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 of Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire, a columnist at Patheos, a retreat leader, and a supervisor for spiritual directors. Visit her at www.abbeyofthearts.com.
Evidencing the same creative flair we saw in her book of spiritual insights into the elements, Paintner has now fashioned a twelve-week journey on the interplay between creativity, the contemplative path, and monastic wisdom. This paperback is very practical with each chapter including reflections on the topic, a passage for praying with lectio divina, and a variety of other exercises such as guided meditations, art explorations, poetry, or movement. Paintner wants us to experience the joys of our inner monk and artist. These two parts of ourselves share a capacity for seeing the world beyond surface appearances; nourishing wonder, awe, and holy curiosity; living on edges and border spaces; and serving the mysteries of the world.
In order to tap into the sacraments of daily life, the author presents a poem on ironing by Pablo Neruda, steps for creating a personal art altar, and suggestions for a blessing prayer. Another way of processing everyday spirituality is through the practice of praying the hours.
Paintner turns next to nurturing some of the virtues of monastic life such as obedience, stability, humility, and hospitality. There are chapters on creative community, nature as a source of revelation and inspiration, learning when to let go, vocation and holy service, and creating an artist's rule of life. Paintner has a firm grasp of the material presented here and a vibrant and multidimensional creative ability that brings it all to life. Her mystical perspective is very appealing. She ends the book on a high and holy note:
"The way of the monk is to bring full presence to each breath, gesture, moment, action, or encounter. The path of the artist is to find beauty in the world and to give it form and expression. When we weave them together we create a life full of richness and possibility."