with Christine & John Valters Paintner, Jamie Marich, & Wisdom Council Guest Teachers
January 4-February 14, 2021
What if the very experience we are resisting is a source of profound creative renewal so necessary for this moment in history?
What if we could stay fully awake in dark and difficult times, emerging wiser and more resilient?
Our western culture denies the reality of difficult feelings, demonizes the experience of darkness, and rejects the invitation of winter to move into a place of unknowing and mystery. Our religious institutions don’t leave any room for the experience of doubt and despair. Certainty, planning, and achievement always trump unknowing, mystery, unfolding, and fallowness. We are encouraged to move full steam ahead through every season, never taking time to rest.
The seasons of the year offer us a profound invitation to embrace the gift of darkness and mystery, and to honor what I call the Midwinter God. John of the Cross describes one aspect of this experience as the dark night of the soul which is a spiritual journey of having one’s attachments stripped away.
In the midst of anxiety and distress, how might we begin to cultivate our ability to stay awake and present through the dark night of the soul we experience both individually and collectively? What might happen if we cultivated a non-anxious presence in ourselves? What gifts might emerge from creating safe holding spaces for folks to do their own deep inner work, wrestling with the shadows, expressing grief, and embracing the mysteries of life? I intentionally ask more questions in this description than make definitive statements, because the very quality this journey asks us to cultivate is an ability to be with life's questions.
For this 6-week online journey we will draw upon Christian mysticism and contemplative practice, myth and archetypes, sacred scripture, yoga philosophy, and the creative arts as our guides. Support will come from the voices of a variety of wise guides across centuries and from our own community of fellow pilgrims gathering virtually to share our own wisdom.
This online retreat in particular requires that participants come with a certain amount of spiritual maturity and experience, as well as a willingness to plumb some dark depths in a container of support. We also recommend having a soul friend or spiritual director with whom you can process what emerges in this material.
Christine will also be offering 6 live webinar sessions to share contemplative practice, reflection, and an opportunity to ask questions. These sessions will all be recorded.
Week 1: The Gifts of Winter and Darkness
- The seasons and the breath as a way of being with the cycles of experience
- Embracing the season of winter, the hour of midnight, and the new moon as invitations to mystery, unknowing, fallowness
Week 2: Grief as Holy Path
- Being with the difficult emotions
- The essential role of lament
- Grief as a path of initiation
Week 3: The Apophatic Path or Way of Unknowing
- John of the Cross and the Dark Night of the Soul
- Meister Eckhart and "gelassenheit"
- Wisdom of the desert
Week 4: The Compassionate, Fierce, Dark Feminine
- Mary as the Mother of All Sorrows
- Black Madonna, Inanna, Kali
Week 5: The Transformative Mythic Journey
- Persephone and the journey from victimhood to sovereignty
- Archetypes of Orphan, Destroyer, and Sovereign
Week 6: Modern Voices, Rituals, and Practices
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, Michael Meade
- Reclaiming ritual, story, and practice for 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: Live webinar with Christine Valters Paintner includes overview of the week’s theme, meditation and reflection time together. (Optional small group spiritual direction group available for an additional fee - see below)
Day 2: Scripture Reflection with John Valters Paintner
Day 3: Reflection from one of our guest teachers on the theme
Day 4: Mindful Movement Exploration with Jamie Marich
Day 5: Creative Exploration (writing or visual art)
Day 6: Closing Blessing
Day 7: Sabbath rest and integration
- 6 live webinar sessions on Mondays – January 4, 11, 18, 25, February 1, and 8 at 3 pm Ireland/UK time (7-8 am Pacific + 10-11 am Eastern). with Christine. You can find a time zone converter here. (These sessions 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 scripture reflections from John Valters Paintner and an additional reflection on the theme from one of our guest teachers
- Weekly guided movement exploration with Jamie Marich
- 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.
Weekly Guest Reflections from our Wisdom Council members:
*Optional Facilitated Small Group Spiritual Direction Session
For an additional fee (USD$90) participants may opt to be in a facilitated group that meets immediately following the 6 weekly live webinar sessions via Zoom from 4:05-4:55 pm Ireland/UK time (8:05-8:55 am Pacific + 11:05-11:55 am Eastern). Groups are 6-8 participants and will be facilitated by Melissa Layer (see bio below). You will be in the same group throughout the program. More facilitators will be added as needed. We ask that those who choose this option make a commitment to being present for each session during the 6 weeks. These sessions are not recorded for privacy and confidentiality.
(If we have folks in Asia and Australia/NZ who would like to participate in a spiritual direction group in a more friendly meeting schedule for your time zones - or those in Europe/South Africa who would like a morning meeting time - contact us by email to let us know. If we have enough interest we will try to arrange this.)
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.
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.
Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, REAT, RYT-200, RMT travels internationally speaking on topics related to EMDR therapy, trauma, addiction, expressive arts, LGBTQ issues, spirituality and mindfulness while maintaining a private practice in her home base of Warren, OH. Jamie is also the developer of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts practice. Jamie is the author of EMDR Made Simple: 4 Approaches for Using EMDR with Every Client (2011), Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide for Recovery Enhancement (2012), Trauma Made Simple: Competencies in Assessment, Treatment, and Working with Survivors (2014), Dancing Mindfulness: A Creative Path to Healing and Transformation (2015, with foreword by Christine Valters Paintner), and EMDR Therapy and Mindfulness for Trauma Focused Care (2018, with Stephen Dansiger). Her book Process Not Perfection: Expressive Arts Solutions for Trauma Recovery released in 2019, heavily influenced by the growth she has experienced through her study with Abbey of the Arts! Her latest project is a revised and expanded edition of Trauma and the 12 Steps, coming out from North Atlantic Books in the summer of 2020, which will be accompanied by a meditation reader and workbook later in the year. Visit Jamie'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.