Mustard Seed Treasure #3 – The Artist’s Rule

I have been told several times in the course of my life that I should have been a nun. And I must admit, it has a certain draw.

Not because I’m overly devout, but because I am so easily jangled by the world, because I so love solitude and silence, and because I need lots of space and time away from the hurly burly demands of life for quiet contemplation.

I guess that’s still an option, but I’m too attached to my husband and sons to seriously consider entering a monastery.

And then I found this book at the Mustard Seed Bookstore (aaahhh, Naramata!):

Christine Valters Paintner is a Benedictine oblate.

Now that’s an interesting word.

Oblate.

She explains that an oblate is a layperson or clerical member who makes a commitment to the prayer life and spirituality of a particular monastery, and to live out its way of life in her or his own circumstances.

So Christine lives with her husband and writes and works in Seattle and strives, in her daily life, to follow the 1500 year old Rule of St. Benedict, which she says offers balanced and profound wisdom for living a contemplative, spirit-centered life even in today’s complex world.

She was first introduced to the Benedictine Rule as a student when she discovered Hildegard of Bingen, a wildly creative 12th century Benedictine abbess. Hildegard became her creative, contemplative touchstone and when Christine moved to Seattle, she affiliated herself with the nearby Benedictine community of St. Placid Priory in Lacey, Washington.

She has written several books about creativity and the contemplative path and she even offers an online course called Way of the Monk, Path of the Artist which is a guided group version of what she outlines in the book that caught my eye in Naramata.

The Artist’s Rule reminds me of Julia Cameron‘s book that I so love, The Artist’s Way,

only this one approaches creativity in a more contemplative way. Like the Artist’s Way, it is designed to be completed in a twelve week span but, Christine encourages us to follow the urgings of our own hearts and take as much time as we need in each section.

As I leafed through its pages, I knew a week per chapter wasn’t nearly enough. I need a full month in order to properly sink into it (preferably with at least a week of that month spent cloistered in a remote cabin in the woods).

Like Julia Cameron, Christine believes we are all inherently creative; we are all artists. She says, when I use the word ‘artist’ I include poets, writers, cooks, gardeners, and people who use all manner of creative expression; we are all called to be artists of everyday life.

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of monastic spirituality with invitations to explore it’s link to creativity via journal questions, meditations, art explorations (visual, written, musical and dance/movement) and something called lectio divina (sacred reading):

There is nothing magical about the particular set of practices, meditations, and art explorations I suggest: they are offered as invitations and possibilities, doorways to explore the creative qualities of particular monastic values and virtues. You are invited to engage the ones with which you feel resonance, and if some evoke dissonance, I invite you to consider engaging those as well, while paying attention to what your response reveals about your inner life.  An important part of the monastic way is to engage the places of our lives that challenge us and even make us bristle. 

I love that line–

engage the places of our lives that challenge us and even make us bristle

and particularly the word,

 bristle. 

It’s the mindful exploration of those things that metaphorically raise the hair on our necks, launch the quills from our backs or lift our protective skunk tails that lead to self-knowledge . . . and peace.

At this point, all I’ve done is flip through the pages and dream of the cabin described above. I’m not quite ready to dive in. Maybe in the new year, when January’s empty calendar pages promise more quiet, reflective time after the hectic Christmas season. Or maybe in May, once our Extreme Self-Care explorations are complete.

Or maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and know that it’s time to begin.

I’m not going to worry about it. It will happen when it is ready to happen and, I’m happy to report that Christine agrees with my new-found commitment to not rushing. She says the monk and the artist cannot be hurried. An artist who hurries has lost his original integrity. A monk who hurries has lost a little of her soul.  

p.s.

Another thing I’ve learned from my casual skimming of Christine’s book is that there is actually a Sacred Order of Monks and Artists, otherwise known as SOMA.  Isn’t that the coolest thing?

There really is a community for everyone.

Howl and Ye Shall be Found.

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