with Christine & John Valters Paintner, Betsey Beckman, & Jan Blencowe
November 29 - December 26, 2020
Join us this Advent for a 4-week journey into the heart of sky, sun, sea, and stone as wisdom guides for our journey towards holy birthing in our lives.
Advent is a season when we are called to say yes to give birth to something new. It is also a season of growing darkness in the northern hemisphere, a time to move more deeply into mystery and honor the sacred rhythms of Earth. We will begin each week connecting to a name given to Mary which expresses one of the elements - Mary the Air We Breathe, Mary the Burning Bush, Mary the Living Spring, and Mary the Greenest Branch. We will open ourselves to how the elements might support our own holy birthing as we journey toward Christmas.
Then during the week there will be a variety of creative practices to help you connect more deeply with air, fire, water, and earth as allies and sources of support. Through creative writing practice led by Christine Valters Paintner, nature journaling practice led by Jan Blencowe, movement practice led by Betsey Beckman, and scripture reflections from John Valters Paintner you will be immersed in the questions the elements ask of us.
You will be invited to listen deeply for the ways that air, fire, water, and earth can support you in becoming a feather on the breath of God, in discerning your passion, in hearing your call to follow the flow, and in becoming deeply rooted. Each week offers a feast of creative pathways to encounter the richness waiting within you as you move more deeply into the cave of your heart in this sacred season.
Week 1: Sky and the Element of Air
Sky and air invite us to breathe deeply and fully of life, remind us to become a feather on the breath of God, and listen for the secrets the breezes at dawn are whispering to us as we awaken.
Week 2: Sun and the Element of Fire
Sun and fire invite us to kindle the deepest passion of our hearts and connect us to the infinite well of compassion that dwells in each of us. John of the Cross called this the living flame of love that burns within.
Week 3: Sea and the Element of Water
Sea and water invite us to find the flow of our lives, to ask where we are trying to push the river, and what sacred rhythms are most nourishing for us. The poet Rilke prayed “may what I do flow from me like a river.”
Week 4: Stone and the Element of Earth
Stone and earth invite us to remember our rootedness and how we emerged from earth and will one day return there. This practice of remembering our death is a call to claim what is most precious in our lives.
How it Works
Six days each week you receive an email with a link to the day's content. The 7th day is a time for rest and integration. The materials are in written, video, and audio format which you can view and listen to at any time. You have lifetime access to the materials in the course.
Day 1: Introduction to the week and theme - Mary's names and the elements
Day 2: Live webinar with Christine Valters Paintner where she will guide you in a writing practice inspired by each week’s theme and element.
Day 3: Scripture Reflection with John Valters Paintner
Day 4: Nature Journaling with Jan Blencowe
Day 5: Song and Movement with Betsey Beckman
Day 6: Closing Blessing
Day 7: Sabbath rest and integration
- Four live 90-minute writing sessions using the Zoom platform on Mondays – November 30, December 7, 14, and 21 at 5 pm Ireland/UK time with Christine (9 am Pacific/12 noon Eastern) These will be recorded if you can't join live.
- Ongoing access to the materials in our private and easy-to-navigate retreat platform on Ruzuku.
- Weekly reflections from Christine Valters Paintner on the names of Mary connected to the elements
- Weekly scripture reflections from John Valters Paintner
- Weekly nature journaling practice with Jan Blencowe
- Weekly guided movement exploration with Betsey Beckman
- A vibrant community forum for sharing conversation and reflection facilitated by Melissa Layer and Amber Andreasen, two of our Wisdom Council members and trained spiritual directors.
NOTE: In an effort to keep this program accessible, please carefully consider both your own resources as well as honoring the expense, time, and energy required to run these programs and keep our work sustainable.
If registering for a scholarship rate for one of our retreats, please enroll in only one program at a time.
Special thanks to those choosing the sponsorship rate for helping to keep our programs affordable.
If you need a different payment option or plan than what is available, please get in touch with us.
Your Guides for the Journey
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Christine is the director of AbbeyoftheArts.com, a virtual monastery exploring contemplative practice, creative expression, and ways to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness. She is a spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, and author of nine books on spirituality and the arts. Her deepest belief is that the earth is the original monastery--a wisdom guide and mentor in living a soulful and vibrant life. Visit the "About Christine" page for more information.
John Valters Paintner, MTS is the online prior for Abbey of the Arts, where he assists his wife Christine in ministering to global community both online and through in-person programs. John was a youth minister and pastoral associate for four years before becoming a high school religion teacher for twelve years. He has a Masters of Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. His love for the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, emerged when he taught the “Old Testament” at an all-boys high school. John is also a lover of the art of story-telling and has written dozens of short stories, one-act plays, and short films in a variety of genres.
Betsey Beckman, MM is nationally acclaimed as a spirited dancer, storyteller, teacher of SpiritPlay and dancing Spiritual Director. With her extensive repertory of sacred storydances, she is regularly featured as artist/presenter at national conventions as well as local churches. She earned her Masters in Ministry degree from Seattle University, her certificate in Movement Therapy from the Institute for Transformational Movement, and is a certified InterPlay leader. As dancer, choreographer, author, mother, wife, teacher and spiritual director, she is passionate about living life fully and fostering creativity in all those with whom she shares life and ministry. Betsey's publications include books (she is co-author of Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Expressive Arts to Spiritual Direction), recordings, and The Dancing Word series of DVDs on embodied prayer. She offers the gift of playful improvisation whenever possible. Visit Betsey's website here>>
Jan Blencowe is an artist, creative depth coach, and retreat leader. She helps women use art and nature to heal their past so they can design their future. She is the creator of the online courses Beginning a Nature Journal and The EarthWise Way, a sacred journey through the Celtic year. Visit Jan's website here>>
Forum Facilitators and Guides
Melissa Layer, MA honors our unfolding journeys through life’s challenges and transitions as compelling invitations for creative, integrative meaning-making in BodyMindSpirit. Her sacred calling and training as a psychospiritual therapist, hospice grief counselor and interfaith spiritual director have taught her about the potency of the “thin places” in thresholds and dark nights of the soul. Often utilizing expressive arts for curious exploration of the Great Mystery, Melissa offers her compassionate presence and deep listening to individuals and groups. Like the honeybee for which she is named, she claims her role as “a bee of the invisible… passionately plundering the honey of the visible in order to gather it in the great golden hive of the invisible” (Rilke). The evergreen forests of Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest are her sacred sanctuary. Melissa is available for spiritual direction by Skype, phone, email and also in-person for those living near Olympia, WA. You can visit Melissa's website here>>
Amber Andreasen is a contemplative, ever desiring to deepen into and dance the rhythms of monk and artist. She has trained as a spiritual director, receiving her M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from The Institute of Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology. Wherever she finds herself, she desires to nurture a compassionate space where others can be listened and loved into fuller being by the Beloved. She is continually awed by the body as sacred storyholder and storyteller, and her heart beats loudly for the weaving together of creativity and spirituality in the discovering of what it means to live an embodied, fully human life in all its mystery and wonder.