Monk in the World guest post: Mary Elyn Bahlert

This week in our Monk in the World guest post series we have a lovely reflection from fellow monk Mary Elyn Bahlert. Read on for her wisdom:

'As if the sorrows of this world could overwhelm me
now that I realize what we are.
I wish everyone could realize this.
But there is no way of telling people
they are all actually walking around shining
like the brightest sun.'

—Thomas Merton

The world was always there for me – gurgling with joy, shining like the brightest sun, fragrant-full, slippery and hard-edged, colorful beyond belief – and there I was, walking around with my head in the clouds, my eyes toward the ground.

I have a good mind, but living from that linear place didn’t work for me forever, thank God.  My best thinking brought me straight into a long and deep depression almost 20 years ago.  Life has not been the same, since.  Today, I am grateful to be alive, and every day offers new delicacies for my delight.  The gift of being a Monk in the World is that I get to enjoy what has been there all along, and I get to enjoy it as if it is new, as if it has never been witnessed before.

Many years ago, I learned to pray after reading The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life,  by Hannah Whitall Smith (of the American Holiness Movement).  That was the beginning of a long, rich, and growing walk as a Monk in the World.  I studied theology and became a preacher, a way to offer to others the gift of knowing we are not separate, we are not alone.  I found strength and power and growing self acceptance through prayer.  After all this time, I still believe we can change the world by praying, by praying for ourselves, which grows us in Love.

I’m as inter-faith as I am Christian, knowing that the Light, the Universe, the Christ, the Mother, the Holy One, El, is in us all.  Or maybe we are swimming in this Holy One.  I struggle to find words for this life, this living.

Mary Elyn Bahlert 1I learned to meditate over 4 years ago, and this practice has deepened me.  My greatest joy in meditation is that I find myself more present in the moment, moment by moment, day by day.  I see things I did not see before.  I delight in the branches of the birch tree outside my city window; I watch the seasons and winds bring change to that tree. I say:  “I love that tree, and that tree loves me.”  It’s true.

When I meditate, I find the boundaries between myself and the world dissolving.  I feel the sound of a neighbor’s voice, the boom of a truck on the street, the harsh call of a jay, the wind in the eucalyptus trees, as much as I hear them.  I suppose this is being one with all of creation.  For me, it is not as clear as that, but I am beginning to understand, to know.

As a preacher, I also served a community of faith.  My work as a Monk in the world was very extraverted for this introvert!  I had the privilege of being called to be with others in their times of deepest need – learning a diagnosis that would take a beloved woman’s life, baptizing an infant who would not go home from the hospital, as she lay in the arms of her teenage mother, rushing into a hospital emergency room only minutes before the death of a vibrant woman in her 50’s, as her partner lay sobbing on top of her; I’ve sat in silence and watched the minutes tick away, waiting for surgery to end, with a frightened wife.  I’ve answered the door to find a man who has not slept in days, smelling of the street, who tells me his long and convoluted story, only to ask me for a few dollars for food.  I’ve heard many of those stories, and even though I do not understand, I have prayed with each one, knowing I have not have ever known that particular desperation.  I’ve witnessed the suffering of the mentally ill who come to Church, hoping for something; I am blessed by my own illness to be able to see the suffering person, trapped by their mind, underneath what we call “stigma.”

After 30 years of serving as “Pastor,” I am only grateful.  For whatever service I have been able to give, I am grateful.  The gift has been mine, truly, truly.

All of this is to say that I am still looking to see the light Thomas Merton, one of my spiritual mentors, must surely have seen.  The light is so ordinary, I’m sure.  I know with a keen knowing that we are all light, that we are swimming in this light.  I’ve felt it for a moment when I meditate, I’ve seen it shimmer – just a glimpse! – in the green, heart-shaped leaves of my beloved birch tree.

I am a mendicant now, begging for alms.  I am a mendicant, raising my eyes to look into the eyes of whoever crosses my path.  I am a mendicant, wanting to trust each day’s needs and gifts to the Holy One.  I am a mendicant, looking for Light.


Mary Elyn BahlertMary Elyn Bahlert is a poet, speaker, retreat leader, writer and lover of beauty in all forms. She has retired from active ministry in the United Methodist Church and has a coaching and spiritual direction practice in Berkeley, CA. Mary Elyn and her husband are trans-planted Midwesterners who live in a 100 year old Craftsman home on a hill in Oakland, CA.

