Dearest monks and artists,
I pray this note finds you well and thriving as we move through the season of Christmas and this turning point of the calendar to a new year.
I have had a time of mini-sabbatical these last few weeks as my health continues to be a challenge. Rest is such a gift and I am grateful for the space to ease my fatigue and pain. As I sit in quiet moments, my heart always turns to this beautiful work I am privileged to do and to you, our beloved dancing monks, who make this work such a joy.
I know many of you have heavy hearts for all that is happening in our world. So much war, so much destruction, so much hatred, so little care for life and love and the thriving of all beings. These are things I pray about each day as well.
It can certainly be overwhelming at times, and our nervous systems weren’t designed to handle the onslaught of terrible news from all corners of the globe.
What do we do as monks and artists committed to a way of contemplative practice and creative expression?
I ask myself this question often and do not have easy answers. I sit in the mess and struggle with you. What I do know is how vital it is to live a way of peace and compassion as a witness to another reality. How important it is to have space to dream and create new worlds.
It is necessary to live with a profound attunement to our own hearts which comes through time spent in silence, time with our loved ones, time among the trees and rivers, time with the saints and ancestors, time writing and dancing and painting. All of these relationships – to silence and friendship, to nature and the invisible ones, to our creative longings – help to steep us in a deeper wisdom than the one that operates in a world where destruction has become the primary impulse.
I know the contemplative and creative ways can seem perhaps superfluous in a world so drenched in need. But when we lose these practices and commitments, we become mired in cynicism and despair. We lose a connection to the voices that can truly help to guide us to a better way.
The call of hospitality, which is core to the monastic tradition, is such an essential practice in these times. To meet the wounded strangers within ourselves with love and compassion and to bring that profound care to others we meet is a powerful way of showing up in the world. Hospitality means making room for the lament, the weeping, the terrible grief at witnessing so much violence and loss of life.
After time each day with all of these wisdom guides, we can then listen for what is ours to do. How are we to respond? Is it to donate money? To write letters? To join a protest? To reach out to a local community who is experiencing hostility? Maybe it is reading some of the books from our Lift Every Voice book club to expand your awareness. Co-facilitating that is an act of loving service and a source of ongoing transformation in my life. There are a thousand small, quiet ways we can put our prayers into action. It is up to each of us to discern how we are being called. Sometimes I find myself needing to craft prayers and blessings as one way to respond. Here is a blessing for peace. Pray with it, feel free to change or adapt it, or perhaps be inspired to create your own prayer of peace.
Blessing for Peace Wondrous Peacemaker, guide us in a world filled with war, hatred, and division, to create a place where everyone can live free from fear of violence. Care for the soldiers, the victims, the refugees. Be a balm for their wounds and guide them to alignment with your holy desires. Transform the tools of destruction into vessels of cultivation. Where bombs rain down, let the tiny seeds sprout among the rubble. Where the stranger has fled to safety, let them be welcomed with open arms. Where the desire for vengeance consumes let a new way crack open. Infuse us with the courage needed to speak words of care, to be the presence of peace in all of our words and actions. Let the light of your love pulse within us, so we become bearers of shalom. May the radiance of our dreaming be a sign of hope, so all might dream together this more beautiful world.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Christine Valters Paintner, Clare Abbey, Ireland