By William Mackis.
If there is a place for disorder and creative chaos in our world, there is also a danger of such disorderliness going too far, and there are times when phrases such as, “honoring my creative spirit” become nothing more than double-speak for, “doing whatever I want.” In truth, creativity, like other areas of life, benefit from structure. Neither Bach nor Titian were harmed by learning the generally accepted rules of their respective arts.
As in art, so in life. If we, as a society, have succeeded in freeing the individual from outworn and dogmatic regulations regarding how one is to conduct oneself, it is also true that we have provided little guidance as to what one is to do with the vacuum left behind. “No rules,” may be a pretty slogan, but rarely results in anything attractive when followed as advice. Put simply, humans living without rules do not magically create paradises in which to live.
When speaking of rules, we can draw a distinction between external and internal types. External rules are those imposed upon us by others; governments, religious leaders, employers, parents, etc. These external rules are usually clear and codified, and there are known penalties for breaking such rules; one may be arrested for violating government laws, one may be excommunicated for violating the laws of the church, and so on.
Internal rules are those we impose upon ourselves as a sort of personal code. Naturally, there is some overlap between internal and external rules. For instance, not taking the life of another may be part of one’s internal code, but would also conform with the teachings of one’s religion and would be in keeping with the laws of the government under which one resides. Perhaps for that reason, some of us do not give a lot of thought to our own personal code, and few take the time to write down and review our internal rules. The practice, though, has benefits.
The good news is that such an endeavor does not have to be an exhaustive one. If you already accept that you will follow the laws of the government under which you reside – usually a good idea – then you do not have to replicate your local statutory code. Similarly, if you already follow the precepts of a certain religion, such as the Ten Commandments or the Three Pure Precepts, then those rules can also be adopted wholesale as part of your internal code. All that remains to be done is to put together a short list of certain rules important to you, in terms of what you will do (or will not do), as well as how you will do certain things.
An example is in order. Below are my personal ten rules for life, which you are free to adopt as your own, disregard entirely, or use as a starting point for developing a list of your internal rules.
In addition to obeying the laws of the government under which I reside (so long as they do not conflict with my moral beliefs) and following the Ten Commandments and the Three Pure Precepts, I follow these internal rules:
Rule One – I love, honor and respect myself each day, knowing that this is necessary in order for me to love, honor and respect God and also love, honor and respect the divine in others and in all creation.
Rule Two – I live in the present. I recognize that the past is nothing more than a memory which does not define me, and that my idea of the future is nothing more than a mental construct of one possibility out of many that could occur.
Rule Three – I live simply. I do not buy what I do not need, I do not hold onto what I no longer need, and I am happy to be unhampered by unnecessary belongings.
Rule Four – I think about what I am doing. My actions are undertaken mindfully, and with an awareness of how such actions impact myself, others and the environment.
Rule Five – I follow a daily routine. To the extent possible, I rise at the same time each day, pray and meditate at the same time each day, take my meals at the same time each day, and retire at the same time each day.
Rule Six – I live fearlessly. Mindful of the impact of my actions, I do not fret or worry. Doing what I believe to be right, I am unconcerned about the opinions of others.
Rule Seven – I go in one direction. I am persistent, staying the course and overcoming obstacles as they arise.
Rule Eight – I tackle tasks individually. Rather than seeking to do many things at once, I do one thing at a time. When I am washing dishes, I am washing dishes. When I am reading a book, I am reading a book.
Rule Nine – I do that work which is before me. Whatever my present work is, I perform it to the best of my ability each day, never feeling that any task is beneath me. I believe that when one does one’s best in the present, the future will take care of itself.
Rule Ten – I live cleanly. I keep my physical body clean and healthy, eating healthy food in moderation and exercising regularly. I keep my surroundings neat and clean.
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