Click here to read all the guest posts in the Monk in the World series>>

Miriam on the Shores (a love note from your online Abbess)

Miriam on the Shores

“All the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” –Exodus 15:20

SONY DSCHer skirt hangs heavy with seawater,
staccato breath after running from death.
She can still feel soldiers reaching out
to seize her blouse before the waves caved in.

Collapsing on dry earth for a moment,
the impulse to dance begins in her feet,
spreads slowly upwards like a flock of starlings
rising toward a dawn-lit sky.

So many dances in secret before,
night-stolen movements after exhausting days
heaving stones and harvest.
She finds herself now upright, weeping.

To stand here, face to the sun,
feeling an irrepressible desire to
spin
. . . tumble
sashay
. . . turn
shake
. . . twirl

Savoring freedom with her limbs
as if it were a physical presence
like a fierce wind or the breath of labor,
shackles slipping off slowly.

She couldn’t help but dance.
The story says she picked up her tambourine,
which means she had packed it among the essentials.
In fleeing for her life, she knew this would be necessary.

How many of us still live enslaved in Egypt, beholden and weary?
Do you have the courage to run across the sea parted just now for you?
Will you carry your musical instrument and dance right there on the shores?

—Christine Valters Paintner

Dearest monks and artists,

I offer you the newest poem for the dancing monk series, an honoring of the internal movement from slavery to freedom we are each called to make. Joy is the natural response to such a journey.

Life has been full here as John and I prepare for our renewal of vows ceremony this coming Sunday. Our 20th anniversary was officially in early September, but we have this ritual time planned to coincide with the arrival of several friends from the States for our next pilgrimage. A deep bow of gratitude to everyone who sent us ribbons! They are tied to our pilgrim staffs and are like wondrous colorful streamers of celebration from our beloved community. Thank you truly!  Please send some prayers for decent weather as our ritual will be outdoors on the island of Inismor at one of the sacred monastic ruins we love so much. Of course, in the west of Ireland, the weather is always unpredictable, and part of the wildness we have fallen so much in love with here.

Next Tuesday our pilgrimage begins, and as always we are so excited to welcome a new group and share the beauty and power of this place. We feel such an incredible privilege to be entrusted with inviting pilgrims across the threshold into the liminal time of this journey and the thinness of this place. Following the pilgrimage Betsey and I head to England to teach our Awakening the Creative Spirit intensive. Then comes a long period of being at home during the stillness of winter. I have so relished the opportunity to be with dancing monks in so many capacities this fall. My heart continues to be drawn toward ways to support local connections and as space opens up again for me I will continue to ponder how we might do that.

I have been feeling much kinship with Miriam, who is called Prophet in the scriptures. To imagine this arduous journey she made and to enter in viscerally to her embodied overflow of joy at tasting freedom, calls me to my own enslaved and wounded places. This fall has revealed many new layers of patterns I am called to release in service of my own growing freedom and it makes me want to dance with abandon.

How about you, dear dancing monks? What are your own places of confinement from which you might finally break free?

For some additional reflection from me, here is one of my past columns at Patheos onLuminous Wisdom of the Night:

The darkness embraces everything, / It lets me imagine  / a great presence stirring beside me. / I believe in the night.  
—Rainer Maria Rilke in Book of Hours

The Christian feasts of All Saints and All Souls on November 1st and 2nd honor the profound legacy of wisdom our ancestors have left to us and continue to offer. In some denominations, we celebrate and honor the dead for the whole month of November. In the Northern hemisphere the world is entering the dark half of the year. The ancient Celtic people believed this time was a thin space, where heaven and earth whispered to one another across a luminous veil and those who walked before us are especially accessible in these late autumn days. These moments on the great turning of the year’s wheel offer us invitations and gifts for our spiritual journeys.

Click here to continue reading>>

If you want some guidance and reflection through the month of November, the season of remembrance, our Honoring Saints and Ancestors retreat is available online as a self-study program here.

And if you have been considering joining me in the Northwest for our Coming Home to the Body retreat April 17-21, 2015, there are only 4 spaces left in double rooms. I would love to dance with you in person and this is my only planned teaching trip to the U.S. for 2015. Coming together to be with other dancing monks live is always a tremendous gift.

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
www.AbbeyoftheArts.com

Photo right: Miriam Dancing Monk Icon by Marcy Hall (prints available here)

Invitation to Poetry: Letting Go

Quilt

Welcome to Poetry Party #80!

I select an image (the photo above is by Alicia Dykstra) and suggest a theme/title and invite you to respond with your own poem. Scroll down and add it in the comments section below or join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group and post there.

Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog (if you have one), Facebook, or Twitter, and encourage others to come join the party!  (If you repost the photo, please make sure to include the credit link below it and link back to this post inviting others to join us).

We began this month with a  Community Lectio Divina practice with a story from the Gospel of Luke and followed up with our Photo Party on the theme of "letting go." (You are most welcome to still participate).  We continue this theme in our Poetry Party this month. What are you continuing to discover about letting go?

You can post your poem either in the comment section below*or you can join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group (with more than 2400 members!) and post there.

*Note: If this is your first time posting, or includes a link, your comment will need to be moderated before it appears. This is to prevent spam and should be approved within 24 hours.

Monk in the World guest post: Shirley Cunningham

This week in our Monk in the World guest post series we have a beautiful reflection from fellow monk Shirley Cunningham on following the creative spirit. Read on for her wisdom:

My calling in this world these days is to lean into the Creative Spirit and invite others to do the same.

I knew the call long ago but wasn’t able to name it with clarity. It started with writing. Over the years, I’d written daily filling dozens of notebooks, reflecting on my life and the meaning of events, feelings, and relationships, my struggles, joys and confusions. Gradually, my closet shelves were lined with dusty journals and childhood scrapbooks of poems and stories written on yellowing pages. I was always seeking–as Augustine said–my heart restless to discover the Beauty, Ever Ancient and Ever New.

Then when struck with breast cancer, I had a dream. It was brief and to the point. Jesus appeared. He asked only one question: “Who are you besides who you are?”

I answer, “A writer.” I am mildly disappointed. I want the answer to be “An artist,” but I say to myself, You’ve never dreamed of Jesus before. This is important. You have work to do.

I hadn’t planned it but within days, I began writing my entire life story with the urgency of a river torrentially carrying away whatever was loose in its path. This wasn’t like my old journaling! I didn’t understand, but I was resolved to keep going even though I didn’t know where the fast current was taking me.

This mystifying creative burst surprised me again and again. There were more dreams.  The mysterious and beautiful Margolis appeared, tall, dark eyes shining, wearing colorful, exotic clothes. She told me my life was changing, that I was beginning something new. I knew she was talking about my work, the writing and what was emerging — my art. Another mystery.

I’d been splattering the walls of my small, windowless ironing room for the year of my recovery from cancer. All I knew was that I was painting my way through some unknown inner world. Then, the day I learned my only son was ready to move away from home, another turning point. Of the many roles I’d lived, motherhood was especially precious and now, that role was changing.

To forestall my blues, I went into action. I now had the luxury of a spacious room with a window, Kelly’s room. I had my new art studio. I sorted the bottles of paint lined up on my desk…teal, lavender, bright pink, dark pine. I couldn’t wait to start. Hurriedly filling my water jar, I settled myself before a large sheet of watercolor paper ready for the paint to come to life. Then, suddenly, I didn’t feel like painting. Surprised and confused, I sat in my silent art room, gazing at the blank paper before me.

Then something came to me: Portraits. Do pencil portraits.

No,” I argued with the quiet thought. “I know how to do that. I can control the pencil. I want to paint. Paint gets out of control. I want to break out of fetters.”

Never mind,  the urging continued. Just draw. Do Grandma Cunningham.

The only photo I had of Florence Cunningham was Mom and Dad’s wedding picture, both sets of parents flanking the bridal couple. I loved that shot of Grandma wearing the large, lacy hat that matched her dark elegant dress. I knew exactly where to find it.

Shirley Cunningham 1The drawing that emerged amazed me. Although I hadn’t drawn a portrait in years and thought I was rusty, this vibrant drawing was possibly the best of my entire life. It spoke to me of the many drawings I’d proudly offered as a child for her unfailing praise… so long ago.

All these years that little girl who loved to draw had been locked away, neglected and languishing. Why had I allowed work to push her out of my life? As I sat studying the drawing of my dear grandmother, gratitude washed over my heartache. The little girl who loved to draw was still alive, after all. Grandma had set her free.

The dreams, the archetypal Margolis, the powerful presence of a loved ancestor….from my present vantage point, it’s easy to see why my paintings were filled with symbolism, goddesses. Then Spirit spoke to me again, this time through a painting teacher I greatly admired. “You can do anything you want.” When I heard those words, something happened inside of me. A wall fell down I hadn’t known was there. Somehow I knew then that I was free in a new way — to embrace the growing creative mystery in my life.

