Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
I had a beloved spiritual director years ago when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area during graduate school who often asked me this question: What is it the season for?
I loved this question because my creative heart was always full of new ideas, but one of my great invitations in life has been to discern the season I am in and what it calls for – to say no or not yet to many of the creative ideas stirring in me, to listen for what is truly ripe, to make space for the task that is calling to me most deeply this moment.
There is a beautiful rhythm of rise and fall found in every breath we take, in the rising and setting of the sun each day, in the balance between work and Sabbath time each week, in the waxing and waning of the moon each month, the flowering and releasing of the earth through her seasons, and of course the seasons of our lifetimes.
Discernment essentially means to distinguish between the life-giving and life-draining voices calling to us and learning that our lives each have their own unique rhythm. I like to think of life as a continual process of discovery, a pilgrimage through time and space.
One of the greatest gifts of the seasons for me has been this profound insight into the nature of the world around me. My mother died in autumn twelve years ago and those weeks following her death, when I ached with grief deeper than I had ever experienced before, I would walk among the trees. And as autumn’s journey of letting go moved into winter, the bare winter branches, the pale glow of the sun, the long shadows all spoke to me where I was. When the first signs of new life began to sprout I was still deep in my pilgrimage through the landscape of grief, however the fact of spring did offer me solace. It would take another cycle of the year before I could enter into my own springtime. And in the years since, the seasons have become a source of great wisdom for my own life.
In the monastic tradition, we follow the Hours of the day. Dawn, day, dusk, and dark each become a prayer station inviting us into the gifts of this moment. Over and over I am immersed in this rhythm of rise and fall.
This rhythm of rise and fall calls us to remember that time is not always linear, moving us toward an end goal. Time can also be spiral, moving us in cycles of regeneration, growth, release, and stillness.
Our Advent & Christmas online retreat invites us into a new way of relating to time by calling us deeper into the rhythms of unfolding of each moment. When we bring ourselves fully present to here and now, we touch the eternal and the pressures of daily life briefly fall away. Please consider joining us for a season of slowing down and bring lavish attention to these life-giving cycles.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo: © Christine Valters Paintner