Dearest monks and artists,
In 2007 I traveled to Ireland with my husband John and began to fall in love with the path of Irish monasticism. I discovered more stories and a way of moving through the world that felt more spiral and less linear, more organic and less structured. The early period of Irish monasticism is quite unique in that it was less influenced by the Roman church and desire for uniformity of practice. The Irish monks integrated Christian teachings with the Druidic wisdom of their ancestors, and created a spirituality that was much more indigenous to the place they lived.
Five years later, as the result of much listening to our lives and following the threads that were unfolding, John and I embarked on a midlife pilgrimage and moved from the U.S. to Europe. First came time in Vienna, the city where my father was buried, and then six months later we settled in Galway, Ireland, on the wild west coast of the very fringes of the European continent. Our journey was very much into the unknown. We did not know when we left behind the life we loved in Seattle where the following years would take us. The unfolding journey has been far more wonderful than anything I could have imagined.
We have found in Ireland an even richer immersion in Irish culture and ways of being in the world, which are decidedly less controlled, structured, and planned than the American ways we are used to. We have learned to embrace Irish understanding of time with more fluidity. This is challenging at times, but ultimately invites us into a way of being that is more relaxed and spontaneous.
We have been introduced to more of the great Irish saints of this land, whose stories offer the kind of wisdom the desert monks also brought. We knew that monasticism had flourished in Ireland in the early Middle Ages, but were unprepared for just how many monastic ruins saturate this landscape. Within an hour’s drive of our home are dozens of monasteries which are now stone sanctuaries, overgrown with herbs and vines, but still holding the prayers of thousands.
In addition to the sacred land, come a variety of spiritual practices unique to the Celtic imagination. Practices which include always walking sunwise, in harmony with cosmic forces, walking the rounds at holy places as a way to arrive, ask permission to be received, and move out of our linear thought process, and practices of encircling oneself as a means of protection from harmful energies. The Irish monks also treasured learning by heart, blessing each moment, and listening to the wisdom of dreams.
We will be exploring seven Celtic spiritual practices in our upcoming online retreat for the New Year called Spiraling Inward which starts on January 9th. We would love to have you join us in an immersion in the Celtic way of being and prayer.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner