Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
I am relishing the slower rhythms of summer, time for unstructured schedules when I can follow my own inclinations, noticing what my body and spirit need in a given moment. I have much work to do on my manuscript to have it ready by August, but what nourishes the writing process for me is allowing time for diversions like making seashell mandalas, writing poems, and going for long walks when things in my mind need a little shaking loose.
John and I went on a spontaneous trip out to the island of Inisbofin (Island of the White Cow) last week. It is a place we visited last summer and felt smitten with. The requisite monastic ruin on one end close to beautiful beaches with lots of shells for gathering, the other end wild and more rugged with evidence of inhabitants dating back to 8000-4000 B.C. This is an ancient and thin place, revealing the veil to be very diaphanous between worlds.
We went because we have been inspired to create a new pilgrimage itinerary in Ireland for next year, one that is part writing retreat, and focuses on some of the stunning islands off the coast of Connemara. On our overnight trip we felt drawn even more strongly to bring others to that place, and others we have fallen in love with.
John and I have returned to our daily practice of lectio divina, after falling away because of so much travel and groups arriving. The beauty of the monastic path is that we are simply called to begin again. To remember that we are always beginners in this spiritual life. And in that return after absence I remember with even more vigor the gifts this practice offers to me.
We are practicing lectio continua, which is rooted in the ancient monastic tradition of choosing a book of the scriptures and praying with a couple of verses each day, working slowly through it. In this way you pray with texts you might not otherwise, you read the words in context. We did this with the Song of Songs, and have recently begun praying through the Psalms, knowing this will be a long-term commitment.
Our text the other morning was Psalm 5:8-9 and the words that shimmered were “make straight the path before me.” I resisted at first, because I am not one to seek things laid out in order. I prefer peripatetic wanderings and following the thread. I love meandering and holy pauses, the questions rather than the answers . But as I sat with the text in the silence I realized that it was lifting up a longing I have been having recently: to be in alignment with what is ripening within me.
I am a big believer in seasons of the soul. And of course, moving overseas two years ago and starting new lives on this side of the ocean ushered us into a brand new season. When we moved six months later from Vienna, Austria to Galway, Ireland another new season broke open as we focused on getting to know this landscape that had beckoned us.
In recent months the season has been shifting again, or revealing more of its contours and invitations. I have a deep sense of longing to root myself even further here. I am remembering the delights of the sacred ordinary each day in new and sometimes unexpected ways. And I am being called to spend more energy on bringing groups here who want a soulful and intimate experience of this place we have fallen in love with.
Summer will allow me to keep listening to how this wants to unfold. The season ahead is calling for a deeper alignment, a sense of being in congruence with the movements of the Spirit in my life. This is what the biblical text means for me, a longing to see the new grooves being formed in my soul and follow them. My sense is one of coming into alignment with something deep inside of me that I cannot yet name, but I trust more than anything. There is a rightness in letting go some of what worked before, some of the patterns and rhythms which carried me to this point but are no longer necessary and in fact get in the way of true alignment. This is what living the questions and the mystery means for me.
What would coming into alignment with your own soul’s ripening mean for you?
Our rhythm at the Abbey this summer will be much slower, the newsletters will be a little less frequent. We are pausing our weekly invitations to lectio divina, poetry, photography, and dance, as well as the monk in the world guest posts until September again.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo by Christine of seashell mandala