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Dearest dancing monks,
I have had the great pleasure of exploring several new (to us) monastic sites over the last couple of months. We are in the process of creating a second pilgrimage itinerary out of Galway in 2016, as so many of our Ireland pilgrims have told us they want to come back again (we hope to have our 2016 dates confirmed soon!). The abundance of these sites is incredible, so much richness of history and tradition, prayers saturating the landscape. It gives us such a visceral sense of how much the landscape was blanketed by monks. The bells calling them to prayer echoing across the hills and fields. The prayers carried on the wind. Again and again, I feel gratitude for being called to this place.
We are nearing the Lenten season and I am thrilled to be offering a brand new online retreat on monastic wisdom for discernment, called The Soul's Slow Ripening. The desert, Celtic, and Benedictine monks knew that the life journey was more akin to a fruit ripening on the branch, rather than a direct flight from point A to point B.
They shared their wisdom through stories and teachings. Stories like St. Kevin who yielded to the divine unfolding and stood while a bird nested in his palm, laying her eggs. Or St. Brigid who sails her boat to Scotland and when the wind dies down, the oystercatchers come to flap their wings and guide her safely to shore (and the old Gaelic name for the bird is giollabride which means Brigid's servant.)
The Irish monks, in particular, relished the space of threshold, the in-between spaces where we let go of the old and incubate the new, we wait and attend, not wanting to pluck the fruit before its time. The monastic tradition is filled with stories of wisdom coming through night dreams, through embracing mystery, stepping out onto the wild edges of the world, and through connection with creation.
How do we discover this rhythm of "no forcing and no holding back" which the poet Rilke describes thousands of years later in one of his poems? In which he pleads "may what I do flow from me like a river."
Deepening into the wisdom of contemplative practice rooted in these monastic traditions makes my heart sing. I am grateful beyond measure to share it with a community who is hungry for this kind of nourishment. Through reflections from myself and John (who will be exploring the weekly scriptures), lectio divina, contemplative photography, and writing invitations, you will be offered a variety of portals into the experience.
Are you in a threshold space of anticipation or discernment? Is there a call slowly ripening in your heart and you would love practices rooted in ancient wisdom and a community of kindred souls with whom to the journey? Or do you simply long for a meaningful Lenten season?
Join John and myself for a heart-centered journey through Lent in a community of fellow dancing monks. Whether you choose to participate in the online discussion or not, there is always a lively and heartfelt exchange happening there, and it is a gift to feel yourself connected to it. We do also offer some partial scholarships and group discounts, so gather some friends and move through the retreat together.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo top: Pear tree branch