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The Mystical Heart: Love as a Creative Force

Registration Fee: $350 USD

Program Description

At the heart of mysticism is a profound sense of God’s intimate and transforming presence in your life which always expands your capacity for love. We can be sure that our encounter with the divine has been genuine when it leads us to greater love and compassion for self, for other, for creation, and for God.

We encounter this Ground of Love both through our own spiritual practice, opening our hearts daily to listen, but equally as important is through divine grace which always extends out toward us, always seeking to be in communion with us.

Mystics are found in all spiritual traditions and commit themselves to practice in prayer and meditation, spiritual reading, and meeting with a mentor or soul friend in an ongoing way so as to make themselves more available to these moments of encounter.

Through this series you are invited to explore with wisdom of ancient mystics like Anthony the Great and desert wisdom, medieval mystics like Hildegard of Bingen, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Mecthild and the Beguines, Julian of Norwich, and Kevin of Glendalough, and modern mystics like Howard Thurman, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Merton.

Each presenter will invite you into the particular mystic’s perspective on love and through teaching, meditation, creativity, and practice you will begin to embody their wisdom and cultivate love as a conscious practice and creative force in your life.

What's Included

  • 10 recorded 3 hour long retreats in audio and video formats each exploring a different mystic
    • Separate videos with closed captions for added accessibility
  • Reflection questions and creative expression prompts for each mystic to deepen your exploration of their wisdom and how it relates to your life today
  • Immediate, lifetime access to all retreat materials so you can explore the mystics in your own order and at your own pace

Mystics You Will Explore

Hildegard of Bingen

with Christine Valters Paintner & Betsey Beckman

Teresa of Avila

with Claudia Love Mair

Mechtild and the Beguines

with Sister Laura Swan

Thomas Merton

with Sophfronia Scott

Anthony the Great & the Desert Elders

with Christine Valters Paintner

Harriet Tubman

with Therese Taylor Stinson

Benedict of Nursia

with Christine Valters Paintner

Howard Thurman

with Lerita Coleman Brown

Julian of Norwich

with Carl McColman

Kevin of Glendalough

with Christine Valters Paintner, Kenneth Steven, and Simon de Voil

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.


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), producer of the Abbey of the Arts CDs, and The Dancing Word series of DVDs on embodied prayer. She offers the gift of playful improvisation whenever possible. Vist Betsey’s website. 

Carl McColman

Carl McColman

Carl McColman a spiritual director, retreat leader, Lay Cistercian, and internationally known speaker and teacher on mystical spirituality and contemplative living. He is the author of many books, including The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Eternal Heart: The Mystical Path to a Joyful Life, and Unteachable Lessons: Why Wisdom Can’t Be Taught and Why That’s Okay. He is one of the co-hosts of the Encountering Silence podcast, and blogs regularly at Patheos, Medium, and his own website, Although he himself is a practicing Christian, his approach to contemplation and mysticism is inclusive and expansive, and he is dedicated to exploring the common ground between faith traditions; he is particularly interested in the connecting points between Christian, Buddhist and Pagan wisdom. Carl lives with his wife, artist Fran McColman, in Clarkston, Georgia, near Atlanta. Visit him online at

Claudia Love Mair (1)

Claudia Love Mair, MFA

Claudia Love Mair, MFA is a writer, artist, and Ringmistress of the Beautiful Soul Circus, a private Facebook group for creatives, queers, and tender souls. She’s an Inspirationalista who, when she’s not creating something herself, helps other creatives tap into their deepest intuition and longings through writing and painting. Claudia is the author of the God Alone is Enough, the critically acclaimed novel, Zora and Nicky, and her memoir, Don’t You Fall Now. She is a Certified Intuitive Painting and Expressive Arts Facilitator and the Coordinator for the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative. Claudia lives in Lexington, with two of her adult children, and three cats, including one who thinks he’s a dog.

Lerita Colman Brown

Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD

Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD,  Ayşe I. Carden Distinguished Professor Emerita of Psychology, Agnes Scott College, is a spiritual director/companion, writer, retreat leader, and speaker. She earned her BA from UC Santa Cruz and PhD from Harvard University and her certificate in spiritual direction/companioning from the Shalem Institue for Spiritual Formation. Professor Brown promotes contemplative spirituality, the living wisdom of Howard Thurman, and uncovering the peace and joy in one’s heart on her website, and other social media platforms. She appeared in the PBS documentaries,  Back Against the Wall:  The Howard Thurman Story and The Black Church. In 2019, she published, When the Heart Speaks, Listen—Discovering Inner Wisdom which chronicles her heart transplant journey. Her current book, What Makes You Come Alive—A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman will be published by Broadleaf Press in February, 2023.

