Tag Archives: Contemplation

Christine Valters Paintner: Silence, Art, and Contemplation (Episode 40)

Christine Valters Paintner — an American expatriate living in the west of Ireland — joins us on Encoutering Silence to explore the intersections of silence, spirituality, contemplation, creativity, and living as a monk in the real world.

Author, poet, spiritual director, and Benedictine Oblate Christine Valters Paintner serves as the online Abbess at www.AbbeyoftheArts.com, a virtual monastery without walls. She is the author of twelve books on spirituality, contemplative practice, and creative expression, including: The Artist’s RuleThe Eyes of the HeartThe Wisdom of the Bodyand The Soul’s Slow Ripening. Next year Paraclete Press will publish her collection of poetry, Dreaming of Stones.

I started to realize how photography has a lot of violence in its language — so there’s capturing, shooting, taking… the way that we interact with photography is very much about seizing the movement in this kind of violent way. What if when we were with our camera, we looked at it as receiving a gift, rather than taking something? — Christine Valters Paintner

Drawing connections between her life experience as an introvert and her early spiritual formation shaped by Jesuit education and the wisdom of St. Benedict and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Christine shares how a silent retreat inspired her to find the silent, contemplative dimension of artistry, poetry, movement — as well as winter time as a powerful season for contemplative rest and unknowing which is its own contribution to the creative process.

I find that creative work is a lot about just giving ourselves permission to make mistakes, and to have fun, and to do things that we maybe haven’t done since we were a child, and there is a lot of freedom that comes with that. — Christine Valters Paintner

She reflects on how the experience of grieving, living with an autoimmune illness, and embracing our embodied selves, are some of the many portals through which the mystery of contemplative silence has invited her — and can invite all of us — into stillness and unknowing, and into finding ourselves in the present moment.

Christine offers a special treat at the end of our conversation — she reads a never-before-published poem of hers, “Saint Francis and the Grasshopper.”

I believe in the revolutionary power of stillness and spaciousness, and of practicing presence to life’s unfolding. I believe this commitment can change the world. — Christine Valters Paintner

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

When I do spend that time in silence and solitude, I am so nourished by this sense of something so much more expansive and deep and generous, that that naturally spills over into how I want to live my life. — Christine Valters Paintner

Episode 40: Silence, Art, and Contemplation: A Conversation with Christine Valters Paintner
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Kevin Johnson, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Christine Valters Paintner
Date Recorded: October 29, 2018

Paula Pryce: Silence, Bodily Knowing and Ritual (Episode 28)

What happens when a friendly anthropologist conducts an ethnographic study of contemporary contemplative Christianity in America, looking at subjects both in monasteries and in secular life?

Paula Pryce does just this kind of work in her insightful book The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity. Spending several years of research with teachers like Cynthia Bourgeault and Thomas Keating, along with monasteries like the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Massachusetts, Pryce offers a detailed exploration of how contemplative spirituality is making a profound transformation in our time. From previous days when such practice was almost exclusively found within cloistered walls, to the increasing (if still marginal) presence of contemplation  in churches, centering prayer groups, online forums, and educational offerings such as the Center for Action & Contemplation’s Living School or Bourgeault’s own Wisdom School, contemplative practice is a vibrant subculture within Christianity — and Pryce, to our knowledge, is the first ethnographer to write about contemplative Christianity in a scholarly, yet accessible, fashion.

I always meditated before I wrote… I go back in my mind, meditate, and then enter in through memory to those places where I was doing research, and that allowed me to give language to these non-verbal situations. — Paula Pryce

What emerges from her research is a recognition that contemplation (and, by implication, the practice of silence) invites the practitioner into a new way of knowing, that is marked by qualities such as embodiment, community, humility, and ritual.

I’m always after trying to understand the beauty of humankind. We have lots of messages about how awful we are! And we can’t ignore that and I wouldn’t want to. But I honestly think we need to embrace how wonderful humans are. — Paula Pryce

In this conversation, Paula joins the Encountering Silence team to explore not only her own relationship with silence, but also how her research deepened her knowledge of contemplation as a transformational practice. She movingly speaks of her Anglo-Indian father as her silence hero, and draw connections between his lifelong meditation practice and his commitment to social action. She reflects on the paradox of writing about silence (expressing a non-verbal phenomena through the verbal medium of language), and on how ethnography, as a discipline, can help us to understand silence better.

One can use anything as a contemplative practice. That’s the main point of this book: people are trying to train themselves in everyday life as contemplatives, in every action and every way of being. — Paula Pryce

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 27: Silence, Bodily Knowing, and Ritual: A Conversation with Paula Pryce
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Paula Pryce
Date Recorded: May 29, 2018