Shirley Cunningham 2As a working psychotherapist and spiritual director, I have long known the healing power of creativity from my own experience with writing and painting. I began to use them not only as my spiritual practices, but also with my clients. Someone once gave me a gift with the words, “I feel that every gift I have ever received is given to me for someone else.”

Shirley Cunningham 3And so, daily I learn to listen more and more to what stirs inside. At first, I often painted in a style focused on archetypes and symbols. Recently, I have trusted the exploration of abstract forms that seem to arrive of their own volition in colorful alcohol inks.  As my style changes and shifts, I sense is dynamism of the Creative Spirit which is with me at every turn.

What have I learned on this sacred journey? To take a chance. To surrender my own resistance. To trust the intuition that I am being led. To try not to judge myself, my art or my experience, but instead to simply engage in the process. To try to be true to my highest self and the guidance that is available in the silence of my art room. To continue to grow and be open as I respond to the Creative Spirit within and around me, gently releasing the observations of others, without worry. To say what is mine and remember that we all have a calling and a grounding in the Great Spirit. The seeker knows what is hers to do.


Shirley Cunningham headshotShirley Cunningham is a psychotherapist, spiritual director, author and artist living in Phoenix, Az. She is the mother of one adult son and grandmother to two girls and a boy, all under age 12. Her spiritual practices are writing, painting and going on pilgrimages—and has no plans to retire from any of it! www.artfromheartnsoul.net

Click here to read all the guest posts in the Monk in the World series>>

Landscape as Sacred Text (a love note from your online Abbess)

st patrick hike web

Dearest monks and artists,

It was such a joy to return from our trip to the States last week and feel as though we were coming home to Galway. We recently made the decision to have our small storage unit, which has been waiting for us in Seattle ever since we moved two and a half years ago, shipped over to us. It has mostly boxes of family photos and two pieces of furniture from my father's side of the family, as well as an oil painting of my grandmother. I have missed these family connections. Making this decision felt like another stage in our commitment to this place, putting down an anchor so to speak.

John and I have been exploring Connemara and the Burren this week. Connemara is the wild and beautiful landscape just to the west of Galway, with granite and quartz mountains and gorgeous sea coast. The Burren is just south of us and is an ancient limestone landscape full of raw and rugged beauty as well. We keep falling more in love with Ireland and her treasures. The land is saturated with monastic ruins which still hold the wisdom and prayers offered in these places, not just for the hundreds of years of Christianity, but likely thousands of years of spiritual tradition. Many of the monasteries are located in places considered holy for as long as people inhabited this place.

As we hike, ponder, and stay present to the gifts of stone and wind, sea and sunlight, rain and bog, I keep discovering the way landscape itself can become a sacred text. John and I practice lectio divina most mornings. We currently are savoring the Psalms, moving through 2-3 verses at a time on a long slow pilgrimage through those ancient songs sung by monks through the ages. And as I walk over granite and limestone I pay attention to what shimmers around me, what is calling to my heart in this holy place.

Yesterday, as we hiked up to Maumeen Pass in Connemara, where there is a chapel and two holy wells dedicated to St. Patrick, as he was said to have traveled to that place during his life, I kept finding heart-shaped stones along my path. My pockets grew full and heavy as my heart beat loudly from the steep ascent. It was invigorating to feel myself fully alive. The air was cold and the sky blue with large white clouds floating by.

We arrived up at the open altar and I laid my stones there, an offering of gratitude. I felt connected to the thousands of prayers that have been infused into this place. There are three annual pilgrimages there – one on the feast of St Patrick, one on Good Friday, and one on the first Sunday of August – in addition to all of the people who make their way up the side of the mountain on a daily basis to feel a connection with other pilgrims and with the great cloud of witnesses.

I left my stones there, taking only the smallest heart with me as a reminder. There are all kinds of mementos left at the chapel and wells, symbols of longing, talismans of hope.

As I received the shimmering gift of the holy presence of this place, I found myself overwhelmed by gratitude for our life here. My invitation was to continue walking with great reverence in this place, to stay open to all of the surprises Ireland keeps offering, and to continue inviting others to join us here.

We walked back down the mountain mostly in silence. After our hike we drove over to the village of Leenaun, which sits on the Killary Fjord, where we soaked in their seaweed baths, feeling ourselves held and soothed by the gifts of the sea.

Mountains and seawater, the elements are alive here. They call us to be present to nature as sanctuary and place of revelation. The landscape is a holy book.

heart stones__1413351630_89.100.5.34

Is there a landscape holy to you which might speak as a sacred text to your life right now? What invitation shimmers forth?

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
www.AbbeyoftheArts.com

Photo: St. Patrick holy site, Maumeen Pass in Connemara, Ireland


Advent Online Retreat and Subscription Series (2014-2015)

Online-Classes_Birthing-the-Holy

Please consider supporting the Abbey by committing to the whole series of online retreats this coming season. We have been hard at work since late spring working on these offerings and are very excited!  The Advent/Christmas and Epiphany/ New Year retreats focus on one of the figures from the dancing monk icon series each week as source of wisdom and as archetype for our inner journey. Included will be reflections from Christine and John Valters Paintner on the theme, we have songs created just for each week by some of our favorite Abbey musicians (including Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and David and Laura Ash), Betsey Beckman will be inviting you into gesture prayers with these songs, Kayce Hughlett will be offering invitations to the process of SoulCollage, and Tonja Reichley will be approaching our archetypes through the gifts of herbalism.

The total cost for all four retreats if registering separately would be $640, but if you register for the series the cost is $575, a $65 savings overall and you can also choose one of our self-study retreats as a free gift (any from this page except for Women on the Threshold).

Registration is also available for any of the individual online retreats.

Stop by the Advent online retreat to read more and register>>


All 12 Dancing Monk Icons now available as prints! (order by October 31st for Christmas)

Amma Syncletica__1412959237_89.100.5.34I am so delighted to announce that Marcy Hall of Rabbit Room Arts has made all 12 of the dancing monk icons available to order as prints. The prints are 5.5 x 10 inches and the mat is 11×14.

The dancing monk series includes: Benedict of Nursia, Hildegard of Bingen, Brigid of Kildare, Brendan the Navigator, Francis of Assisi, Mary, King David, Prophet Miriam, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Amma Syncletica.

Discounts on multiple prints and part of the proceeds goes to support the Earth Monastery Project.

If you place your order by October 31, 2014, the prints will be made up in November and shipped out before U.S. Thanksgiving in November for delivery by Christmas.

Please be patient after placing your order. Marcy works with a local printer she knows so the process takes time to make sure the prints are looking beautiful for you.

To find out more and see all of the prints click here>>

Invitation to Photography: Letting Go

Welcome to this month's Abbey Photo Party!

button-photographyselect a theme and invite you to respond with images.

We began this month with a Community Lectio Divina practice with our reflection on letting go from the story in the Gospel of Luke.

I invite you for this month's Photo Party to hold these words in your heart as you go out in the world to receive images in response. As you walk be ready to see what is revealed to you as a visual expression of your prayer.

You can share images you already have which illuminate the theme, but I encourage you also to go for a walk with the theme in mind and see what you discover.

You are also welcome to post photos of any other art you create inspired by the theme.  See what stirs your imagination!

How to participate:

You can post your photo either in the comment section below* (there is now an option to upload a file with your comment – your file size must be smaller than 1MB – you canresize your image for free here – choose the "small size" option and a maximum width of 500).

You can also join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group and post there. Feel free to share a few words about the process of receiving this image and how it speaks of the harvest for you.

*Note: If this is your first time posting, or includes a link, your comment will need to be moderated before it appears. This is to prevent spam and should be approved within 24 hours.

New Dancing Monk Icons (a love note from your online Abbess)

Amma Syncletica__1412959237_89.100.5.34Dearest monks and artists,

I am just back in Ireland now after almost three weeks traveling in the U.S. for teaching and visiting family. It was a magical time away. I led two retreats – the Sacred Rhythms Writing and Movement Retreat in Cape May, NJ where 18 amazing dancing monks joined to dive deep into the creative well together. Then came a few days of rest and renewal in Maine visiting my aunt and her husband which was a the perfect time of play and exploration. And finally came the Exploring Archetypes through Expressive Arts Retreat in Reading, PA with my dear friend and teaching partner Kayce Hughlett and another fabulous 16 dancing monks. The trip was everything I hoped for and more. I am basking in the generosity of life and the incredible beauty of this community.

Stepping into new contexts can help us to awaken to new perspectives, one of the many gifts of travel. I found myself broken open many times over the course of this trip. On the last morning of the first retreat, one of our participants asked me over breakfast: "What do you need? What does the Abbey need to thrive and flourish and expand into this next season?" Such a simple question really, and so full of love and grace. I felt this sudden rush of energy in response at receiving her question. "Admin support" was my immediate response and I could feel a physical release and softening in that moment of imagining what it would be like to let go of some of that responsibility.

