A Companion Retreat to the Book
with Christine & John Valters Paintner and Betsey Beckman
February 17-April 4, 2021
The desert is a place of sparse landscape, where we are stripped down to our essence and confronted with our own deep needs and desires. Naturalist and writer Terry Tempest Williams described its spiritual significance in her memoir Refuge: "If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found."
Join us this Lent for a very special journey. We invite you to take a pilgrimage to the desert and in the process journey to your own deepest self. This online retreat invites you to explore and engage with the insights of the desert mothers and fathers of fourth and fifth century Egypt. These men and women of God went to the desert to live out a simple but challenging spirituality that still resonates strongly for us today.
Themes explored include the importance of the cell, the cave of the heart, tears of compunction, radical simplicity, silence and solitude, detachment and inner freedom, boredom and restlessness, elders and spiritual guides, and the importance of daily practice and always beginning again.
We will begin each week with a live session led by Christine Valters Paintner, a scripture reflection from John Valters Paintner, we will cultivate contemplative seeing through short films created by filmmaker Marilyn Freeman, and be invited into embodied exploration with songs and gesture prayers from Betsey Beckman.
This is a companion retreat to the book Desert Mothers and Fathers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained (book not included in retreat fee but can be easily ordered from most bookstores)
Week 1: Listening to Word and Silence
We will explore the themes from Chapters 1 and 2 - Give Me a Word and Your Cell Will Teach You Everything
Week 2: Entering the Cave of the Heart
We will explore the themes from Chapters 3 and 4 - Heart-Centered Spirituality and Thoughts, Desires, and Passions
Week 3: Embracing Vulnerability
We will explore the themes from Chapters 5 and 6 - Humility, Simplicity, and the Beginner’s Heart, and Spiritual Elders and Soul Friends
Week 4: Showing Up Fully
We will explore the themes from Chapters 7 and 8 -- Tears of Compunction and The Necessity of Practice
Week 5: Serving the World in Love
We will explore the themes from Chapters 9 and 10 -- Virtues, Charity, and the Service of Love and Solitude, Silence, and Hesychia
Week 6: Discovering What is Most Vital
We will explore the themes from Chapters 11 and 12 -- Three Essential Things and Prayer and Differing Gifts
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: Live webinar session with Christine
Day 2: Scripture reflection from John
Day 3: Cinema Divina from Marilyn Freeman
Day 4: Song and Movement experience from Betsey
Day 5: Reflection Questions for deeper inquiry
Day 6: Closing Blessing
Day 7: Sabbath rest and integration
- Weekly live webinar sessions with Christine Valters Paintner on Mondays (schedule TBD) - all sessions are recorded
- Ongoing access to the materials in our private and easy-to-navigate retreat platform on Ruzuku.
- Weekly scripture reflections from John Valters Paintner
- Weekly Cinema Divina short contemplative filns created by Marilyn Freeman
- Weekly songs and movement prayers 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.
You will need to purchase a copy of Desert Mothers and Fathers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained
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>>
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.