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Earth, Our Original Monastery

A companion retreat to the book

Registration Fee: $150 USD

Program Description

Earth is our original monastery. Our original cathedral. And our original scripture, saints, spiritual director, icon, sacrament, and liturgy. 

Through the wisdom of monks and mystics, as well as scriptures, we discover a vital strand of the Christian tradition which deeply honors Earth as the place of sanctuary and revelation, of guidance, and witness to celebration.

Christine Valters Paintner’s book Earth, Our Original Monastery is a book that invites you to not just read and digest, but to enter into and immerse yourself in a set of practices that help to embody a renewed way of being in relation to the natural world. Filled with reflections on how contemplative practice and creative expression can break open the divine presence in new ways and deepen our love for Earth.

Paintner provides seven ways of seeing the earth in light of faith and pairs each one with a set of practical invitations to practice, as well as creative explorations. These include:

  • the earth as original cathedral—where you first learn to worship and feel God’s presence around us, paired with the practice of stability
  • the earth as original saints—plants and animals live their calling without trying to be something they’re not and inspire you to do the same, paired with the practice of gratitude
  • the earth as original icon—nature can serve as a window to the holy in the same way that icons do, paired with the practice of lament

Join our self-study offering of this online retreat with recordings of webinar sessions offered during a community version of the retreat, a series of songs that accompany each theme with movement prayers, suggestions for herbal practices, and audio guidance for visual art-making, poetry writing, meditations, and contemplative walks inviting you to be in nature in a particular way.

Do you long to deepen your intimacy with nature?

Are you seeking a set of Earth-cherishing practices inspired by the mystics?

Have you experienced Earth as your primary place of connection to the divine?

Do you want to immerse yourself in a revolution of love to help transform ourselves and our communities?

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: Webinar recording with Christine Valters Paintner includes overview of the week, meditation and reflection time together, and an invitation into an herbal ritual (recorded during a community offering of this retreat).

Day 2: Scripture Reflection with John Valters Paintner + Audio Recording with Christine for the Meditation

Day 3: Song and Movement Invitation with Betsey Beckman (a song has been chosen to deepen into each week’s theme)

Day 4: Audio Guidance with Christine for the Contemplative Walk

Day 5: Audio Guidance with Christine for the Visual Art Exploration

Day 6: Audio Guidance with Christine for the Poetry Writing + Closing Blessing Video

Day 7: Sabbath rest and integration

  • 7 hour-long webinar audio recordings with Christine introducing each chapter’s theme and an overview of the contents, including an herbal invitation.
  • Ongoing access to the materials in our private and easy-to-navigate retreat platform on Ruzuku.
  • Audio recordings of Christine guiding you in each chapter’s meditation and offering some guidance for the contemplative walks, visual art-making, and poetry writing.
  • song (downloadable audio) each week with an accompanying gesture prayer (streaming video format) from Betsey Beckman to deepen your experience through movement.
  • A beautiful video each week offering you a closing blessing on the theme.
  • Not included are the herbs we will be working with each week or a copy of Christine’s book Earth, Our Original Monastery. Please order a copy ahead of the program.

Weekly Themes

The Gates We Enter, The Thresholds We Cross

All stories have gates that the reader enters alongside the protagonist. The gate leads to a threshold that once crossed, initiates a series of challenges and invitations for the protagonist and for us. We find the Selkie within us.

Week 1: Earth as the Original Cathedral

Week 1:
Earth as the Original Cathedral

Earth has multiple terrains, as does the soul. Becoming familiar with the outer landscape reveals dimensions to us of our inner ones as well. Recognizing which territories enliven our souls and which ones challenge us brings us closer to discovering who we most deeply are and what we long for.

Week 2: Earth as the Original Scriptures

Week 2:
Earth as the Original Scriptures

The words of scripture offer us one kind of insight into God’s Word, and the physical dimension offers another. God is in all things and is the true essence of all things. One of Eriugena’s favorite words is theophany, which means “something that reveals the divine nature.” For him, the world and all of creation is a theophany.

Week 3: Earth as the Original Saints

Week 3:
Earth as the Original Saints

The trees and flowers do not try to be other than they were created to be. They teach us how to live out our own sainthood by no longer refusing our true nature. To become a saint means to embrace our essential nature, which is the vessel through which we carry out our callings.

Week 4: Earth as the Original Spiritual Directors

Week 4:
Earth as the Original Spiritual Directors

We might be tempted to think that creation cannot speak to us in language and so it has nothing of importance to say. Rather than speak about nature, we might consider addressing our speech to elements and creatures, knowing that they will respond in their own form of communication.

Week 5: Earth as the Original Icon

Week 5:
Earth as the Original Icon

Nature is a holy text for many of us, and an icon is a window to the Divine Presence at work in the world. Creation is therefore the original icon, the primordial place of our encounter with God, the Great Artist, who is continually at work in the world around us. When we gaze upon this holy image, we are also invited into the practice of lament for all that has been lost.

Week 6: Earth as the Original Sacrament

Week 6:
Earth as the Original Sacrament

When viewed through this expansive lens, we discover that the more we cultivate intimacy with the natural world, the more we discover about God’s presence. All of our interactions with nature can be sacramental, and all the ways nature extends herself to us are sacramental as well.

Week 7: Earth as the Original Liturgy

Week 7:
Earth as the Original Liturgy

Earth and her creatures teach us how to pray, how to worship and praise, but only if we listen and pay attention to their rhythms in this world. We are invited into their unending song of gratitude, to join them in their prayer of gratitude for all that is.

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 poet, spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, and author of fifteen 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 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

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>>
What I have learned these past few weeks through these teachings of Earth as Our Original Monastery is that everything that has breath does in fact praise the Lord. As the psalmist writes, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” It has been a wonderful and ever deepening connection with the earth, with my garden, with sky and sea, with day and night, wind and seasons.
Mike Culloty
This retreat has helped to make my relationship with nature and God deeper and more intimate in many ways.
Lavinia Hardy
With much gratitude I thank you Christine for this chock full retreat! The videos created with your words and images by the Work of the People, the graceful dancing by Betsey, so expressive, your introduction to each week's theme, gentle meditations, John's scripture readings and lectio divina offerings to ponder and share.
Mindy Bocko


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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.

Purchase the Companion Book

The book is not included in the registration fee. You may purchase the book at the links below or at your local book seller. Thank you for your support!

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.