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Embracing a Surplus (a love note from your online Abbess)

sacred rhythms for creative renewal - karen newe

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

I was delighted to receive the image above the other day from fellow dancing monk and artist Karen Newe. The text comes from my book The Artist’s Rule, specifically the fourth chapter, which is one of my favorites on the importance of sacred rhythms for creative renewal. Seeing my words appear in such a visually delightful way was a gift.

I have been pondering the gifts of sacred rhythms and my own creative renewal a great deal this summer with time to rest and heal and nourish myself deeply. This is a part of my own annual rhythm, allowing summer to be spacious and unstructured. Last summer my word was “sustainable” as I leaned into how to make this work I love so much sustainable energetically. Even with work that arises out of passion, we bump up against our limits of what we can give and how much renewal we need.

This summer, my word has shifted to one even more generous: surplus. I am not just thinking about how to have enough energy and resources to meet the needs of this flourishing community, but to have more than enough, a surplus, an excess of reserves.

My word is inspired by a quote I read a couple of years ago by Jungian analyst Robert Johnson in his book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden:

“Nothing happens, which is enough to frighten any modern person.  But that kind of nothingness is the accumulation or storing of healing energy. . . to have a store of energy accumulated is to have power in back of one.  We live with our psychic energy in modern times much as we do with our money—mortgaged into the next decade.  Most modern people are exhausted nearly all the time and never catch up to an equilibrium of energy, let alone have a store of energy behind them. With no energy in store, one cannot meet any new opportunity.” 

Those words have stayed with me ever since I read them, because I have recognized the call of the monk in them. What makes this monastic path so counter-cultural is the active resistance against living a life of busyness and exhaustion, of not making that a badge of pride, of having an abundance of time to ponder and live life more slowly and attentively.

How many of us feel our energy is mortgaged into the next decade? How many of us can never catch up with the rest we so desperately need much less feel like we have a “store of energy” behind us?

There are, of course, seasons of life which sometimes demand more from us energetically. It has been two years since John and I embarked on our life pilgrimage which uprooted us from our long-time beloved home in Seattle and sent us to Vienna, Austria for six months and then on to Galway, Ireland. So much moving and transition over time demands a lot of inner resources. In some ways, I feel as if we are finally landing in Ireland, as if my body finally trusts that I am not going to make it uproot and move again for a long while.

I am entering a new season of life, not one marked by so much change and wandering, but one committed to stability for the long season ahead. One where I fall back in love with the sacred ordinary details of daily life: cherishing old and new friendships, shopping at the market and cooking for nourishment, long walks along Galway bay noticing something new each time, showing up to my computer each day to write from my heart.

The wisdom of the seasons is that they invite us to become aware of the cycles of our lives as we move through each day, each year, and ultimately a lifetime.

Seasons remind us that there is a time for each thing, and when the season shifts we do best not resisting, but embrace the new call.

Seasons reflect the deep insight of creation that everything follows a pattern of blossoming, flourishing, releasing, and resting, and we flourish best when we allow the fullness of that rhythm into our lives in a variety of ways.

Being a monk in the world is in part about learning to tend to these inner and outer seasons, and discover in creation a mirror for our own flourishing and resting. Praying the Hours is one way of honoring the ancient rhythm of the day’s rise and fall, and so our own inner rise and fall as well, and how they facilitate our creative renewal.

For me, it is a season to right now to rest up for the demands of the work I love so much. It is a season to gather a surplus, a store of energy to meet this work with joy and generosity. And it is a season to root deeply into the earth of this beautiful land which has called us to make our home here.

What is it the season for in your own life?

If these ideas spark your imagination and you want to join with others in exploring the wisdom of your own inner monk and artist, join us for Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist (September 1-November 23, 2014), a 12-week online journey through my bookThe Artist’s Rule (chosen as one of the 50 Best Spiritual Books of 2011 by Spirituality & Practice).

Scroll down for more details in this newsletter about upcoming live programs as well including our brand new retreat in the Northwest Coming Home to Your Body: A Women’s Contemplative Embodiment Retreat (April 17-21, 2015) where we will tend to ways of discovering a generous surplus within.

We also have just one space left in the October 20-28, 2015 Monk in the World pilgrimage to Ireland, all other 2015 dates are full (email me to be placed on the waiting list).  There is still room in our pilgrimage for young adults (20s and 30s) March 18-25, 2015 in beautiful Glendalough and journey with us to Vienna May 23-31, 2015.

We also have two upcoming dates for Awakening the Creative Spirit in the United Kingdom (November 9-14, 2014) and in the Pacific Northwest U.S. (April 26-May 1, 2015). If you are a soul care practitioner wanting to deepen into the creative arts for your own inspiration and to bring these tools into your own practice of ministry, we welcome you to join us for a deep creative dive among kindred souls! These will be the only dates until 2016.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

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