Dearest monks and artists,
Melinda Thomas has been offering her admin support at Abbey of the Arts for many years now. She is often the warm voice who replies to your emails and she makes sure the daily email newsletter gets formatted and scheduled. She has many more gifts, however, including being a terrific writer and an inspiring yoga teacher.
She published a book last fall which brings together principles of yogic teaching with those from Benedictine spirituality, two traditions which have shaped me in significant ways. I am really delighted that she agreed to offer an online retreat for our community next weekend. Who among us doesn’t long for a deeper sense of balance in our lives. It will be our final online offering until the second half of August as we always take some quiet time in the summer to rest and dream.
Whether you consider yourself a yogi or a monk, or neither but are curious about the connections, read on for some wisdom from Melinda and consider joining us:
“I am delighted by the opportunity to spend time with you this weekend and explore the balancing traditions of yoga and the Rule of St. Benedict. In my book, Sacred Balance: Aligning Body and Spirit Through Yoga and the Benedictine Way, I discuss the many ways Benedictine spirituality and yoga can work in conjunction with one another to promote a balanced approach to life. Here is a brief excerpt.
‘Even though it was written for monastics, the Rule has been a social and spiritual influence for more than 1,500 years. Attention to God’s presence in all things, the importance of right relationship, stability, listening, growth, hospitality, rhythms, silence, and sabbath: these themes transcend the walls of the monastery. Anyone can apply these underlying concepts to daily life. The temptation to say that it is easier to live them out within the confines of a cloister is to dismiss the shared challenges of being human. Yes, it may be less difficult for a monk or nun to pause and pray the psalms and liturgies seven times a day than it is for a layperson; but is it any easier to focus on the Divine in the moment?
Balanced living in spirit, mind, and body is a dynamic conversation between steadiness and motion, work and prayer, sound and silence, activity and rest. Study and application of the balancing way of Benedictine spirituality and yoga are useful markers on the path. Their wisdom has endured the test of time with its evolving cultural norms, politics, theology, technology, and medicine precisely because these traditions bring a steadying dialogue within an ever-changing world.
If you are new to Benedictine spirituality or yoga, or if any of the ideas and practices feel foreign, I encourage you to approach them with an open mind and the Benedictine principles of listening and growth. We don’t know what we don’t know. The path of balance invites us to be curious, exploratory, and receptive to God’s call in the here and now.
In the prologue to the Rule, Benedict quotes Jesus’s words: ‘Run while you have the light of life that the darkness of death may not overtake you’ (John 12:35). The first Yoga Sutra reads, ‘Now is the exposition of yoga.’ The time is now. Balance is not an elusive goal. The path of balance is like God: ever present at all times and in all places. All we must do is shift our attention to see it and welcome it more fully into our hearts and lives. In this moment. Now.’
In this online retreat we will explore the complementary principles of: humility and hospitality; listening, stability and conversion; rhythms, silence and sabbath. Through gentle yoga, meditation, journaling, and discussion, tap into time honored wisdom and practices that affirm a balanced approach to daily living. May our time together help us seek new ways or reaffirm old ones that help us live in balance.”
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo (c) Melinda Emily Thomas
Photo Text: “The wisdom of Benedictine spirituality and yoga have endured the test of time with its evolving cultural norms politics, theology, technology and medicine precisely because these traditions bring a steadying dialogue within an ever changing world.”