Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
We are thrilled to be offering a virtual Celtic pilgrimage starting January 31st which is the feast of St. Brigid. Journey with us over nine days as we deepen into Celtic wisdom and hear the stories of Brigid, Ciaran, and Gobnait. Each day’s live session (via Zoom) also includes film footage from Brigit’s Garden and two of the Aran Islands as well as our wonderful guides Dara Molloy, Jenny Beale, Deirdre Ni Chinneide, and Pius Murray. (All sessions will be recorded if you can’t join us live). Simon de Voil will be joining me to hold our sacred space through music.
This is an excerpt from my book The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred:
The ancient Christian monastic traditions, especially desert, Celtic, and Benedictine, offer great wisdom for the journey of unfolding. They understood that the soul’s ripening is never to be rushed and takes a lifetime of work. The gift of the contemplative path is a profound honoring of the grace of slowness.
We can grow impatient when life doesn’t offer us instant insights or gratification. We call on the wisdom of these monks to accompany us, to teach us what it means to honor the beauty of waiting and attending and witnessing what it is that wants to emerge, rather than what our rational minds want to make happen. The soul always offers us more richness than we can imagine, if we only make space and listen.
In 2007 my husband John and I traveled to Ireland and I began to fall in love with the path of Irish monasticism. I discovered 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 earth-honoring and indigenous to the place they lived.
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 an 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. Even the lack of street signs invites us sometimes to get lost and disoriented and find our way anew.
Discernment is essentially a way of listening to our lives and the world around us and responding to the invitations that call us into deeper alignment with our soul’s deep desires and the desires God has for us. When I work in spiritual direction, often people come at a time of discernment and transition. They have been thrust onto a threshold, often not of their own choosing, such as loss of a job or relationship. But sometimes it is born of a sense of needing a change.
Sometimes they are seeking a clear answer, they want to know the path God is calling them to, as if we had to figure out the one right thing. My sense is that God is much more expansive than this, and calls us to what is most life-giving, but this might take several forms, many opportunities and possibilities. Often directees want to know their life’s call, but more often than not, we can only discern what is appropriate for this particular season of our lives.
Through this journey of the last several years, I have come to embrace words like ripening, organic, yielding, and unfolding as ways of understanding how my soul moves in a holy direction. There hopefully comes a time in our lives when we have to admit that our own plans for our lives are not nearly as interesting as how our lives long to unfold. That these plans are as the poet David Whyte writes “too small for me to live.” That when we follow the threads of synchronicity, dreams, and serendipity we are led to a life that is rich and honoring of our soul’s rhythms, which I have discovered is a slow ripening rather than a fast track to discernment.
The rhythms of the seasons play a significant role in my own discernment. Honoring the flowering of spring and the fruitfulness of summer, alongside the release of autumn and the stillness of winter, cultivates a way of being in the world that feels deeply reverential of my body and soul’s own natural cycles. We live in a culture that glorifies spring and summer energies, but autumn and winter are just as essential for rhythms of release, rest, and incubation. When we allow the soul’s slow ripening, we honor that we need to come into the fullness of our own sweetness before we pluck the fruit. This takes time and patience.
The Irish tradition is deeply rooted in the landscape and the seasonal rhythms of the year. The year begins in November, as we descend into the womb of darkness. It honors wandering “for the sake of Christ” where a person may take years of journeys before settling into the “place of their resurrection.” Another significant practice is walking the rounds at holy sites. Instead of a linear path straight to blessing oneself at a well, first one must walk the rounds in a “sunwise” direction, in harmony with cosmic forces. Walking the rounds helps us to arrive, to ask permission to be there, and to slowly receive the gifts that come. Dreams show up again and again in the stories of the Irish monks as guidance for the path ahead.
The ancient Christian monastic traditions, especially desert, Celtic, and Benedictine, offer great wisdom for this journey of unfolding. They understood that the soul’s ripening is never to be rushed and takes a lifetime of work.
If the Celtic way calls to you please join us. We begin January 31st.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE