The Contemplative Network practices a rhythm of spiritual life based around contemplative prayer, a love of scripture, sacrificial service and active hospitality.
We adopt such a rhythm out of commitment to live authentically as followers of Jesus. Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, and more recently Thomas Merton have had cause to speak of the false self. This is like a shadow attached to each of us. Its motivation is emotional happiness; its drivers are personal power and control, personal safety and security, and personal esteem and affection. So often one of these three unconsciously informs our conscious decisions and we live out of a false identity. Only we mistake it for our authentic self! So it is no surprise that we end up in an arid desert of rigorous rules or consumed with an arrogant superiority. Some see such a rhythm as headed towards legalism or alternatively spiritual pride and elitism. Of course both pose dangers. This danger doesn't lie in the rhythms themselves but in our common fractured humanity.
The purpose of a rhythm of life, what the ancients called a Rule of Life, is to enable each of us to find and realise God’s will for our life. Such a rhythm does not lead to special ‘spiritual‘ experiences or even guarantee a productive ‘spiritual’ life! It is merely a simple tool to help and support us in journeying deeper into the heart of God. It serves us, not the other way around.
Such rhythms are often discovered when we reach a place where we experience a deep hunger for some divine reality. Reading those who have preceded us in faithfully and obediently pursuing God, we can be in no doubt that the journey, or perhaps pilgrimage, will involve effort, meet with setbacks, and present challenges. The words of Jesus are great encouragement to us,
‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to love his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it’. Matthew 16:24-5
‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ John 12:24
The word rhythm comes from the Latin word 'regula' (rule). This meant 'guidepost' or 'railing,' something to hang on to in the dark, something that leads in a given direction, something that points out the road, something that gives us support as we climb. The Contemplative Network’s Rhythm of Life is more wisdom than law. It is not a list of directives!
We all follow some Rule or Rhythm by which we live, consciously or otherwise. This consists of the little things we do that shape our life's routines. We seek to live by some kind of collected wisdom. Our Rhythm is no more than what we determine is most important to our meaningful existence. It is a varied collection of things that matter to us; for example, I must be faithful to my friends, I must exercise, I must save money, I need to be alone. This makes our life worthwhile. It indicates what we value most. It is the glue holding our life together, how we make choices on spending time and resources, choices about how we will give of our self.
Within each of us resides a living flame of love, a secret chamber where all power and peace has made its home. As followers of Jesus, we have come to know this secret place to contain the very Life of God, the heart of our existence; however, in daily experience we often lack the awareness of this life, and Whom it is that we carry in these clay vessels. The purpose of a Rhythm is an attempt to discover how that living flame of love might burn brighter in the world around us. Committing to a Rhythm helps to plough the soil of our heart in which the seeds of Formation germinate, grow and blossom in abundance.