I love the ways the Abbey is expanding, and admin work, which I have always done out of love and service, easily demands more than half of my time to keep up with emails, newsletters, blog posts, website updates, Facebook, registrations, finances, and much more.

My creative visionary heart keeps expanding, and over the course of my trip I received so many suggestions for rich and beautiful possibilities, other things the Abbey could offer to support its community better. So many seeds planted.

It is an incredible privilege to do this work in service of something much bigger than myself, a vision of how we can be in the world as contemplative and creative presences, bringing depth, meaning, and joy to our own lives and those we touch.

It is also an incredible privilege to support ourselves financially with this work, and we are at the point of just making ends meet with no surplus to cover illness, vacation, or retirement. So the thought of admin support often feels like an unaffordable luxury. Yet I am aware of sometimes feeling stretched a little too thin by so much to tend to and my work in the world is in part to witness to a way of being that is more at ease, less productive. And then there is the freedom I experienced in response to the question asked of me. My body never lies.

I spent much of the rest of the trip pondering this question and how to make a shift in my own work patterns, in what could be passed along to others, ways to find the resources to do this. And there were some moments of magic where some of the resources appeared as a way of encouraging me on. Sometimes we have to just step into the unknowing and feel the risk of doing something we know is in service to something bigger. I have definitely learned a thing or two over the years about the magic of stepping into my dreams.

We are opening registration for the series of online retreats being offered at the Abbey this coming season, starting with Advent/Christmas, followed byEpiphany/New Year's, then Lent, and finally a Scripture course over the Easter season (see below for more details). For the first time we are offering a series subscription. If you are able to make a time and financial commitment to the Abbey through signing up for all four online retreats, we would be deeply grateful to you. In return you receive a discount on the overall price as well as a free self-study retreat (may I suggest Honoring Saints and Ancestors, which could guide you through  November which is the month of remembrance).

This will also help us in gathering some additional resources now to be able to get the extra admin support we need for the Abbey to continue growing and thriving. We would also love to offer more resources for connecting locally, and so admin help will go a long way to make that a reality as well.

For those of you for whom participation in an online program is a financial stretch, please know we are still committed to offering you free and low-cost resources (see the section at the bottom of the newsletter) as well as some partial scholarships where we can.

My guiding word this summer was "surplus" because I came to see sustainability in this work as not quite enough to allow for full thriving and expansion in the spirit of generous hospitality and abundance we like to offer here. I am daily in awe over how the Spirit has worked through this community over the last several years, from the humble beginnings of a blog to a global community with thousands of members where so many hungry to connect with the inner monk and artist can find kindred souls.

Many more dreams longing to be birthed, this is the season of harvest in the northern hemisphere, as well as the season of releasing and stripping away.  Amma Syncletica, one of the desert mothers (pictured above in our newest dancing monk icon), offers wise reminders about always returning to what is most essential and asking what can be let go. These are not just physical items (although that can be very freeing as well) but also thoughts and beliefs that keep us confined. I am learning this wisdom in new ways this autumn and am ready to release some things to make more room for the bountiful harvest. Our community theme this month is on autumn's call to simplicity and we have a new Invitation to Lectio Divina practice posted.

What is autumn calling you to release to make room for something bigger? (And for our southern hemisphere dancing monks, what is spring calling forth from you in this season?)

This work grows through your support. We do very little advertising as word of mouth is the best way to welcome others in. Please consider sharing your love of the Abbey with others by forwarding this email or the link to our website.

At the heart of all this is God the Great Artist at work, the One who shimmers forth in silence, the presence unfolding in our midst this very moment, the Source who gathers us together in shared grief and joy.

I am only planning one teaching trip to the U.S. in 2015 for the Coming Home to the Body retreat April 17-21, 2015 (and Awakening the Creative Spirit which is full). Consider joining me in the beautiful Northwest to give yourself the gift of time away in a community of kindred souls.

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
www.AbbeyoftheArts.com

Photo: Amma Syncletica (desert mother) dancing monk icon by artist Marcy Hall


Community Online Retreats Subscription Series (2014-2015)

Please consider supporting the Abbey by committing to the whole series of online retreats this coming season. We have been hard at work since late spring working on these offerings and are very excited!  The Advent/Christmas and Epiphany/ New Year retreats focus on one of the figures from the dancing monk icon series each week as source of wisdom and as archetype for our inner journey. Included will be reflections from Christine and John Valters Paintner on the theme, we have songs created just for each week by some of our favorite Abbey musicians (including Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and David and Laura Ash), Betsey Beckman will be inviting you into gesture prayers with these songs, Kayce Hughlett will be offering invitations to the process of SoulCollage, and Tonja Reichley will be approaching our archetypes through the gifts of herbalism.

