Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
This is my favorite time of year, these months of autumn's arrival, then this time of remembrance in the church of those who have passed away, and finally the season of Advent which asks us to quiet ourselves and listen to the holy birthing happening within each one of us. It can be a rich contemplative time if we give ourselves the gift of space.
Each year we create an online retreat offering for Advent to support you in creating a space dedicated to retreat in daily life so that you might be even more open to the gifts the season brings. This Advent the title of our retreat – Signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars– comes from the first Sunday's gospel passage. I love to imagine the awe that ancient peoples must have felt from observing the rhythms of the sky. Here in Ireland, the sun is getting lower and lower in the sky and her arc each day gets smaller. I love that low angle of golden light as well as the long hours of darkness each night to light candles and spend time simply being and breathing. When I take our dog Sourney out at night before bed I stand under the night sky for a few moments, especially when we are blessed with clear vision and I can see the moon and stars still beckoning to us.
This winter I am working on a book version of the Earth as Original Monastery material I have shared in this community in both online and live retreats. The Advent retreat is an extension of that, new materials to invite you into a sense of kinship and wonder with the natural world. Each week will have reflections from me, stories of saints and their animal companions, guided meditations, writing prompts, scripture reflections from John on the Sunday gospels, song and embodied prayer with Betsey Beckman, and we are delighted to welcome a new guest teacher for this season, Jan Blencowe. Jan will be introducing the beautiful and simple practice of nature journaling as a way to attend to the world around you. Through handouts and videos, she makes the practice really accessible and a beautiful way to drop into the contemplative spirit of this season. No fancy materials are necessary.
We will also have our vibrant community forum where you can share the fruits of your reflection and prayer, lovingly facilitated by Melissa Layer and Amber Andreasen, two gifted guides. You are always free to choose how much or how little you want to participate, but know there is a supportive community there if you do choose to dive into that aspect of the retreat.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to arrive to Christmas, that feast of holy birth, feeling deeply nourished and grounded rather than rushed and depleted? Make a commitment to yourself, anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour each day to dive deep into a contemplative journey with creation. We would love to have you join us.
As always, if you are having financial challenges in this season of life and would really value some retreat time, please get in touch about the possibility of some scholarship assistance. We strive to make our programs accessible to all.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner