Clues and Curiosity:
Considering ways to explore archetypal energies
(guest post by Kayce Stevens Hughlett)

I am delighted this fall to be traveling to the Northeast and leading a retreat with one of my favorite people and dear friends, Kayce Stevens Hughlett, on the archetypes and expressive arts. There are only two spaces left, so if you would like to join us in Reading, PA October 1-5, 2015 click here for more details.

Kayce has generously offered us some of her wisdom on clues and curiosity as the trails we follow:

All you get on your life way are little clues.” Joseph Campbell

SoulCollage - Kayce 2I’ve been on a bit of a writing sabbatical this summer. It wasn’t intentional or something I’d named in specific words, but as I began to prepare this blog post for Abbey of the Arts I noticed that my fingers felt odd on the keyboard and an inner voice beckoned for me to toss aside my obligations and run outside to play in the sunshine.  Being the curious sort that I am, I stopped typing, paused and considered, “What clues do I see here?” Hmmm. My inner child appears to be close at hand —the one who loves loose schedules, ice cream for dinner, breaking rules, and dancing barefoot in the grass. My internal caregiver says it’s time for nurturing which includes lots of rest, fresh foods for my tummy, and bike rides or long strolls through the park and countryside. Nurturing means time with friends and space for laughter, lots and lots of space.

“What is the point of all this?” you might ask.

The answer? My curiosity is combining with the writer within as I attempt to share about one (or two) of my favorite topics: archetypes and expressive arts.

“(Archetypes) live in us, but even more importantly, we live in them. We can, therefore, find them by going inward (to our own dreams, fantasies, and often actions as well) or by going outward (to myth, legend, art, literature, and more).” Carol S. Pearson

SoulCollage - Kayce 1I see archetypes as patterns and ways of being, thinking, or observing the world that reside in all of us. Jungian psychology defines them as “a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc. universally present in individual psyches.” Archetypes are recognizable across cultures, time, and belief systems. A few examples we see throughout time and place are the archetypes of Mother, Hero, and Ruler.

“Archetypes help us connect with the eternal; they make the great mysteries more accessible by providing multiple images for our minds to ponder.” Carol S. Pearson

Archetypes help give categories and meaning to our own life journeys by exploring internal and external movements. They help us decipher our personal “clues” in the world. I adore playing with archetypes, and the expressive arts make an excellent playmate.

Last month I had the privilege of leading a small group of women on their own journey of internal and eternal discovery. The city of Paris was our backdrop and the archetype of the Pilgrim was our container. The rhythm of our days included deep listening and intention setting, and, of course, lots of play and laughter. It was magical to see how the qualities of the Pilgrim spoke to each woman in her own unique ways. We incorporated movement, writing, art, culture, and nature to explore our Pilgrim’s voices.

Curiosity is one of my strongest attributes, therefore I love searching for clues to deepen my own life and helping others experience their personal discernment. Archetypes and art help do both of those things. This form of combined exploration is one of the reasons Christine Valters Paintner and I created “Exploring Archetypal Energies through Expressive Arts.”

Incorporated in this retreat is one of my favorite forms of artistic expression – SoulCollage® – a process for accessing your intuition by creating collaged cards. Each card is filled with personal meaning that can help you explore life’s clues, questions, and transitions. And what’s more fun than playing with scissors, glue sticks, and lots of images?

Christine and I are delighted to be bringing archetypes, SoulCollage®, and expressive arts to the Mariwald Retreat Center in Reading, Pennsylvania this coming October. I hope you’ll consider joining us.

My Writing Self may currently feel like she’s “on sabbatical,” but the Teacher and Lover in me can’t wait to share more experiences with you!


Join us for Exploring Archetypal Energies through Expressive Arts October 1-5, 2015 at the Mariawald Retreat Center in Reading, PA. Only two spaces left!

Kayce Stevens Hughlett, MA LMHC is a soulful aKayce Hughlettnd spirited woman. In her roles as ponderer extraordinaire, spiritual director, life muse, author, creative coach, and speaker, she invites us to playfully and fearlessly cross the thresholds toward authentic living.

Kayce holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology with additional emphasis in spiritual direction and experiential learning practices and is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach. She is the author of As I Lay Pondering: Daily Invitations to Live a Transformed Life and the co-author of “Arts Centered Supervision” published in Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Expressive Arts to Spiritual Direction. Kayce is a trained SoulCollage® facilitator, a founding member of the Soul Care Institute, and has worked with groups and individuals for more than 30 years in a variety of settings.

Monk in the World Guest Post: Courtney Pinkerton

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Courntey Pinkerton's reflections on the practices which nourish her path as a monk in the world, including the wisdom of the Enneagram:

I used to be quite happy in the righteous do-gooder camp. Fresh out of college working with homeless women and children or later in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, I was comfortable dividing up the world. There were the social activists and the complacent ones. Those awake to the deep and juicy registers of life and the other people, walking yet asleep.

Increasingly I recognize myself in all the above categories and see my life as a Mobius strip where the inner and outer connect in surprising ways. As I walk this strip I experience moments of freshness, moments caught in the grip of a habitual filter worrying what people think of me, moments of kindness, moments of fierce inner static or exasperated comments to my kids such as “Go to sleep or mama is going to lose her mind!” And that was just last night. Yet somehow this whole package of creative tension is held in the Compassionate Embrace.

Mobius stripTo be a monk is to walk such a Mobius strip of awareness in our lives. It is to practice non-dual seeing, moving beyond the impulse to evaluate our experiences & responses as good or bad, right or wrong and instead to peer into the hidden wholeness of each moment, what Richard Rohr calls “seeing as the mystics see.”

Now this non-dual seeing is far from my dominant mode. In fact, I have mystic-envy. I long for such abandon and surrender. I get fleeting tastes of it and wonder what it would be like to experience the world that way more often.

Yet I have needed non-dual goggles to make sense of my life the last few years as I transitioned out of a role as lead pastor of an emerging church and into one of soulful entrepreneurialism. Two plus years ago I launched Bird in Hand, a web-based watering hole for the spirit, through which I write, offer holistic life coaching and teach the Enneagram. My goal is to tell the truth about the soul journey in an invitational way and to interpret spiritual wisdom so that it is digestible in daily life. Transformational work has its own cadence and rhythm, and requires both deep dives into the Mystery and attention to quotidian realities, like cleaning out the closet, investing in nourishing food, or making space in a busy schedule for a green hour outside after dinner.

Starting a daily meditation practice was a big shift for me toward finding more ease in daily life. I went from doing lots of “contemplative-like” things throughout my day to a regular morning meditation routine which grounds and revitalizes me. Learning two key points helped me step over the final obstacles to starting this practice: 1) thoughts are evidence of stress leaving the body and 2) the moment of noticing a thought and gently re-orienting to the breath is actually the moment of practice which rewires the brain to be more stress-hardy!

My personality is more comfortable when I get to be the expert or the one serving others so it is vital that I practice receiving. That is my favorite definition of meditation: it can be anything, even a moment outside with coffee and the birds, as long as it allows you to “go receptive.” Now I approach meditation not so much as something to do as something to drink: a nourishing tonic which detoxes the nervous system.

In particular the loving kindness meditation reminds me that the love I want to offer others and even the whole world is as indiscriminate and nourishing as the rain. It falls also on me. The traditional loving kindness phrases (which are really a blessing offered first to yourself and then outward in expanding circles) are four: 1) May you be safe, 2) May you be happy 3) May you be healthy, and 4) May you live with ease. I especially like the first phrase which can also be interpreted: “May you be free from danger.” This refers both to outer danger (in the obvious ways) but also to inner danger from thought patterns or dialogues with the inner critic which leave us depleted and weary.

Other simple (but not necessarily easy) practices which help me live as a monk in the world:

  • Sitting on my porch and holding a hot lunch in my hands, looking out at the trees while I chew.
  • Turning off screens (including my iPhone!) when my littles come home from school and surrendering to their pace and agenda as well as the call of the house to attend to its dishes and laundry with care.
  • Giving all my weekly tasks a home in my calendar. This comforts me in that I know I have Sabbath time of deep rest, but also specific focus days to tend to the business aspects of my work, to write and create new content, to coach clients, and to enjoy family and couple adventures.

All of these little things add up to a big thing: a life which feels deeply resonant (at least most of the time.) And on not so good days these practices breathe for me.

Lastly, the Enneagram, an ancient map of the human experience, opens the door for me to show up authentically in my spiritual life and day-to-day relationships. I find it comforting that there are only nine different ways, or personality types, through which we can lose and subsequently find ourselves.

Whether your type leads with the head, heart, or gut/body center of intelligence the goal is not to eradicate your humanity or even to heal your type but rather to dance with it. And to trust that this shift from being constricted in our type energy and then remembering and relaxing is actually a process which develops our consciousness.

I find it helpful to distill the Enneagram down from where it normally lands (as a cognitive framework) to where the magic happens, which is in living it! Our personality is our partner and there is something meaningful about noticing, for example, when I get all stirred up about what people think of my work or writing (I’m a type 3 so this is a big trigger) and to simply allow that sensation to settle in my body. It usually lands as a squeeze on the heart. Making space for that squeeze to be there and simultaneously finding my feet, connecting to the ground and to Source, helps the nervous system digest the stressor.

One of my Ennea teachers says that the only way to maintain an undefended heart is with a grounded presence. That rings so true to me. Given my natural orientation I will kind of float off in the ethers. This is when a Zen teacher would whack a student on the arm and say, "Kill the Buddha and wash your bowls."

This is harsh language but I understand the sentiment. To not allow the mental construct or vision of oneself as a certain kind of practitioner to lead one out of the present moment. Instead to ground the power of spiritual truths in daily living.

This is the monk’s path.

As is finding a life-giving community of practice.

I am grateful for the Abbey of the Arts and each of you monks in the world for holding such a space.


courtney pinkertonCourtney Pinkerton is the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching and the publisher of a weekly enewsletter on meditation, the Enneagram and soulful living. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three young children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached through her site, www.courtneypinkerton.com. Also her Summer of Meditation Challenge, a free eight-week training program, starts in June! Watch the video to learn more and sign up if you would like support to keep your meditation practice going strong or to explore its benefits this summer.

Stopping by the Holy Well (a love note from your online Abbess)

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kilmacduagh window

Stopping by the Holy Well

Gentian blue sky,
dandelion seed clouds play
hide and seek with the sun.

The long walk on the pilgrim
road, across blooming limestone
to this flowing fissure.

Brightly colored ribbons hang
like old party streamers
from branches, banners

of longing: a prayer for healing
the great divide of the heart,
or a beloved consumed by cancer.