The total cost for all four retreats if registering separately would be $640, but if you register for the series the cost is $575, a $65 savings overall and you can also choose one of our self-study retreats as a free gift (any from this page except for Women on the Threshold).

Registration is also available for any of the individual online retreats.

Stop by the Advent online retreat to read more and register>>


All 12 Dancing Monk Icons now available as prints! (order by October 31st for Christmas)

I am so delighted to announce that Marcy Hall of Rabbit Room Arts has made all 12 of the dancing monk icons available to order as prints. The prints are 5.5 x 10 inches and the mat is 11×14.

The dancing monk series includes: Benedict of Nursia, Hildegard of Bingen, Brigid of Kildare, Brendan the Navigator, Francis of Assisi, Mary, King David, Prophet Miriam, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Amma Syncletica.

Discounts on multiple prints and part of the proceeds goes to support the Earth Monastery Project.

If you place your order by October 31, 2014, the prints will be made up in November and shipped out before U.S. Thanksgiving in November for delivery by Christmas.

Please be patient after placing your order. Marcy works with a local printer she knows so the process takes time to make sure the prints are looking beautiful for you.

To find out more and see all of the prints click here>>

Monk in the World guest post: Trent Tanaro

This week in our Monk in the World guest post series we have a reflection from fellow monk Trent Tanaro. Read on for his wisdom about the movements of his monastic journey:

It is an honor to share the journey with you in this guest post. We are all on a journey of some sort.  Our paths are very diverse in nature; no path is identical to the other, yet we share experiences in so many ways. The ability to share our experiences with others regardless of our ‘type’ of path is a blessing. When we learn to look at the paths of others with love and appreciation, we grow closer as a society. Sharing the journey is essential to life and its many seasons.

The expression of my particular journey is one of many movements. These movements have occurred over the expanse of many years. They are made up of many twists and turns, ups and downs, which have shaped me into who I am today.  I have learned how to process these many movements over the years. There are some various practices that have been tools for me in the midst of the journey.  Some of them I have weeded out and some I have tended to and watched them flourish into my daily life.

I would like to share a few of them with you in this moment of sharing the journey. These have taken years to develop and have been tried through failure, beginning again, success, joy, sadness, grief, life, death, darkness, light, and many other rhythms of life. These three have stood the test of time and fire. They have proved to be a fabric of my being on a daily basis. The strength that comes from Christ through these daily practices is what has carried me through the seasons.

Silence

 “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”  (Psalm 62:1, NRSV)

 The thought of silence used to create great amounts of fear within me. I struggled with anxiety and depression in my early adult years. The thought of being in silence and alone was horror to me. I began to practice moments of silence in my day when I finally faced the fear and overcame it.  It took facing the fear repeatedly at night, that seemed to be when I had no choice but to face it, that I began to see its value.  God began to show up or is it that I began to actually listen instead of begging God to take it away? Silence became the very thing that I needed in order to move forward from the inner struggles. The very thing that I begged for peace from became one of the life sources for my walk with God.

Silence is now a part of my life and my daily routine. Silence is nothing to be afraid of, walk into it and you will see.  It is still difficult to explain, it is almost as if my fear of silence was triggering my inner problems. The inner struggles want a way out; they often find their way out by other means. Sometimes they are expressed in negative ways toward ourselves and those we care about. Silence is a healthy path for our personal struggles to travel through. God comes in when we allow him to work and fills the void with his relentless love and mercy.

Sacred Reading

As I have traveled through the rugged terrain of life here on earth, another valuable practice for my journey has been sacred reading. The reading of scripture is at the top of this one. The value and nutrition that comes from my daily readings of Psalms and the Gospels is unexplainable. I read continuously through much of the Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments). The strength that comes from my times in silence will often flow over into my sacred reading time.  The texts that I read will take me into silent reflection and meditation from time to time. It varies from day to day; sometimes it is dry, empty, frustrating, or meaningless to me. The periods of desolation are often self inflicted or portrayed from the way I have allowed myself to be impacted by the actions of others. That is why the re-centering time in silence is so important. We all need to be re-centered; life just throws us off track once in a while.

