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

Holy Pause: The Practice of Retreat

retreat 02Last Friday and Saturday I was at St. Placid Priory leading a workshop and a retreat.   Much of my work is leading retreats – and while I spend a lot of time designing the flow of experiences, ultimately it is about creating and holding sacred space for others.  On retreat the invitation is to cross the threshold of ordinary awareness and enter liminal space for a few hours or days to receive the new questions waiting for us.

This coming weekend I go on my own time of retreat to the place where the forest meets the sea.  This space where wild edges meet invites me to ponder the questions which “make and unmake a life.”  When I enter into silence, solitude, sabbath, and spaciousness I hear the quiet inner voices which get drowned out in the rush of daily life.  I have had life-changing moments on retreat.  I have encountered longings which carried me over new thresholds.  I have been transformed in my willingness to meet myself.  On retreat I can walk for hours among trees, I can gaze upon the unfolding of wave after wave, I sleep when I feel tired, I write pages and pages from a heart which begins to see things widely again.  Daily life can narrow my vision and tighten my gaze.  Retreat invites expansion, the pondering of horizons, the dancing on edges.

Retreats come in many shapes and sizes.  Sometimes all that is necessary is an hour with the phone and computer turned off, a cup of tea, a journal and pen, and some silence to begin to reconnect with the heart.

How might you bring the gift of retreat to your life this season?



The Abbey blog is four years old this week!  To celebrate my anniversary I am giving away a set of art journals (all five titles which are perfect companions for your own retreat).  To enter the random drawing leave a comment below by MONDAY, MAY 10th and share your necessary ingredients for a time of retreat.



Later this month I will be launching a redesign of my website as I move toward offering more resources online for integrating the experience of retreat into your everyday life.  I have been pondering the shape of next year’s offerings here at the Abbey and will be announcing them by the end of May.  Some free online gifts for my wonderful supporters are also in the works.  Subscribe to the Abbey Email Newsletter to be one of the first to hear the details.



Sunrise Sister at Mind Sieve ponders the element of fire and asks some wonderful questions

Melinda at Inspiraculum offers her reflections on air as breath of God and the art she created in response

Diamonds in the Sky with Lucy contemplates the renewal and release of water


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

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Kate Kennington Steer

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kate Kennington Steer’s reflection Heart of Stone. I arrived at February 2023 in a post-viral fatigue fug, feeling beset by depression, with

Read More »

Soul of a Pilgrim Video Podcast Day 2

Blessing for Packing Lightly*Winnowing God, you ask us to release, let go, surrender, and yield all that we canin service of making space for what is most essential. The more we set aside that which burdens us and takes up too much spacethe more room

Read More »

63 Responses

  1. Congratulations on providing 4 years of spiritual nourishment from the Abbey! Dropping into the Abbey provides moments of retreat that renew and refresh my soul. Thank you.

    Because I also spend time giving retreats throughout the year, I seek solitude and silence for my personal retreats. Ingredients: change of scenery (from my desert landscape), time to engage in new spiritual practices, read, journal, make an altar with “found” objects in my surroundings, sleeeeeep and relish simplicity. Blessings: breathing deeply, joy, peace, curiosity, reawakened creativity and unhurried conversations with God. Ah!

  2. For retreat the thing I need most is intention; the decision and will to carve out a space of stillness within my daily schedule. I need quiet even for a moment, to watch the roses dance in Autumn breezes, the freedom to reflect and wonder about whether they know the winter is coming and they must soon fall, yet the delight to simply enjoy their beauty, their movement and fragrant abandon. I need stillness to hear the rythym of my breathing where each puff of air is received as gift and exhaled in trustful surrender. I need wakefulness to pay attention to the feel of the earth under my feet, the weight of my body in a chair, the touch of fabric against my skin, the taste of warm food filling my mouth and to receive it all as gift. I need intention to be; simply be and in that place, for that time, my heart and soul know retreat. A place of sanctuary where nothing material need be changed, yet everything has the potential to be transformed in the light gained from turning off the spotlight glare of busyness for even a few short moments and attending instead to the gentle quiet inner light of the Spirit who is always waiting, abiding and longing for me to intentionally retreat to simply be.

    Of course that intentionality can be enhanced by a pen, a notebook, some colouring pencils and paper, my Bible and the freedom to move, to dance, to sing and to pray. Being in nature, water, wildness, weeds or cultured beauty. All this helps but is not as essential as my commitment to intentionally be present and wait upon whatever the Spirit brings.

  3. Congratulations on four years! I’m so grateful to have found you!

    Essential for me on retreat:

    a journal,
    a way to be in nature or to view it easily,
    unstructured time,
    freedom from the phone, computer, and the needs of others for interaction,
    permission (usually from myself!) to just be and not have an agenda,
    an open heart and spirit

    Not essential but often helpful:

    an art studio or art materials
    warmth in cold weather and coolness in hot weather
    two or more days
    a few inspirational books, at least one prayer book
    healthy food

  4. This is my favorite time of year for retreats. I often sit on my deck, listen to the birds and chimes, watch little critters scurry and feel soft breezes on my face. I retreat into myself and feel the presence of love, peace and joy.

  5. No phones or interuptions, only the wind stirrring the trees, dogs barking somewhere, children playing next door. Sitting in my quiet space, our verandah, looking at God’s creation. Sometimes with my journal at hand & a coffee. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, it’s enough to refresh my soul

  6. retreat…..alone in the car, no husband, kids, radio, traffic, driving along with the Divine Companion
    retreat…..walking the dog at 6 a.m. each morning…after the rain the petals have fallen on the sidewalk from the crab apple tree nearby and the Voice whispers “Here comes the bride”
    retreat……bell rings, students leave the room, a sense of the Presence in the gathering quiet until forty five minutes pass and the bell rings again.
    retreat….still knowing….

  7. Congratulations Christine! a great retreat space itself, may be your finest creative venture.
    It is a haven of heart, holiness and healthy mind. Thank you for your generous sharing, teaching, engaging over the last four years!

  8. Thank you for the virtual retreat space you have made here for four years now.

    As a list lover I could write all the things I put in my bag for going away on retreat, many of them entirely sensible (especially warm socks/cosy slippers).

    The most necessary ingredient, however: an out breath. Letting go. Trusting the next breath will come. No expectations, no long-list of agenda. In this moment, breathing out.

    (I feel uncomfortable about not saying “God” but God is less a necessary ingredient and more the ground of all being, all breathing, all loving, all dreaming and therefore everpresent. Or something like that!)

  9. Happy Fourth Birthday of your Blog, Christine!

    Retreats have also been life-changing for me. I had a beautiful Lenten retreat with you. A weekend retreat with four Sacred Heart sisters not long ago was one of the most powerful moments in my life, as if the Spirit was carrying us all several cycles along. Walking the Camino is a great way to have a ‘walking retreat.’

    I am looking forward to an 8 day retreat in Fribourg, Switz. the first week of August. I hope to go to a Carthusian monastery for ten days of silence some time this fall.

    Then, of course, I have like a monastery of my own in the old, thick-walled farmhouse where I will be back in a few days for several months. There, working on my knees in the garden, with my hands in the earth, I find that I both weed my garden and my heart with the Presence next to me.

    Godde is very good to me.

  10. Happy birthday and many happy returns of the day!

    Lavender oil in my diffuser
    A tub filled with warm water and bubbles
    My amethyst crystal twinkling in the candlelight
    Choral music on my mp3 player