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Worlds Coming Together (a love note from your online Abbess)

Cong forest

Dearest monks and artists,

This has been an incredible couple of weeks with our renewal of vows for our 20th anniversary where American friends and Irish friends gathered with us together to celebrate. It felt like our worlds were coming together in a beautiful way.

Then, just before the pilgrimage began, a shipment of our things from Seattle which had been in storage for the last two and a half years, arrived. This included two pieces of furniture from my father’s family in Austria, an oil painting of my grandmother, lots and lots of family photos, and some other mementos from my parents like the wool cape my mother sewed and the hiking stick my father used in the mountains of Austria. We were finally ready to make the commitment to be here in Ireland long-term and so had everything shipped over in late August. The unplanned timing of arrival to fall during the week of Samhain and All Saints/Souls was very poignant and sweet. It felt again like my worlds were coming together, to bring these things which connect me to my ancestors here to our new home in Galway.

I love the Irish monastic tradition of peregrinatio, of setting out on a pilgrimage without destination and following the currents to the place of resurrection. In many ways, our setting off from Seattle for Europe felt in deep kinship with this tradition and longing – to be guided to the soul’s true home and landscape without knowing exactly where that would be. I have been falling more and more in love with Galway the longer we live here and it has become clear that this is our place to set down anchor for a long while.

I also love the Benedictine tradition of stability, of committing to a place and a community and not running away when things get difficult or challenging. We have been in a season of peregrinatio, but now are called to enter a new season of stability. We no longer need to wander and seek, and are deepening into the gifts and mysteries of this place we now call home. We celebrate the friendships formed here and our slowly growing local community.

Sometimes in life we are called to be pilgrims, and sometimes we are called to stand firmly in one place and say “here.” It is only in listening to the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit that we can discern which one it is the season for. There have been many struggles along the way, times of doubt and resistance, of loneliness and restlessness, and yet now I feel like we have fully arrived and Ireland has an abundance of riches to keep offering to us. My joy overflows.

We have a pilgrimage group with us this past week, and it has been incredibly powerful to sit at this threshold of entering the dark half of the year, the time when the Celtic imagination believes the veil is especially thin between worlds. With the arrival of all these physical ties to my ancestors, I am feeling surrounded by a multitude all whispering: “you are home now.”

This past Friday we went to Brigit’s Gardens, always a favorite with our pilgrims. Jenny Beale, who is the founder and visionary behind this magical place led us in a Samhain ritual. “You can rest now” she said to the gardens, it is the season of incubation ahead, of dreaming and replenishing. “You can rest now” is the invitation to each of us living in the northern hemisphere.

Next week I travel to the UK with Betsey Beckman to teach our Awakening the Creative Spirit intensive with another amazing group gathering. It is an incredible gift to spend time with dancing monks. Then I return mid-November for four contemplative months at home working on my upcoming book Coming Home to Your Body and our series of online retreats from Advent through Lent. See more details below.

Consider joining us for our Advent & Christmas online retreat where we will focus on a different mystic/saint each week and the archetype they invite us to embrace. Reflections, songs, poetry, SoulCollage, dance, and herbs will all be a part of this journey. We have an incredible group of artists and teachers offering their gifts to the community.

If you will be shopping for the holidays with at all, we would be very grateful if you would use this link. When you shop through that link we receive a very small percentage of your purchase price and no extra cost to you. These funds help support our scholarships to those who can’t afford to join our programs otherwise.

For those of you who might have missed it last week, see below for my gift to you as we enter this season of new beginnings and the remembrance of ancestors.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Photo: Forest at Cong Abbey

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