Or simply an echo of the psalmist’s
ancient cry, “How long, O God?”
into the vast and thunderous silence.

No pronouncements in reply,
no choruses of Alleluia.
Only moss and streams and birdsong,

only the knowing that life still
burgeons here on the edges of
our own landscapes of loss.

I plunge in my hands.

—Christine Valters Paintner

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

Over the last two weeks my days have been filled with journeys to holy wells and the sacred ruins of monasteries hundreds of years old. My days have been filled with the companionship of fellow pilgrims, who traveled here to Galway, Ireland from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, making the global community of the Abbey so very real and alive.

Together we sang chants inspired by the Psalms, read poems aloud, walked in sunwise circles around the wells and other holy sites keeping ourselves in alignment with ancient practices and the forces of the cosmos, we hung ribbons on the rag trees to ask for prayers, and we plunged our hands into the healing water rising up from beneath the earth.

We also ate beautiful meals together and shared what was stirring in each of our hearts, how the journey was calling forth something both new and very old. Pilgrimage is often about remembering something we have forgotten while also embracing the act of self-forgetting so that we become one with the thousands of others who have made this journey before us.

When I started the Abbey 8 years ago now, I never could have anticipated all that has unfolded. I did not know this would be become a global community and movement of hearts committed to a different way of being in the world. I did not know that I would be called to uproot myself and make the journey to the wild edges of Ireland and then welcome other pilgrims there. As the poet David Whyte writes, "what you can plan is too small for you to live."

Ireland has offered us so many gifts and has been calling us to plant ourselves even more firmly here, to travel away less, and rediscover the gifts of the sacred ordinary in our daily lives. Ireland has been a muse for my own poetic heart, sparking a new dance of words in my imagination.

Ireland also has a troubled history, like any land, and like other places it carries both wounds and blessings. It is such a privilege to be a part of the healing of memory through acts of love and devotion to the sacred so alive in this place, as well as part of the reclaiming of ancient wisdom for our times.

The poem above was inspired by one of my favorite holy wells, St. Colman's, at the site of his hermitage cave. It requires a twenty-minute saunter over the rocky limestone of the Burren and across a threshold of hazel trees to reach this sanctuary. Within the circle of hazelwood, and nestled into the base of the mountain, is a gushing well flowing into a stream of living water. The rag tree stands guardian over the space and invites prayers to be tied to her branches.

If you make a short climb up the hill past the oratory, there is the small cave where St. Colman is said to have retreated to with a rooster, a mouse, and a fly. The rooster awakened him for morning prayer, the mouse made sure he did not fall back to sleep, and the fly walked along the page of his Psalter to keep his attention on the lines of the text. He lived in communion with creatures and there are dozens of delightful stories of these Irish saints and their intimacy with creation.

I was aware these last few days of journeying with our private group who arrived soon after our pilgrimage group left, that I was on a threshold. I was about to enter the holy space of summer's spaciousness, where I have made a commitment to nourishing my body and my health while I finish writing my manuscript. So I asked for blessings myself in these places, I asked for the wisdom to savor my time, I asked for clarity and courage to really listen to what wants to break through in this season ahead.

What are the prayers on your heart as we pass across the threshold into summer (or winter for our southern hemisphere monks)? What is it the season for in your own being?

We have a special summer gift for you! Subscribe to our newsletter for the next in our series of digital art journals, this one on Illuminating Mystery: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice. This is one way I offer my gratitude to you for your wonderful support of this work and your commitment to an alternative way of being in the world.

For more reflection this week, stop by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan's guest post on psalms. The Abbey is thrilled to be offering a summer online class on Exile and Coming Home: An Archetypal Journey through the Scriptures and Richard is one of the main teachers along with John Valters Paintner, Ronna Detrick, and Roy DeLeon.  And we have a new Monk in the World guest post by fellow monk in the world Robert Rife.

With great and growing love,

Christine

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

Photo by Christine at Kilmacduagh Abbey

Monk in the World guest post: Robert Rife

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Robert Rife's wisdom on finding the sacred in the most ordinary moments:

I-You-Holy Ground
By Robert Alan Rife

I am the dusty ground, low and dry
thirsty for the imprint of holy feet.
Despoil with radiant prints, this virgin ground.

You are the rain, falling deftly
upon my brown soil. Now is left
your footprint on this ground.

I am the ashen leaves, curling and broken
awaiting but a whisper. For only then
can I fall on solid ground.

You are the soundless wind, howling, still.
You creep up behind me and
exhale me to the ground.

I am the snow, disembodied worlds of cold
and chance encounters with hand, or tongue,
eye-lash or palm needing ground.

You are the frozen air in which I am held
aloft, drawn slowly down
to meet with others on the frozen ground.

I am the waning autumn death
soon to give way to the long silence-when one Voice
becomes the loudest ground.

You are the Voice that speaks
heard best in dying, power given for
rising from this shivering ground.

I am the distant hours, the midnight passing-
the refusing minutes, trapped in hours,
running from the years of ancient ground.

You are the many, and the one, and all time
and nothing and everything from nothing
where time has no ground.

I am the weeping, the squalid groaning,
the unrequited miseries of misery’s company
laying crippled and diffused in the ground.

You are the end of tears and years, the question
and the answer, the sutured nerve of joy, not suggested
but present, here, on this Holy Ground.

A Celt in a kilt and the beautiful mundane

For me, the term ‘monk’ used to mean ‘one safely cloistered away from the cares of normal life in dimly lit, echoing stone hallways where hooded men sing hauntingly beautiful music and basically float just a bit off the ground. A single, piercing glance from their crystalline eyes means healing, they have superpowers, can read your thoughts, never need to eat, and speak once a year whether they need to or not.

Since leaving behind my roots in evangelicalism for headier waters elsewhere I’ve since discovered that monks often have the sauciest senses of humor, the bawdiest stories and, not surprisingly, the deepest delight in the world around them. My kinda fellas. They’re as non-dualistic as they come; a life to which I aspire. Apophatic meditation one moment. Bodily noises the next. Welcome to my world.

I am a dreamer; a philosopher-poet capable of romanticizing even the most mundane banalities. To a guy like me, cutting the grass has the potential to be a portal into the nether regions of the universe, awash in liminality, where mythic faeries ride unicorns on their way to Celtic slumber parties. But, I’ve been known to overstate a little.

Clearly, I’m a favorite among type-A corporate headhunters (tongue super-glued to cheek). Rather, stereotypical songwriters, tree-huggers, poets, unfocused A.D.D. artsy-fartsies, and contemplatives love to love me. They’re my peeps. My homies. They know my psychic address.

These overly romanticized sensibilities haven’t always promised smooth sailing for me. In fact, more often than not they’ve brought more than their fair share of woe and disillusionment. The world has precious little patience for those like me, preferring instead the multi-tasking, power-doers with ambitions larger than the moon upon which they hang their coats (but generally not their egos). It’s a challenge in our super-charged, winner-take-all culture to prove real value in lighting candles and pursuing silence when time is money and money is god and god keeps shrinking or running away.

My earliest recollections of spiritual awareness contained the following simple elements: surprised by joy moments, generally unasked for and seldom expected; a sudden awareness that the world was not really as it seemed – that from God’s perspective all was well. Specifically, I was drawn to all things ancient, mystical and Celtic. As a bagpiper/Irish whistle player who has toured extensively it makes sense that, for me, the world is seen through green colored glasses, smells just a little peaty, telephone poles were meant for tossing, and “ladies” is misspelled on the restroom door (insert look of shock and consternation here).

Although a mystic from a very early age, despite a decided lack of language to articulate such things, my fate was forever sealed when, for the first time I heard the Great Highland Bagpipe. I was seven years old. I was gobsmacked. Mere weeks later, in the basement of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, I started learning to play the pipes. I have played ever since.

Something else happened however. It christened a liminal journey of my inner mystic and forever sealed my fate as a lover of all things Celtic, monastic and artistic. It also began an almost unassuagable thirst for the monastic realities of thin-place living. Puddles become holy water. All time, whether singing, snoring or snacking, can be wrapped up in a ball of quivering holiness. It is the essence of Celtic spirituality. It is my essence (especially if we had haggis the night before).

Now, a gazillion years and as many prayers later, to be an artist, a mystic and a monastic-wannabe is for me to see myself less as a dreamer and more as a waking dream. Life is to find the holy in the banal; the glorious mundane. The perfect, daily moments of nothing-special that, simply by virtue of noticing them, become possibilities of inherent wonder. The greatest gift I’ve received in the past few years, something particularly attributable to the Celts, is that of awakening to these shimmering possibilities in the blasé and dull. How brightly they shine under the light of the God of order and magnificent delights.


Robert RifeRobert Alan Rife was born in Calgary, Alberta but presently serves as Minister of Worship & Music at Yakima Covenant Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a singer-songwriter (his CD, “Be That As It May” is available on iTunes), Celtic musician, liturgist, speaker, poet, and a blogger herehere and here. He is a graduate from Spring Arbor University with an M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Leadership. 

See in each herb and small animal, every bird and beast, and in each man and woman, the eternal Word of God.   ~ St. Ninian ~

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

Rants of a 21st-century Psalmist (guest post by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan)

This week Richard Bruxvoort Colligan is sharing a guest post of his love of the psalms. Make sure to join him this summer at the Abbey (along with John Valters Paintner, Ronna Detrick, and Roy DeLeon) for an exploration of the scriptures and the questions to which they call us. Exile and Coming Home: An Archetypal Journey through the Scriptures is a six-week online class which begins June 16th!

Richard Bruxvoort Colligan - web

Rants of a 21st-century Psalmist

or

What the Psalms Do To Us

My artist friend Erika looked at my scrunched-up face from her sofa and said, “Is there any reason you couldn’t call yourself… a Psalmist?”

It was 11 years ago when my enthrallment with the Psalms was a seed breaking open. I was at a vocational crossroads as I finished seminary, struggling with practical things like employment. Erika saw something I didn’t: I was falling in love.

Since then, an unlikely calling has emerged: studying, composing, singing and teaching the Psalms. (Who gets to do that for a living?) Against all odds, I guess I’ve become what Erika commissioned me for: a Psalmist.

People often ask why the Psalms have become so important to me.

The word Psalm means “song.” Five books of them in the Hebrew Testament are the sung prayers of ancient Israel, the foundation of the Judeo-Christian worship liturgy, and the prayers that Jesus knew by heart.

You may have run across one of two in your life or may even have one memorized. What’s been your experience? How did you feel about the ones you’ve heard?

