Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

A Midwinter God

Making a Conscious Underworld Journey

Registration Fee: $150 USD

Program Description

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, and the expressive arts as our guides.

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 recommend having a soul friend or spiritual director with whom you can process what emerges in this material.

How might a descent into the underworld become an experience of initiation into wiser ways of being in the world?

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?

What's Included

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: Audio recording of a weekly webinar delivered by Christine Valters Paintner during a community offering of this retreat. Includes overview of the week’s theme and meditation and a written transcript of the session. There is also a written reflection by Christine on the week’s theme.

Day 2: Scripture Reflection with John Valters Paintner

Day 3: Mindful Movement Exploration with Jamie Marich

Day 4: Reflection from one of our guest teachers on the theme

Day 5: Creative Exploration (a suggested expressive arts journey which includes movement, visual expression, and writing)

Day 6: Questions for Reflection

Day 7: Sabbath rest and integration

  • 6 audio recordings of sessions delivered by Christine Valters Paintner in our live offering of the program (along with a written transcript of each session). 
  • 6 written reflections by Christine on the weekly theme.
  • 6 written scripture reflections from John Valters Paintner 
  • 6 additional written reflections on the weekly theme from members of our Wisdom Council
  • 6 guided movement explorations with Jamie Marich delivered by video. 
  • 6 written invitations into an expressive arts journey inspired by the weekly theme.
  • Ongoing access to the materials in our private and easy-to-navigate retreat platform on Ruzuku.

Weekly Themes

Week 1

The Gifts of Winter and Darkness

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

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

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

Week 4: The Compassionate, Fierce, Dark Feminine

-Mary as the Mother of All Sorrows
-Black Madonna, Inanna, Kali

Week 5

The Transformative Mythic Journey

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

Week 6: Modern Voices, Rituals, and Practices

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, Michael Meade
-Reclaiming ritual, story, and practice for our lives

Your Guides for the Journey

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Christine is the director of, 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 headshot 2

John Valters Paintner, MTS

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-500

Dr. Jamie Marich (she/they) describes herself as a facilitator of transformative experiences. A clinical trauma specialist, expressive artist, writer, yogini, performer, short filmmaker, Reiki master, TEDx speaker, and recovery advocate, she unites all of these elements in her mission to inspire healing in others. She began her career as a humanitarian aid worker in Bosnia-Hercegovina from 2000-2003, primarily teaching English and music while freelancing with other projects. Jamie travels internationally teaching on topics related to trauma, EMDR therapy, expressive arts, mindfulness, and yoga, while maintaining a private practice and online education operations in her home base of Warren, OH. Jamie is the author of numerous books on trauma recovery and healing, with many more projects in the works. Marich is the founder of The Institute for Creative Mindfulness.

Praise for the Course

The gifts and challenges are in hearing a deep earthy spirituality, one which challenges laziness and cliche such as 'everything happens for a reason' or 'god never gives us more than we can cope with' and instead has asked - what kind of spirituality can be used in the hospital ward where people are dying? . . . So the gift you have given that I will carry with me is in showing me more of the safe and human way of encountering the divine.
Sarah T.
So much gratitude to all of you who have made this Mid Wintering God journey such a rich one. I have gained more of myself during this walk - what a blessed gift.
Jan Spragge
This fallow time of winter has been a blessed time where I have had the luxury to delve deeper and encounter those parts of me that have been asleep. I feel a much deeper affinity for and appreciation of the fierce dark feminine, the orphan and the destroyer.
Karen Taylor
Art work and Movements were new to me but I have learned their value. I even rekindled the gift of art that I had as a young boy - long forgotten.
William Dingas


Your registration constitutes an agreement with our online program Terms and Conditions below.

All prices displayed in USD.


Registration Fee

If you need a different payment plan or a scholarship to make this program accessible, please get in touch with us.

Terms and Conditions

Please consider your purchase carefully and review the many free materials we have on our website to make sure the program will be a good fit or get in touch with any questions.

We ask that you honor our work by not sharing the program materials with others who are not enrolled.

Please contact us for permission to quote in settings beyond the program

Some self-study retreats include video or audio recordings of sessions that were recorded in a live community offering of the retreat and may make reference to forums or other modes of sharing. Please disregard these as self-study retreats do not have these available.

If you choose a payment plan and stop payment before fulfilling the commitment without contacting us to make other arrangements, your access to the program will be removed.