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Soul of a Pilgrim Video Prayer Cycle Day 6 ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess


Blessing for Beginning Again*

Spirit of the fresh morning air,
allow us to see all the places where newness
is being born into the world,
the bud of a flower just breaking open its petals,
the turning of the sea’s tides,
a gaze into the eyes of another
and seeing their beauty,
the river stone being rubbed smooth.
Help us to remember
that we are always being called to begin again,
like the Prodigal One returning home
to a loving parent’s embrace,
hold our shame or heartache
at wandering so far from you,
reveal to us the feast
you prepare where tables are piled high
with the sweetest of fruits.

Dearest monks and artists,

Today we share with you the Day 6 video podcasts for our Soul of a Pilgrim prayer cycle. The theme for Morning and Evening prayer is The Practice of Beginning Again

We all experience moments when we need to pause and reflect, when we feel far away from our spiritual practice and need to remember the monastic commitment to conversion. 

Conversion in monastic tradition is never a once-and-for-all event. Instead it is always a process of unfolding, ripening, emerging, arising.

I like to think about this commitment to conversion as always being surprised by God, always remembering that God’s imagination is far greater than our own. We let ourselves be moved by something unexpected, a momentary awareness of beauty or grace.

Do you ever have those moments when you are suddenly caught in the emotion of a past story you thought you had worked through already? “That again?” You might ask yourself. But the expectation that we somehow work through an issue and then are done with it is a very linear way of approaching life, when I would suggest our experience is much more of a spiral. We come around again and again to the very same things that cause us to stumble, but each time we see them from a new perspective.

As monks in the world, we are always on the path, always growing, we never fully arrive and so we always have more to learn. Being a monk in the world is not something we simply become once and for all. It means being committed to the process of discovery, it is the ongoing transformation of a lifetime. We recognize that we are always a beginner in life. When we think we have everything figured out, cynicism and cleverness clouds our vision.

Conversion calls us to a radical kind of humility, where we recognize that we simply do not know, we aren’t in control, that at the heart of everything is a great Mystery. Only when we surrender to that kind of radical unknowing can we be transformed. Only when each moment of life breaks us open with wonder and awe are we on the way.

This is one of the reasons I am drawn to the practice of the expressive arts. Art-making becomes a pilgrimage or path of discovery. As I listen each moment to the creative impulse, I let go of what I think whatever I am creating should look like. I let go of my orientation toward creating a beautiful product and let the journey take me where it will. This is a wonderful way to practice this for life as well.

Honoring our limits as creatures can be deeply liberating. Giving up our demanding inner perfectionism can be freeing. How often do I resist beginning a creative project because of my fear that it will not live up to the image in my mind? Humility invites me to release those expectations and enter into the call of my gift knowing that it may look very differently from my imagining. Recognizing our flaws in gentle and compassionate ways can bind us closer to others. We must have patience with the unfolding of our lives and the world. God’s kingdom unfolds in God’s own time. We discover that we are not solely responsible for saving the world. Acknowledging our limits, can liberate us from our compulsions and frantic busyness and lead us towards recognizing our interdependence. Each of our gifts contributes to the whole.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: 

“If the Angel deigns to come it will because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner.”

Bringing the mind and heart of a beginner to our lives helps us to discover the wisdom inherent in each moment. When we let go of our desire to be clever or successful or create beautiful things we may begin to open to the sacred truth of our experience as it is, not how we want it to be.

Wonder is at the heart of conversion, letting ourselves be moved by life, letting ourselves be surprised by God, letting ourselves be open to the grace of the moment.

We are having our big annual summer sale on our self-study retreats. With over 20 to choose from, there are many options to support you in your own commitment to beginning again, whether through a new spiritual practice or creative longing. Use code SUMMER20 to take 20% of any retreat.

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

*Blessing for Beginning Again is by Christine Valters Paintner from the Soul of a Pilgrim prayer cycle

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