Some Psalms scream. Others sing high and pretty. When we read, sing or hear them, we witness prayers so raw and transparent we’re often uncomfortable or even resistant to letting them in. They are old, written by individuals and communities who were having a tough time of it.

Like most of what we call scripture, the Psalms are stories of a people working out their life, documenting for us a history of some of the people of God.

To be honest, I had always been kinda bored with history. Mr. Zander did his best in 8th grade but it didn’t take. That is, until our son Sam was born. Then I discovered a deep desire to explain and describe the world, not just to him but to myself. What does Then have to do with Now?

My passion for the Psalms is less about archaeology and more about our lifelong spiritual formation.

It might come as a surprise that these 3000-year-old poems speak directly– even specifically– to 21st-century issues. Here are a few biggies. See if they ring true to you for present-day life.

  • Ecology and how we treat the earth
  • Economic systems and what money means
  • Whom do we welcome and shove out?
  • The reality of injustice and our responsibility
  • How to be happy
  • Understanding depression, anger, anxiety and grief
  • Patriotism, national crisis and being a citizen of the world
  • War, violence, vengeance and justice
  • Life in a culture obsessed with sex, power and denial, and
  • Can I really save 15% on my car insurance?

That last one may be poor exegesis talking.

But let me ask you, a person who cares about the invisible life of individuals and communities: What would happen to you if you were immersed in the Psalms? If your spiritual community had a regular feed inviting you to stretch, grow and discover in every dimension of your life?

We’d encounter Psalm 22 — ”My God, why have you forsaken me?”– and be invited to pray in solidarity with Jesus for all those who suffer in the world. We’d notice a holy pull toward a life of justice, mercy and love.

We’d run into Psalm 23’s reality check that life is really, really hard sometimes– death, trouble, terrorism, all of it– and that there is such a thing as fearless shepherd guidance through every meadow and valley.

We’d puzzle over the mystical Psalm 87– a text all metaphor, naming us all babies born to one wonderful mother, citizens of the Holy City (the records don’t lie) and tributaries of a generous river. All of us born in Zion, and all of us sputtering our protests to this bewilderingly beautiful promise.

I’m delighted to be part of the “Exile and Coming Home” journey that taps into the Psalms.

My experience with the Abbey’s version for men was heart-opening. Not only did the material stretch us in wonderful ways, a community formed around our stories, questions and discoveries.

In the trajectory of our time together in “Exile and Coming Home,” you’re invited to tend the season you’re in right now. What does it mean to be faith-fully angry, contemplative, silent, hopeful, dedicated or active? In the company of strong characters like Amos, Hagar, Ezekiel, Mary, Hannah, Nehemiah, and Eve, we get an earful.

Let’s take a deep breath together and make space for something new.  

In particular, I welcome you to an experience the Psalms– what has been for me the most transformational spiritual practice of my adult life.

Well. I do go on.

[Shrug, smile]. I’m a Psalmist.  —Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


Register for our summer online course!

Exile and Coming Home: An Archetypal Journey through the Scriptures

June 16-July 27, 2014

A six-week online program

with John Valters Paintner, Ronna Detrick, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, & Roy Deleon

The scriptures can seem foreign and out of date to modern readers. The Bible is often ignored, misused, or abused even by those who claim it as their own sacred text. And yet, beneath all its modern baggage, it holds great sacred truths. Only through careful reading and reflection can we find a deeper kinship with our spiritual ancestors. It is time to put aside what we think we know and read again with fresh eyes what the scriptures have to teach us.

This six-week course will explore the universal experiences of exile and return home again through personal reflection on the stories of several Biblical figures and Psalms. These offer invitations into different archetypal themes of what it means to live meaningfully as a contemplative and creative person in the world. How might these potent stories and ancient prayers from the Hebrew Scriptures deepen our journey into becoming monks in the world and artists of everyday life?

Each week we will explore a different theme which break open the great archetypal themes of exile and coming home at the heart of the scriptures, a male and female voice from scripture, and a Psalm which deepens our understanding of the theme, connecting our prayers to the great lineage of monastic tradition.

The course includes reflections by John Valters Paintner, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and Ronna Detrick whose passions are the wisdom of the Scriptures for our world today. Roy DeLeon will be inviting you into a gentle movement prayer for the week's psalm, to explore its meaning in an embodied way.

Each week you will be invited into reading, questions to ponder, the practice of lectio divina, creative invitations through writing and photography, movement prayer, as well as an online forum to have conversations with other monks reflecting on this journey. John, Richard, Roy, and Ronna will be facilitating this virtual gathering space. You are welcome to participate online as much or as little as needed for your own journey.

Click here for more details and to register>>

Call for Submissions: Monk in the World guest post series

button-monkWe welcome you to submit your reflection for possible publication in our Monk in the World guest post series. It is a gift to read how ordinary people are living lives of depth and meaning in the midst of the challenges of real life.

This summer the Abbey is taking a break from this series but will return in the fall again. There are so many talented writers and artists in this Abbey community, so this is a chance to share your perspective. The reflection will be included in our weekly newsletter which goes out to more than 8000 subscribers.

Please follow these instructions carefully:

Details:

  • Please click this link to read a selection of the posts and get a feel for the tone and quality.
  • Submit your own post of 750-1000 words on the general theme of "How do I live as a monk in the world? How do I bring contemplative presence to my work and family?" It works best if you focus your reflection on one aspect of your life or a practice you have, or you might reflect on how someone from the monastic tradition has inspired you. We invite reflections on the practice of living contemplatively.
  • Please include a head shot and brief bio (50 words max). You are welcome to include 1-2 additional images if they help to illustrate your reflection in meaningful ways. All images should be your own. Please make sure the file size of each the images is smaller than 1MB. You can resize your image for free here – choose the "small size" option and a maximum width of 500).
  • We will be accepting submissions between now and August 15th for publication sometime in the fall/winter of 2014/5.  We reserve the right to make edits to the content as needed (or to request you to make edits) and submitting your reflection does not guarantee publication on the Abbey blog, but we will do our best to include as many of you as possible.
  • Email Christine by August 15th with your submission and include the reflection pasted into the body of your email and attach your photo(s).
  • We will be back in touch with you by the end of August to let you know if edits are needed and/or when we have scheduled your post to appear.

Community & Solitude (a love note from your online Abbess)

Kilmacduagh AbbeyDearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

John and I just completed another pilgrimage here in Ireland with a beautiful group of pilgrims. We are continually amazed and humbled at the deeply soulful and wise folks that join us for our programs. Dancing monks are the most wonderful folks there are. Dwelling in these holy places where countless have prayed for thousands of years is an experience of connection to the community of monks across time. We step into thin time and place together, where the veil between the sacred and ordinary becomes sheer, the division is no longer clear.

Again, my heart came alive in so many ways, being with modern monks in ancient places, singing, praying, walking the holy rounds, bringing the spirit and wisdom of these holy sites alive through our presence. Cultivating community through ritual, shared silence, reflection, and feasting on the incredible food that Galway offers.

We are awaiting a private group arriving on Sunday for a couple of days of exploration of the wild edges here, and so I wanted to pause and send you a note, my beloved monks, wherever you may be, to let you know that you are deeply in my heart when we lead these journeys, connecting to the gathering of monks across space. I feel a particular kinship to the worldwide community of monks we have created together in this virtual space, and a profound sense of gratitude and privilege when I get to be with monks in person.

I am pondering the call to community a great deal these days and how that is unfolding for us here at the Abbey. How can we continue to nourish these meaningful connections among kindred souls, so that we come to know the path of slowness, intention, presence, and depth of meaning as a revolutionary force in the world? How do we gather together to nourish ourselves for this sometimes difficult path in a busy, preoccupied, and often violent world? What wisdom do the ancient monks offer to us today?

I am also preparing for a summer of writing, I will be finishing up a manuscript based on the online course I taught this past winter on Coming Home to the Body. I am thrilled to be spending much of the next couple months descending into the body's wisdom and landscape. And so the paradox is that I am entering a season of relative solitude as I hold these invitations to community. It is a necessary time for me to dive into the writing process fully, and also dream some visions for the coming year (there are many wonderful things in store for the Abbey!)

We will be taking a break from the weekly creative invitations here starting June through August and the monk in the world guest posts (stay tuned for two more fabulous ones in June before our hiatus!)  The newsletters will be a little less frequent, although I know I will not be able to resist sharing some of what bubbles forth in the quiet spaces of summer.

This is a transition time, crossing a threshold into more stillness and slowness. It is a vital time of renewal and replenishment.

Where are you longing for more moments to simply pause and listen?

How might you craft open spaces for the Spirit to enter in with new dreams and visions?

For more reflection this week, stop by Ronna Detrick's guest post on What I know for sure. The Abbey is thrilled to be offering a summer online class on Exile and Coming Home: An Archetypal Journey through the Scriptures and Ronna is one of the main teachers along with John Valters Paintner, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and Roy DeLeon.

At the Abbey blog, this week we have a new Invitation to Dance and two new and fabulous Monk in the World guest post by fellow monk in the world Martha Jane Petersen and Sara Hillis.

If you want to join me this fall in the Northeast U.S., there are two opportunities, with very limited space left. Please consider the Sacred Rhythms Writing & Movement Retreat in Cape May, NJ (September 20-24, 2014) in Cape May, NJ with just ONE space left or Exploring Archetypal Energies through Expressive Arts (October 1-5, 2014) in Reading, PA with my fabulous teaching partner Kayce Stevens Hughlett and just a few spaces left in that one. Both promise to be soulful experiences of connection with your own deep longings in a community of kindred souls.

With great and growing love,

Christine

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

Photo by Christine at Kilmacduagh Abbey

Monk in the World guest post: Martha Jane Petersen

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Martha Jane Petersen's wisdom on quilting as contemplative prayer:

O Radiant DawnAt age 65, I encountered a major turn in my life’s road. I slowly heeded a Divine call to become an artist. My hesitations gripped me long and hard. At this stage of life? I exclaimed. And what do I do about my writing, and being a minister?  Whenever I found myself enmeshed in art – among artists, or at galleries, or in my own art making – my energy revved up, excitement mounted, and joy flooded me. I was led to recognize this as “a call.”  It persisted  and I saw that art could become a means to share God’s Good News visually, not just verbally. Explorations into painting, weaving, pottery, and art books finally led me to fabric art. I had loved fabrics and made many of my own clothes since my teen years. It felt like rounding a full circle. I disregarded making traditional quilts with their tedious construction, directed by someone else’s design. So I began to make art quilts –  wall hangings of fabric – improvisa-tionally. This means my creations arise from my imagination, not from quilt books with set patterns, designs and instructions. In making my quilts, I pre-plan nothing and do not know where I am going when I begin.

