke moral questions not which attack the gate of our soul with salaciousness or obscenity. We need to be good stewards of our own spiritual and physical health we are the gate keeper.
Additional help is on the way through disciplining the body. Shutting down the impact of the senses by intentional focus to repetitive movements change the way we perceive the world muting distractions. Physical labor like running or even walking; exercise no matter how seemingly small will also affect one’s attitude and overall health. It calls the body into obedience. Likewise fasting can be handled in small doses like meat restrictions on Wed. and Fri. will have profound effects calling our attention to our pilgrimage through this life. It seems simple enough and yet many of us break the rule without paying any note to the possibility of its long term benefit. It prepares us for the greater fasts of the church each building on the foundation of the smaller.
Society secularizes the foundational cures and preventative measures with artificial instructions and structure. Try to eat less red meat, limit red meat to no more then four times weekly, reduce intake of cheeses and dairy are all commonly heard on the news purported by the American Medical Association (AMA). Then we have stress reducing techniques. We have all be told countless times that stress is a killer. Prayer is a great way to manage stress by controlling intrusive thoughts, anxiety, slowed breathing and downtime. Now we have the AMA and self help gurus’ encouraging meditation, yoga, and even the repetition of mantras (to the exclusion of the Jesus Prayer of course).
Obviously the recommendations by themselves are not at issue here as they do have some benefit. The central problem is the marginalization and outright dismissal of the instituted practices of the Church as being in some way inferior, or archaic, or indicative of superstition and outright distraction from the more ‘intellectual and rational and scientifically proven methods’. Of course science is discovering what the Church in all her wisdom as known for millennia. Additionally, they infuse their atheistic bias into their hypothesis which will never lend credence to the teachings of the church. Definitely not to religion unless some super advance agnostic type stumbles on some obscure far eastern polytheistic belief. That is at least perceived as harmless to the overall development of the intellectual gene pool.
So establish or more importantly adopt some rules and be transformed. Understand that after the initial enthusiasm there will be resistance then doubt but keep at it. The Church encourages all to come as we are but will show us how to discover our truer self.