Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

Embodying Intention

I rested into a quiet weekend which did my spirit good.  It is challenging to slow down after a long period of fullness and so I am being present with curiosity to all those internal judgments about the value of my downtime — where do those voices come from?  Living a contemplative life is at the heart of my call in the world and so I laugh when I am confronted again with those same voices many of us struggle with in an ongoing way.  My father was a workaholic, allowing multiple compulsions to numb him from his pain.  I live in a productivity-centered culture where our value and self-worth is focused on what we do.  And yet, everything in the core of my being relishes the gifts of slowness, presence, attention, and wonder.

I was back to my two-week yoga intensive this morning after a break for the weekend.  I could feel the way rest opened up new spaces in my poses and breathing.  We were invited as our practice began to float an intention for ourselves for this time gently on the stream of our consciousness.

In considering my intention, I asked myself: What do I want my practice to embody today?  How do I want to be in the world?  How does my true self move through each moment?

Each breath, each transition, each pose, each rest became an invitation into awareness and wholeness. I want to move through the world with grace and strength, with compassion (for myself and others), and with freedom.  When I slow down enough to hear those voices chattering in my mind, I am able to be present to them, give them care but not give them power.  I discover the old wounds and judgments which still make space for themselves in my imagination.  When I am unconscious of them they hold far more sway over my daily decisions and way of being.

Yoga, like meditation and like art-making, is a container for us to observe our internal process.  It is a time when I can nourish myself by giving myself full attention and not simply move through life allowing those voices to govern my actions.  I become more free to be who I am deeply called to be.  I begin to embody these desires in my muscles and tendons, they knit themselves into the structure of my being so that a new story can emerge woven from the moments of my own presence and wonder at the beauty of things.

As I walk home from class it is a glorious morning, the sky a pale cloudless blue, the air charged with a breeze coming off the Sound.  With each step I am present to how my body moves through the world and what I long for it to express.  A crow flies high above me and its shadow crosses my shadow, we meet for a moment in that wild, dark space where the new things have not yet come to light. I feel the promise within me, walking forward into the world.

© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Sharon Clymer Landis

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Sharon Clymer Landis’s reflection on the wisdom and love of a foster dog. I’m fostering a dog named Ladybug. She was caught

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Will Boesl

I am delighted to share am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series. Read on for Will Boesl’s reflection Nonduality and Nonbinary. For as long as I can remember, I have been told that I am not

Read More »

7 Responses

  1. A magpie crow,
    singing, is pointed out to me —
    moving the umbrella —
    the boat being turned with the oar —
    there, just ahead!

    by Takaori Taeko (b. 1912)

  2. This is a beautiful post, Christine. I love your phrase, “in that wild, dark space where the new things have not yet come to light. I feel the promise within…” As I gear up for fall, new school year, new commitments, etc, etc, your words remind me to slow down, breathe, experience, not just breeze through. I also take your advice that when I slow down enough and “those voices” surface, to be present, give them care but not give them power. Thank you for this encouraging post!

  3. I think you actually slowed my heart rate while reading this post – it wasn’t racing but I just kind of felt more relaxed as I finished reading. Thank you:)

  4. This struck me deeply: “allowing multiple compulsions to numb him from his pain.” Wow. I needed this mirror… thank you, thank you.

    How I can relate to that one. I’m still having trouble slowing down – the best that can be said is that I am noticing the discomfort. I am noticing my angst and the urge to get centered within.

    Today, while having my Thai massage, I had an incredible thought: what if I could totally accept myself? Totally, without any judgement? I wrote a little about the notion of Reconnection on my other blog (co-blog) – The Self Love Project. (Linked to my writing blog).

    I am soooo ready to find me again! Thanks Christine for sharing your journey…

  5. I very much relate to this: “And yet, everything in the core of my being relishes the gifts of slowness, presence, attention, and wonder. ” Much of the time I feel out of sync with society as a whole. The pull to “do” is strong. Sometimes it wins, sometimes I win.