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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. Strength to search for the honest reply.

    Release to free myself from the iron bars I have built around my heart.

    A state of quiet “beingness” to receive the gifts that have always been.

  2. A willingness to step away from the daily routine in order to listen and pay attention to what is percolating deep within.

  3. Resting in an

    Embrace of deep Love.

    Touched to the depths of my inner self.

    Risking being alone and surrendered to an

    Enveloping and penetrating Presence in total

    Abandonment and trust where I let

    Time go to just be in the present God gives.

    Just simply letting God love me as I am.

  4. A very cushy pillow and a brand new, brightly colored pen.
    A spiral-bound, hard-cover notebook.
    Sunshine and the sound of waves nearby (not necessary, but a joy to my spirit).
    Nature extending outward from my door.
    A book of poetry.
    Time. Time. Time.

    Blessings and celebrations and anniversary joy!

  5. Silence and solitude I think are the prerequisites for a time of retreat. A listening, open heart, too. A journal if you are mindful that it does not become a distraction! So many blessings to you on the 4th anniversary of your blog…you and your work are such a blessing to me!

  6. Congratulations on 4 wonderful years Christine. You enrich my life.

    The essential retreat ingredients for me are silence to sink into, mindfulness to notice what is happening, an open listening heart to hear the Spirit’s guidance, prayer to surround, support and nourish and access to the beauty of nature to enliven the senses of my body mind and spirit and bring me to a place that feels more in tune with the rhythm of life.

  7. Sense of Safety
    Solitude interspersed with community
    Connections open to earth, water, air, fire elements
    Good Food & Drink
    All these are available to me at my home and I retreat at home often, but it’s good to retreat away from home, too, for perspective. Going away can be a time of separation/preparation and returning home, a time of integration.

    All the Best to you, Christine, many blessings on many more years – thank you for all you are.

  8. A retreat as caregiver is a few moments before everyone rises…a short while before dawn. A Bible, a cup of hot tea, and a spirit willing to listen are the main ingredients.

  9. Some of the elements I have found important for a time of retreat include:
    – a sense of freedom from obligation, which usually means the understanding and help of my family
    -a place of quiet
    -time before and after to wind down, and gear up again
    -hospitality- it is always wonderful to feel invited and welcomed
    -the possibility of joining a community at prayer
    -good simple food
    -lots of water to drink
    -a place to escape to, if I need a temporary break- especially on longer retreats!
    -it is also good if there is a place to walk, or run

  10. Lovely sharing! A friend just sent me a link to your blog.

    In response to your inquiry about ingredients for a retreat…

    at the end of March… I took 5 days

    opening my heart to the Divine
    journal writing
    creating soul collages
    having a sacred conversation each day with a trusted friend
    walking my dog
    being in nature

    wonderful!! thanks for asking.