I will also spend great amounts of time reading various other sacred texts from the patristic era of Christian history. The Monastics and the Saints tend to be my frequently visited authors. I find peace and connection to many of them, I know, it is hard to describe, but the connection is there. They expressively describe their lives as they lived through the fires of history. They also have spent much time in the scriptures and you can see that clearly in many of their writings. I find my self in their writings versus many of the modern evangelical texts of today. While I read a broad genre in today’s world of literature, I retreat to scripture and patristic writings often.

Solitude

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”  (Mark 1:35, NRSV)

The practice of solitude is often confused with silence. While both have similarities, they are different in nature. Most places of solitude are indeed silent places. Silence often happens in solitude moments. Solitude is time spent alone with you and God.  God is there, whether we know it or not, he is there. It mostly involves the absence of others. Silence can be a state of mind in the midst of chaos. Solitude is a more secluded practice in nature. While my life consists of many people through most of the day, solitude is a practice that I try to participate in often. Life is people; life is made up of our journeys with others. People are a part of the meaning of our lives. A healthy balance in life involves the practice of breaking away for time with yourself and God. When it is time to return to the social scene, you will be better prepared for the circumstances ahead. Solitude is not for everyone, but it is a healthy practice for daily life.

My prayer today is that my journey with these three practices has encouraged you in some way. We are all on diverse paths in our lives and we need one another. Sharing the journey is vital to the good and growth of any society of people. When people come together in the purpose of sharing, the negatives and differences are often set aside. May God bless all of you as you travel your paths with passion and expression in the day ahead.  I am very thankful and it has been an honor to share a part of my journey with you.


Trent TanaroTrent Tanaro is from Spearman, TX where he is a Pastor. Trent and his wife Marlana have been married for 15 years. They have two boys; Timothy (11) and Tyler (7).  He have been in rural church ministry for 12 + years. They love God and their community.

Click here to read all the guest posts in the Monk in the World series>>

All 12 Dancing Monk Icons now available as prints!

dancing st benedict iconI am so delighted to announce that Marcy Hall of Rabbit Room Arts has made all 12 of the dancing monk icons available to order as prints. The prints are 5.5 x 10 inches and the mat is 11×14.

The dancing monk series includes: Benedict of Nursia, Hildegard of Bingen, Brigid of Kildare, Brendan the Navigator, Francis of Assisi, Mary, King David, Prophet Miriam, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Amma Syncletica.

Discounts on multiple prints and part of the proceeds goes to support the Earth Monastery Project.

If you place your order by October 31, 2014, the prints will be made up in November and shipped out before U.S. Thanksgiving in November for delivery by Christmas.

Please be patient after placing your order. Marcy works with a local printer she knows so the process takes time to make sure the prints are looking beautiful for you.

To find out more and see all of the prints click here>>

Invitation to Community Lectio Divina: Luke 18:22-23

With October we offer a new invitation for contemplation. Our focus for this month is letting go. In the northern hemisphere it is the season of fall when nature begins to release what is not necessary. What are you called to shed in your own spiritual garden?

I invite you into a lectio divina practice with some words from the Gospel of Luke.

How Community Lectio Divina works:

button-lectioEach month there will be a passage selected from scripture, poetry, or other sacred texts (and occasionallyvisio and audio divina as well with art and music).

How amazing it would be to discern together the movements of the Spirit at work in the hearts of monks around the world.

I invite you to set aside some time this week to pray with the text below. Here is a handout with a brief overview (feel free to reproduce this handout and share with others as long as you leave in the attribution at the bottom – thank you!)

Lean into silence, pray the text, listen to what shimmers, allow the images and memories to unfold, tend to the invitation, and then sit in stillness.

When Jesus heard this he said to him, 'There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich.

— Luke 18:22-23

After you have prayed with the text (and feel free to pray with it more than once – St. Ignatius wrote about the deep value of repetition in prayer, especially when something feels particularly rich) spend some time journaling what insights arise for you.

How is this text calling to your dancing monk heart in this moment of your life?

What does this text have to offer to your discernment journey of listening moment by moment to the invitation from the Holy?

What wisdom emerged that may be just for you, but may also be for the wider community?

Sharing Your Responses

Please share the fruits of your lectio divina practice in the comments below (at the bottom of the page) or at our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group which you can join here. There are over 2200 members and it is a wonderful place to find connection and community with others on this path.

You might share the word or phrase that shimmered, the invitation that arose from your prayer, or artwork you created in response. There is something powerful about naming your experience in community and then seeing what threads are woven between all of our responses.

Join the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group here>>

*Note: If this is your first time posting, or includes a link, your comment will need to be moderated before it appears. This is to prevent spam and should be approved within 24 hours.