The Abbey is an online global monastery offering pilgrimages, retreats, books, and reflections to nurture contemplative practice and creative expression.
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, a Benedictine oblate, is the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts and the author of eight books on monastic spirituality and creativity, as well as a poet, photographer, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and teacher.
The Path of Contemplation
One definition of contemplation by Carmelite William McNamara I find helpful is a “long loving look at the real.” Contemplation is long and slow, it takes time and cannot be rushed through. It is a loving look, we gaze upon the world with eyes of compassion and in the process discover our own heart awakening and new worlds being formed there. Contemplation gazes on the real which is not always beautiful or pleasing. The real is the heart of things below the surface. The contemplative sees suffering and brings deep compassion and awareness.
Contemplative practice and rhythms invite us into a deeper way of life, one in which less becomes more, and the goals are slowness rather than speed, savoring rather than productivity. Contemplative ways of being call us to resist the busyness of the world and to invest our identity in being rather than doing.
At the heart of contemplative prayer is an encounter with the Holy One who the mystics across traditions tell us dwells in our hearts as a “living flame of love” (John of the Cross). Contemplative living is about relationship and extending that infinite source of compassion within us to self, others, and creation.
Abbey of the Arts offers resources for those longing to live as monks in the world -drawing primarily on the contemplative practices of desert, Celtic, and Benedictine monastic traditions, as well as wisdom from Buddhist and yogic paths, the Abbey offers a variety of classes, books, and articles to support you in living with more presence in your daily life.
The Path of Creativity
Our approach to working with the arts is through the lens of the expressive arts where process is honored over product and a multiplicity of art modalities are explored as ways of accessing different insights into a particular experience. The languages of poetry, visual art, music, movement, and imagination are all brought to bear on the act of soul-making. In ancient traditions, all of the arts came together through rituals honoring life’s transitions.
The arts can become a vehicle for discovery where what is new within us is given safe space to emerge, where the soul is able to give expression and find form for its deepest longings. Creativity at heart is about cooperating with the divine work within us. Our work in the arts creates a safe space for participants to dive into the gifts of the creative process and listen for the invitations and discoveries shimmering there and what wants to emerge.
Abbey of the Arts offers resources for those who long to deepen their own path of creative expression, honoring it as an upwelling of the Spirit. The Abbey has a variety of classes, books, and articles to help support you in expressing your creativity more freely and authentically.
The Path of Compassion
Soul care practitioners provide a compassionate and healing presence to others through spiritual direction, chaplaincy, counseling, pastoring, and others in similar fields of service. This might be full- or part-time, paid or volunteer. The work is viewed as a ministry of service and rooted in a deep spiritual center. It is a response to a call to help heal the world.
Abbey of the Arts is deeply committed to supporting those who care for others be able to continue this essential work in life-giving ways.
Several of our programs are designed to offer formation, nourishment, and deep inner work of Soul Care Practitioners through contemplative practice, creative expression and honoring rhythms of nature. We believe there is a pressing and urgent need to support those in services of compassionate presence.
Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks
Monk: from the Greek monachos meaning single or solitary, a monk in the world does not live apart but immersed in the everyday with a single-hearted and undivided presence, always striving for greater wholeness and integrity
Manifesto: from the Latin for clear, means a public declaration of principles and intentions.
Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.
1. I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a
culture of noise and constant stimulation.
2. I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space
inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.
3. I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest
longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.
4. I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and
things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.
5. I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability
to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.
6. I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that
measures my worth by what I do.
7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and
8. I commit to being a dancing monk, cultivating creative joy and letting my body and “heart overflow with the inexpressible
delights of love.”*
(*quote is from the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict)