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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

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63 Responses

  1. Oh dear, a day late wishing you happy 4th birthday. Past the terrible twos!

    Your blog is a retreat in itself.

  2. Thank you Christine for slowing me down and encouraging me to think this through. For the past 13 years I have gone on two retreats a year at my nearby Benedictine Abbey, which has become a spiritual home for me. But it has also become perhaps *too* familiar and my routines there sometimes mirror the busyness of my life at home. I am realizing that I may need a *different* setting, a different expectation, in order to leave myself behind and be in sacred space with God.

  3. I used to think that a retreat needed a place away, at least 2 full days and lots of quiet but since taking the Eyes of the Heart retreat with Christine I’ve noticed that I fall into a similar inner stillness just by taking out my camera. I love that I can learn to create a space for retreat right in the middle of life. I now take my camera with me everywhere. Thanks Christine!

  4. Happy Blogiversary!!!!

    My indgredients for a retreat –
    One part – time, gentle time, spacious time
    One part – space, green space, space to stretch and to
    One part – community, to share, to engage with
    One part – prayer, to listen, to hear and to speak, to envision
    One part – silence, to be grounded, to let deep
    respond to Deep
    One part – art supplies, camera, clay, etc. to engage,
    to express, to play
    One part – worship, to honor, to sing, to praise God
    One part – presenter, to guide, offer new & fresh
    Combine and mix well, stirring gently. Let set. Divide into day-long, weekend-long, week-long, month-long pieces, as suits your needs. Savour and be blessed.

  5. Retreat can mean dancing around my bedroom in my underwear to Michael Jackson! It can mean enjoying a day outside and soaking in the sun. It can mean closing my eyes and letting music take me away… It can mean a really good talk with an old friend over a spot of tea. I think the deepest purpose of a retreat is to help us live life fully and abundantly. Retreats help us take life less seriously, so that we can take it more seriously in ways that are more life-giving.

    Thanks to the Abbey for its four years, and may there be many more to come! :)

  6. happy happy birthday to the abbey!!!

    retreat feels as close as closing my eyes and letting my cat’s purr direct the rise and fall of my breath… or as expansive as heading to a foreign country with camera and journal in hand and only my own rhythm to follow… it’s pausing for 30 seconds to admire a new blossom or slow moving snail… it’s following my cycle of breath. ah retreat… just thinking of it allows me to reboot my internal computer :-) xoxoox

  7. A space away
    Early morning on the patio, muted sounds of a neighborhood waking
    Time beneath the night sky
    Driving alone, away from the city and into the country
    Wetlands walking

  8. O Christine! Thank you for your Wonder and Spirit filled presence in my life for nearly all of those four years! You are a flame of hope… a wave of joy… You are a fresh breeze… rich soil. Your photographs and your words, those of others, especially poets are precious gifts indeed. Many many thanks for Being! Here are my thoughts about retreat at this predawn hour:

    A Treat:

    God’s open hands;
    my full heart.
    God’s full heart;
    my open hands.

    Plentiful Time & Creation,
    Hope for Love’s
    Station. A platform
    to come Home.

  9. Congratulations on your 4th birthday also from me, way, way over here in Western Australia.

    My necessary ingredients for my retreat are, my journal, my most comfortable and well worn in shoes, maybe some quiet music, a sandy beach or a sunlit glade where I can sit and dream, wander at random and be at one with my thoughts and with nature.