I began writing a blog about seven years ago, initially as a way of retraining my academic voice to one that was more accessible to a greater diversity of readers. The internet has been an incredibly rich way to connect with others longing for a similar path. What began as a forum for my writing has expanded slowly into a global community of monks and artists. Abbey of the Arts is a virtual monastery where we explore the intersection of contemplative practice and creative expression.
In 2012, my husband and I discerned a call to sell everything we owned in Seattle and set off on a midlife pilgrimage. He had been teaching high school for twelve years and was ready for a change. I had applied for and received an Austrian passport through my father who is buried in Vienna. We spent the first six months living in Vienna, but through a series of experiences and encounters, were led to the West of Ireland, in Galway City, where we have lived the past year and a half and feel called to a long-term commitment to this place of wild beauty.
In many ways Ireland has been such a perfect setting for the work we do of exploring ancient monastic roots and practices. This gorgeous green island has such a rich history of monastic spirituality, and we have discovered there is a great hunger to reclaim this wisdom. We love being on the “sacred edge” of Ireland and the European continent, as a place to explore our inner wild edges.
We serve our community in a variety of ways, from a series of online classes and retreats each year which include the seasons of Advent and Lent. We have an online platform where folks can share their reflections and feel connected to other people committed to living a contemplative life in the midst of the world all around the globe.
When you sign up for our newsletter you receive access to our eight-day online retreat on becoming a monk in the world. We have an active Facebook group for connection and conversation called the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks.
We also offer live retreats and pilgrimages, bringing groups to Ireland to explore these ancient monastic ruins which hold thousands of years of prayer, as many were sacred in pre-Christian times as well. We stand among those stones and feel the presence and wisdom of monks who came before us, we sing together and pray to open our hearts to their call through the veil. The Irish have a beautiful image of thin places, where heaven and earth come close.
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD is the online Abbess at AbbeyoftheArts.com. She works with her husband John to offer a variety of online and live retreats and programs and she is the author of seven books on the contemplative path, including The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom and Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. Her article “Eyes of the Heart” appears in the May/June/July 2014 issue of Weavings, “Recovery of Sight to the Blind.”