When the urge to create a new quilt arises, I simply step forward in my studio to choose fabrics which seize my attention. Motivated only by my longing to create a new quilt – to play with color and shape, and make tangible something invisible – I make hard choices, excluding other beautiful possibilities. After finding an entry point I then arrange and re-arrange these selections through extensive trial and error.   I attempt to discern a path without knowing the end result. The rise and fall of energy, what feels right, and checking in repeatedly with my intuition guide me. The design unfolds only as I proceed. The path gains clarity simply as I walk it.

When I have finalized a design, I flesh it out by constructing it. Putting the quilt together presents its own challenges. Sometimes, lengthy hard work may stall me. Sometimes I don’t know a suitable technique to complete a project, or I may have painted myself in a corner, and don’t know how to move beyond the impasse. I experiment with various techniques, some familiar, some I have only heard or read about. In the muddle of chaos, an exciting new thing often emerges, something unexpected, something fresh. As I boldly move ahead, I frequently take a hot iron and fuse pieces together. Or I sit and stitch, sometimes by machine but usually by hand in a contemplative frame of mind.

As a neophyte artist, I soon discovered that, in our work, artists become contemplative. Our focus narrows to the project at hand. We tune out distractions. We pay attention to shape and color, line and rhythm. We gaze at possibilities. I clearly understood this phenomenon in a new quilt. It was birthed in contemplative moments.

Initially the process of working out its design involved ideas, analysis and decisions, The first task of choosing the fabrics led me to settle on small squares, rectangles and a few triangles from three swatches of decorator samples a friend had given me. I cut out those shapes in the fabrics which resembled watercolor washes in shades of green, burgundy, pink and creamy white. Then I arranged the pieces in a path from the dark reds and greens at the bottom to the white in the top right corner. I labored over blending the colors from one shape to the next with no abrupt change. It felt like putting together the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Swooping up from the lower left hand corner to the upper right, a curved line of red embroidery interlaced with gold metallic threads anchored down a few of the pieces. I fastened the rest to the back by hand with beads: dozens of beads sewed in almost every corner of the geometric shapes. The beading required inserting invisible nylon thread into an almost invisible eye of a skinny needle. Threading the needle and knotting the thread proved challenging. The thread frequently tangled and I’d have to start over. I stitched the beads by drawing up the knotted thread from back to top, piercing the hole of the bead and down to the back several times to secure the bead. Up and down. Bead after bead after bead, day after day after day.

In the process, analysis faded as I concentrated on my work. Contemplation took hold when the quiet repetitive action of my hands allowed my inner self to grow quiet. Every other part of my life fell away when I gave the quilt my full attention, time and energy. I was thoroughly focused, totally absorbed.  Not reflecting, not considering what to do next, not ruminating – just absorbed. The repetitive process captured my body and mind, heart and spirit. In and out, up and down. Over and over again. My mind was stilled, my verbalizing halted, and with the stillness, God’s presence enfolded me. “Hands to work, hearts to God,” the Shaker saying came alive. In communion with God I was praying wordlessly through my work, my hands, my eyes. The up and down motion centered me. Stitching the beads stitched me to God.


Martha Jane PetersenPortions of this Post is excerpted from Martha Jane Petersen’s  new memoir Imaging My Inner Fire: Finding My Path through Creating Art.  A fabric artist, writer and retired Presbyterian minister, she lives with her husband in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina.

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

What I know for sure (guest post from Ronna Detrick)

This week Ronna Detrick is sharing a guest post of her love of scripture stories about women. Make sure to join her this summer at the Abbey (along with John Valters Paintner, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and Roy DeLeon) for an exploration of the scriptures and the questions to which they call us. Exile and Coming Home: An Archetypal Journey through the Scriptures is a six-week online class which begins June 16th!

Ronna Detrick

What I know for sure:

When I read the ancient, sacred stories of women I am ever-finding intimate, generous, wise companions who come alongside to strengthen me; who make sense of the circumstances in which I find myself; who soothe my tired brow, who bless me, and who provide me the encouragement I need to continue on. Sometimes their stories enrage and embolden me – their circumstances so much harder than my own, their silencing so much more blatant than mine has ever been, their marginalization and dismissal so much more excruciating than I can begin to imagine. Either way and in all ways, I am compelled in nearly out-of-body ways to tell these stories, to tell of these women, to hope that you will come to know and love them as I do. They deserve that. And I believe that you do, as well.

If I could, I’d tell you story after story from my life; particular circumstances and scenes in which these ancient, sacred stories of women have been nearly the only thing to sustain me. And if I could, I’d strive to make sure you understand that I do not read or love them because they are housed within scripture. Actually, I read and love them because they exist, period. Because they have survived – despite thousands of years of less-than-stellar tellings. Because if they can survive, so can I. Because they remind me that I am not alone; that I am their daughter, their lineage, their kin.

In all my reading and telling of their stories, and in the living of my own, there are three things I’ve come to know for sure:

1. We persevere.


Do your shoulders bow at the word itself? Do you feel its ominous weight pressing against your chest? Do you hear the voice within that says, “Please, can’t I just catch a break?!?”

But what if perseverance wasn’t a default setting or a required characteristic; rather, something you celebrated and even aspired toward? To persevere embodies the best of who we are – not because we must (though that is true, as well), but because we can. We have the capacity. We have the ability. We will endure – no matter what. And because of such, this is not something to sigh over. Our perseverance is worth celebrating, toasting, and shouting out loud to all who will hear and then some!

