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Landscape Mysticism (a love note from your online Abbess)

Dearest monks and artists,

I have been back from Vienna for a week now, enjoying settling back into my life in Galway, and listening for how this time away has shaped me.  Pilgrimage always changes us because it always brings us to an encounter with the Holy.  As I return to Ireland, I find myself full of inspiration and dreams.  And I find myself deeply trusting the direction my life is moving.

There is a part of me hungry to keep traveling more, living here in Europe with so many cultures and countries on my doorstep.  And while there are some amazing places I would like to visit eventually – Taize in France, Iona in Scotland, the Camino in Spain, just to name a few – I am hearing a clear call to deepen into the landscapes I already love.  Vienna: the city of my heart and beautiful muse for artists and pilgrims, Ireland: with her ancient history of monks being called out to the wild edges of life, and Hildegard’s Germany: the landscape which shaped St. Hildegard of Bingen and where she saw the greening power of God most alive.  These are the places I want to deepen into.  I am invited into a kind of “landscape lectio” where the world around me becomes a sacred text revealing something of God.

The landscapes we live in shape us.  There are certain places on earth which sing more strongly to my heart and soul. Some of us are called again and again to particular places because of the impact they have on how we see the world. Places which shimmer with a kind of beauty and longing I can’t explain, only experience.  Honoring this reality is a way of honoring the incarnation – God becomes flesh in the world around us.  This place, this river Corrib which rushes by me each day toward the expanse of Galway bay beyond.  This place, the glorious architecture and soundscape of Vienna which beckons me to follow narrow cobbled walkways and make new discoveries.  This place, the verdant and flourishing Rhine valley where Hildegard found so much solace and inspiration and where I discovered the meaning of viriditas in a new way.

As I return to Ireland, I am listening for how the land itself is calling forth something from deep within me.  New ways of inviting this community into transformative experiences which impact how we live as monks and artists.

For me, this roots me in the monastic practice of stability, which calls the monks to not run away and to stay committed to the place they find themselves.  For a monk in the world, it means fully embracing the way the world around you shapes your own dreams and desires and points you in a holy direction.

What are the landscapes which shimmer strongly for you, revealing a holy presence?  How does the landscape you live in now shape your vision of the world?

If you are a soul care practioner, and long to join kindred spirits in a meaningful conversation about the ways the earth nourishes our work and ministry, then please join us for Earth as Soul Care Matrix: The Wild Heart of Ministry (May 5-June 15, 2013) where we will explore archetypal landscapes, seasonal rhythms, and nature as a source of discernment. The class is part of the Soul Care Institute offerings to support your essential work in the world.

With great and growing love. . .


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Photo:  View of Vienna from my hotel room on the last night of my visit

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