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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. I have enjoyed many retreats and lead some of them. These are ingredients that are very helpful:

    Prayerful intention to be present to the Spirit
    Expectation that God has already prepared surprises and that my “job” is to find them
    A comfortable setting with natural beauty (the “Big Book” of nature and the “Little Book” of scripture – both revealing God in different ways)
    Something creative – visual arts, dance, writing Haiku, birdwatching – something that I haven’t experimented with before
    Lots of space and silence
    Naps and rest
    Paying attention to the present moment and releasing everything else

  2. Retreat time for me is about silence and creativity. I like to have thought provoking ideas as a starting place and a couple of people to share meals and short conversations about the thoughts.

    Beautiful grounds and a comfortable bed are nice – I am a person who prefers not to be roughing it so a rustic place is good if indoor plumbing and a comfortable bed are available.

  3. I love your newsletter!
    It is a retreat to rest a while absorbing the imagery – poetry – words of wisdom here.
    I wish I would have known about you 4 years ago, but I’m grateful to have just recently discovered you!
    Retreat for me is sacred space within. Opening to the bliss all around me.
    Silence, yes, but also sound. It’s a slowing down. An awareness. Going within and finding what treasures await me.
    I am blessed by you Christine. Thank you. Namaste`