2. We are prophets.

It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it? Mmmhmm. Truth-be-told, you probably don’t want this title or this role. You might think of a prophet as soothsayer, fortune-teller, or predictor of the future. Or maybe you hearken back to old stories about guys in the bible who had a pretty bad time of it – martyred, tortured, and usually dismissed as crazy. Uh, no thank you.

In truth, prophets have been and are people who tell the truth. They see what is happening around them and name it. They speak and/or act cogently and boldly in response to what is. They articulate the reality within which they live – politically, environmentally, socially, culturally, spiritually, relationally, emotionally. Is it easy? No. Would they often rather just remain silent? Yes. But can they, really, and still be true to themselves? Absolutely not.

To be a prophet(ess) describes exactly who we are when we are functioning at our best, when we are living in places of integrity and resonance with our deepest wisdom, when we do not remain silent, when we boldly and bravely tell and live our truth – no matter the consequences, the risks, the ramifications. It’s got to be done, we know this, and we are up to the task.

And these two certainties lead me to a third:

3. We are amazing.

As I’ve steeped myself in these scriptural narratives, I have encountered amazing examples of perseverance that would cause the bravest of souls to quake in their heels. I have encountered amazing prophet(esse)s who have spoken and acted in such strength, such truth, such power that no matter how their story has been mangled and maligned throughout the years, they will not be silenced.  I have encountered amazingness that defies all explanation, limit, and time.

Because they are amazing, we are, as well. For we are their daughters (and sons), their lineage, their kin.

***************

Believe me, there is much of which I am not sure. I have endless doubts, unanswered questions, and ongoing struggles with theology, with doctrine, and with just the day-to-day realities of my life. But in the midst all my uncertainties, the ancient, sacred stories of women sustain me. Their perseverance enables mine. Their prophetic voice invites my own. And their amazingness reminds me that I am called to and capable of the same.

And if me, I’m pretty sure, so too, you. —Ronna Detrick


Register for our summer online course!

Exile and Coming Home: An Archetypal Journey through the Scriptures

June 16-July 27, 2014

A six-week online program

with John Valters Paintner, Ronna Detrick, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, & Roy Deleon

The scriptures can seem foreign and out of date to modern readers. The Bible is often ignored, misused, or abused even by those who claim it as their own sacred text. And yet, beneath all its modern baggage, it holds great sacred truths. Only through careful reading and reflection can we find a deeper kinship with our spiritual ancestors. It is time to put aside what we think we know and read again with fresh eyes what the scriptures have to teach us.

This six-week course will explore the universal experiences of exile and return home again through personal reflection on the stories of several Biblical figures and Psalms. These offer invitations into different archetypal themes of what it means to live meaningfully as a contemplative and creative person in the world. How might these potent stories and ancient prayers from the Hebrew Scriptures deepen our journey into becoming monks in the world and artists of everyday life?

Each week we will explore a different theme which break open the great archetypal themes of exile and coming home at the heart of the scriptures, a male and female voice from scripture, and a Psalm which deepens our understanding of the theme, connecting our prayers to the great lineage of monastic tradition.

The course includes reflections by John Valters Paintner, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and Ronna Detrick whose passions are the wisdom of the Scriptures for our world today. Roy DeLeon will be inviting you into a gentle movement prayer for the week's psalm, to explore its meaning in an embodied way.

Each week you will be invited into reading, questions to ponder, the practice of lectio divina, creative invitations through writing and photography, movement prayer, as well as an online forum to have conversations with other monks reflecting on this journey. John, Richard, Roy, and Ronna will be facilitating this virtual gathering space. You are welcome to participate online as much or as little as needed for your own journey.

Click here for more details and to register>>

Invitation to Dance: Sacred Ordinary

We continue our theme this month of "Sacred Ordinary" through the practice of dance (please visit our Community Visio Divina practice with our newest dancing monk icon of St Francis, Invitation to Photography, and Invitation to Poetry which all explored this theme for May).

I invite you into a movement practice.  Allow yourself just 5-10 minutes this day to pause and listen and savor what arises.

  • Begin with a full minute of slow and deep breathing.  Let your breath bring your awareness down into your body.  When thoughts come up, just let them go and return to your breath. Hold the image of the sacred ordinary, of the holiness of this moment whatever it brings, and step into the dance. You don't need to think this through or figure it out, just notice what arises. Let dance guide you on the journey, listen for how your body wants to move.
  • Play the piece of music below ("Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace" inspired by a prayer attributed to St. Francis and sung by Sarah McLachlan) and let your body move in response, without needing to guide the movements. Listen to how your body wants to move through space in response to your breath. Remember that this is a prayer, an act of deep listening. Pause at any time and rest in stillness again. Sit with waiting for the impulse to move and see what arises.
  • After the music has finished, sit for another minute in silence, connecting again to your breath. Just notice your energy and any images rising up.
  • Is there a word, phrase, or image that could express what you encountered in this time? (You can share about your experience, or even just a single word or image in the comments section below or join our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group and post there.)
  • If you have time, spend another five minutes journaling in a free-writing form, just to give some space for what you are discovering.
  • To extend this practice, sit longer in the silence before and after and feel free to play the song through a second time. Often repetition brings a new depth.

*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.