Laura Swan

Sister Laura Swan

Benedictine Sister Laura Swan is a member of St. Placid Priory in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She is a spiritual director and archivist as well as faculty at Saint Martin’s University where the students inspire her to learn and rethink and learn even more. Her passion has been around restoring the histories and stories of women to history (to the narratives that shape our understanding and perceptions). She is the author of numerous books including The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement,  The Forgotten Desert Mothers and Engaging Benedict: What the Rule Can Teach Us Today.


Sophfronia Scott

Sophfronia Scott is a novelist, essayist, and leading contemplative thinker whose work has appeared in numerous publications and received a 2020 Artist Fellowship Grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts. Her book The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton received the 2021 Thomas Merton “Louie” Award from the International Thomas Merton Society. Sophfronia holds degrees from Harvard University and Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and is the founding director of Alma College’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, a low residency graduate program based in Alma, Michigan. Sophfronia’s next novel, Wild, Beautiful, and Free, will be published in February. Visit Sophfronia online.


Kenneth Steven

Kenneth Steven is a Scottish writer, best known as a poet. Some 16 of his collections have been published over the years, and in 2021 Paraclete Press brought out Iona, a volume of his new and selected work. Iona has been at the centre of his writing life for many years now: his novel The Well of the North Wind is swirled around the imagined story of the creation of the Book of Kells on the island. He and photographer Iain Sarjeant created another book, Iona the Other Island, about all the hidden sacred places on Iona, often overlooked and unvisited by tourists. Kenneth and his wife Kristina lead Celtic Christian retreats on Iona each October.  Visit Kenneth’s website here.

Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese Taylor-Stinson is a seasoned spiritual director, an award-winning author-editor, and an ordained deacon and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  As an organizer Therese won an award in 2018 as a Collaborative Bridge-Builder presented by Grace and Race, Inc., and an Indie Author Legacy Award for her edited work Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around:  Stories of Contemplation and Justice.  She is the founder and organizer of the Racial Awareness Festival based in Washington DC, which recently closed with its sixth annual event and seventh organizing year.  Therese also founded the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, Ltd., going into its 14th year and 8 years incorporated as a nonprofit.  In addition to the above, she is a certified pastoral caregiver and an Emotional Emancipation Circle Facilitator.  Therese is married to Bernard Stinson.  They have a daughter and two granddaughters. Her current book is Walking the Way of Harriet Tubman: Public Mystic and Freedom Fighter.

Simon de Voil playing guitar

Simon de Voil

Reverend Simon Ruth de Voil is an interfaith-interspiritual minister, sacred musician, spiritual counsellor, and chaplain.His sacred work—both musical and interpersonal—explores themes of the inner landscape of the soul, the enchantment of the natural world, and the healing power of spiritual practice. As a chaplain and counsellor, Simon helps individuals and groups connect sacred presence with everyday life. Simon is also a transgender activist and a luthier in training. Visit Simon’s website here.


Praise for the Course

It's Easter Monday and I am sad to see the end of this Creative Flourishing retreat, but oh so grateful for the multi-layered experience. I made the decision to take this journey at the last minute, but with great conviction it would deepen my Christian life. I had no idea what it would be like. It was like nothing I have experienced before. Thank you to Christine for originating the idea and doing such a thoughtful and tender job of guiding us through this journey. My deepest joy was to reconnect with the artist within me. The art literally flowed from me. Like living water. A well-spring fed by Christ himself.
Laurie Wagner
I'll be stepping into the season of Easter and spring with more ease, joy and awake from having prayed with, reflected on, moved with and daily witnessing of the mandalas during the past five and one half weeks. Thank you Christine for your vision, knowledge, design and guidance throughout this Lenten season; Hildegard of Bingen is now a living Saint for me. Betsey, i've become more embodied, through participating in your interpretations of Hildegard in dance and chant. This spiritual community has filled my heart with divine blessings. I will pass these blessings on.
Beatrice Randall
I'm so grateful for this retreat. It has been the most amazing experience of learning and growth, spiritually, artistically, and emotionally. Most of which I was not expecting when I signed up. Christine, I want to thank you again for this amazing Lent retreat. It was a joy, honor and privilege to attend. This has been an experience I won't soon forget. I've learned so much about myself and this process of healing through artistic expression. I look forward to doing more with you
Tamara Mapp
Thank you, Christine, for the best retreat I've ever experienced. I'm hooked on Hildegard! She will ever be part of my spirituality as she has added both depth and richness to my faith.
Evelyn Jackson
Sincere and grateful thanks for this marvelous retreat. Your guidance and song will live in my heart. Hildegard's presence has been a source of light and love. Your ministry is much appreciated. We are greener!
Mary Mason
This has been a very rich retreat. I have loved creating, singing, breathing, moving, reading and praying with you. Thank you.
Judith Bryan
My heart is so full. This has been the best retreat in my life.
Louise Thigpen


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All prices displayed in USD.


Registration Fee


10 monthly payments of $35

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

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