Dearest monks and artists,
I am really thrilled to announce that I have another book coming out on February 19th! Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life is being published by Ave Maria Press (see the end of this love note for a special discount code for those of you in the U.S.) and has been in the process of writing for some time now. Some of you may even have read early versions of it many years ago in a couple of online retreats about the seasons of the soul.
The book begins with the moment of each breath and slowly widens out to consider the Hours of the day, Sabbath rhythms each week, lunar cycles, seasonal rhythms, seasons of a lifetime, ancestral time, and cosmic time. It invites the reader into a more intentional way of being in the world that makes space for touching eternity.
This is an excerpt from the Introduction:
We live in a breathless world.
Everything around us seems to move at faster and faster speeds, summoning us to keep up. We multitask, we organize, we simplify, we do all we can to keep on top of the many demands on our time. We yearn for a day with more hours in it so we can complete all we long to do.
We often talk about wasted time, or time spent like money, or time fleeting. This rushed and frenzied existence is not sacred time.
Sacred time is time governed by the rhythms of creation, rhythms that incorporate times of rest as essential to our own unfolding. Sacred time is being present to the moments of eternity available to us at any time we choose to pause and breathe.
In sacred time, we step out of the madness of our lives and choose to reflect, to linger, to savor, to slow down. We gain new perspective here. We have all had those moments of time outside of time, when we felt like we were touching eternity, bathed in a different kind of rhythm. Touching eternity brings a cohesion to our lives and reminds us of the goodness and surplus of living because it honors the rhythms of the soul.
The clock with its forced march is not the only marker of time. Our calendars with their five and ten year strategic plans rob us of our future as we desperately try to cram things in. Each slow mindful breath, the rising and setting of the sun, the expansion and contraction of the moon, the ripening and releasing of the seasons, these all mark a different quality of time and invite us into a deepened and renewed way of being.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written extensively about our “flow state,” that experience of moving beyond consciousness of time’s ticking and into a place of timelessness. Wisdom traditions tell us that reaching these states of spaciousness and ease takes time, but that is the one thing that feels most scarce, and so we seek quick and easy fixes to our time anxiety. Often this includes rushing more, sleeping less, and being distracted by multiple demands on our attention.
Gary Eberle, in his book Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning writes:
“Sacred time is what we experience when we step outside the quick flow of life and luxuriate, as it were, in a realm where there is enough of everything, where we are not trying to fill a void in ourselves or the world, where we exist for a moment at both the deepest and the loftiest levels of our existence and participate in the eternal life of all that is. In simpler, or perhaps just slower, times, people seemed to enter this realm more regularly, or perhaps even to live with one foot inside it. Prayer, meditation, religious rituals, and holy days provided gateways into eternity that allowed us to return to the world of daily time refreshed and renewed, with an understanding that beneath the busyness of daily life there was an underpinning of calm, peace, and sufficiency.”
Our clocks and calendars were created as tools to serve us, but the roles have reversed and now we serve them in their perpetual drive forward. They measure time horizontally, in a linear way, always ticking off the missed moments. For some, the calculations are literal with productivity expectations rising, and the need to produce more and more widgets in the same amount of time. Our schedules are so packed full of appointments and commitments that there is no time to lose ourselves in dreaming, wandering, playing, or in the eternal now.
It is only when we move more slowly and with intention that we can touch the vertical modes of experiencing time. In this book I suggest that the slow witness of the natural world and rhythms offer us a portal into another experience of time and offer ways to begin practicing this alternate way of being.
When we look at the world around us, of nature and creation, we find exquisite examples of sacred timing: I’ve experienced the monarch butterflies resting in Cape May, NJ in the midst of their migration, cherry trees blossoming each April in Seattle around the building where I lived, the salmon festival in the Pacific Northwest celebrating their return each autumn, and now living in Ireland, welcoming them home to Lough Corrib after crossing the Atlantic to return to the place of their origins to spawn and die. I’ve been in the arctic circle in Norway just before their two months of polar darkness begin, and what I found most surprising and refreshing was how the restaurants and cafes didn’t have bright lights trying to dispel the darkness. Instead everything was lit with candles, there was a sense of welcoming in winter’s gifts.
Seasons like winter call for hibernation, rest, moving into darkness and mystery. Instead we are bombarded with an ubiquitous call to shop endlessly, to socialize as much as possible, lights are strung everywhere to stave off the night. This now begins as early as late summer, and at least by Halloween. I suggest that we look at time as a spiral, through the lens of each breath’s rise and fall, the rhythms of the sun and moon, and the longer cycles of a lifetime, generations, and the Universe itself.
(If you’d love to read through this book in community, we will be hosting an 8-week online retreat starting April 5th.)
Ave Maria Press is offering a special 25% discount on all the books I have published with them including Sacred Time. Use the code TIME at checkout for the discount. Expires June 1, 2021. Only valid in the contiguous U.S. (sorry my beloved global community outside the U.S.)
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE