Christine Valters Paintner has "a deep love of Benedictine tradition as well as the gifts of Celtic and desert monasticism." She is a Benedictine oblate with training in the expressive arts. She says, "Creativity and contemplative spirituality nurture and support each other in their commitments to the slow way, to a close attention to the inner life and to the sacred being revealed in each moment." Her book offers support for a graceful journey through creativity and contemplation.
The author considers herself to be a monk who lives beyond the monastery walls and gently supports others to find their "inner monk" nourished through silence and "a commitment to see everything as sacred." She also offers many approaches to engage one's "inner artist" through the visual arts, poetry, movement and new ways of seeing the world. I so appreciate all Valters Paintner has to share in this book and realize, she too, is attending to her inner life in the midst of the busyness and speed of the world around us.
I have been drawn to aspects of the monastic life myself including the hours of a monastery day from Vigils, also known as matins, the first hour of the day, to Compline, night. The author describes the hours of the day in Week Four: "Sacred Rhythms for Creative Renewal." She offers "seasons of the breath" as a meditation to follow the breath through the directions, the seasons and the hours of the day. This is one of the many practices that doesn't have to be saved to the particular week of the twelve-week course. The breathing practice anchors one in an experience of the actual hour of the day whatever day it may be.
As part of that chapter, the visual art exploration task is to create a contemporary book of hours by using paint, images and handwriting. In this chapter and others, excerpts from the writing of the participants of Christine Valters Paintner's program help to form the "creative community" that is the theme of Week Eight.
The author offers a set of practices, meditations, and art exploration as invitations and doorways to explore the creative qualities of particular values and virtues. For the purposes of this review, I read some pages each morning and was nourished by Valters Paintner's soothing words and encouragement to integrate my spiritual path and creativity into my daily life.
Three practices are suggested as part of one's daily or weekly contemplative and creative journey: walking, lectio divina, and reflection. The four primary movements of lectio divina are: read, reflect, respond and rest. In each of the chapters, the lectio divina is applied to a Bible passage, a poem, or one of the Rules of St. Benedict.
Contemplative walking is a way to honor the season of the earth "and of my soul" the author says. Other reflection is done through journaling and each chapter has specific questions for this practice.
The author's words are enhanced by her careful selections of poetry and quotes from Christian, Sufi, Buddhist and other spiritual traditions.
By Week 13, readers are ready to create their artistic "rule of life" as an articulation of their ongoing commitment to their practice. There are many practices I will go back to: the poetry writing, the "to-be" list and the creation of wisdom cards. This is the book I will take with me as I travel so I will be reminded of the practices and choose a question or two for reflection each day.
Christine Valters Paintner is the online abbess for Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery offering classes and resources on contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire and lives out her commitment as a Benedictine Oblate in the heart of Seattle with her husband and dog. Visit her website.
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