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The Artist's Rule Paperback – Jul 11 2011
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The author considers herself to be a monk who lives beyond the monastery walls and gently supports others to find their "inner monk" nourished through silence and "a commitment to see everything as sacred." She also offers many approaches to engage one's "inner artist" through the visual arts, poetry, movement and new ways of seeing the world. I so appreciate all Valters Paintner has to share in this book and realize, she too, is attending to her inner life in the midst of the busyness and speed of the world around us.
I have been drawn to aspects of the monastic life myself including the hours of a monastery day from Vigils, also known as matins, the first hour of the day, to Compline, night. The author describes the hours of the day in Week Four: "Sacred Rhythms for Creative Renewal." She offers "seasons of the breath" as a meditation to follow the breath through the directions, the seasons and the hours of the day. This is one of the many practices that doesn't have to be saved to the particular week of the twelve-week course. The breathing practice anchors one in an experience of the actual hour of the day whatever day it may be.
As part of that chapter, the visual art exploration task is to create a contemporary book of hours by using paint, images and handwriting. In this chapter and others, excerpts from the writing of the participants of Christine Valters Paintner's program help to form the "creative community" that is the theme of Week Eight.
The author offers a set of practices, meditations, and art exploration as invitations and doorways to explore the creative qualities of particular values and virtues. For the purposes of this review, I read some pages each morning and was nourished by Valters Paintner's soothing words and encouragement to integrate my spiritual path and creativity into my daily life.
Three practices are suggested as part of one's daily or weekly contemplative and creative journey: walking, lectio divina, and reflection. The four primary movements of lectio divina are: read, reflect, respond and rest. In each of the chapters, the lectio divina is applied to a Bible passage, a poem, or one of the Rules of St. Benedict.
Contemplative walking is a way to honor the season of the earth "and of my soul" the author says. Other reflection is done through journaling and each chapter has specific questions for this practice.
The author's words are enhanced by her careful selections of poetry and quotes from Christian, Sufi, Buddhist and other spiritual traditions.
By Week 13, readers are ready to create their artistic "rule of life" as an articulation of their ongoing commitment to their practice. There are many practices I will go back to: the poetry writing, the "to-be" list and the creation of wisdom cards. This is the book I will take with me as I travel so I will be reminded of the practices and choose a question or two for reflection each day.
by Mary Ann Moore
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
If you are not sure about ordering all three at once, order and read this one first!
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm deliberately working through the book at the pace of the class and have not completed it yet, so this is only as regards the first four chapters so far! I'll be happy to come back and either edit this review or create a new one at such time as I'm done the class.
It comes out of a background of Benedictine and Celtic spirituality and the meditative traditions: as such, there is what I can only describe as a 'Christian-friendly' aroma or atmosphere to the writing. At the same time, it's evident that the author has made a sincere effort towards inclusivity, non-offensiveness, and non-denominationalism. This may distress some people who are looking for a very explicit Christ-focused examination of our artistic gifts and talents, but in my opinion it also makes the book far more accessible to 'seekers', theists of various flavours, and avoids an unpleasant religiousity or aggressive piousness. If you are open to that perspective, you will get a great deal out of The Artist's Rule, whether you are from a Catholic tradition, a conservative Protestant like myself (from a Reformed, Calvinistic heritage, now worshipping in a non-denominational cross-cultural setting!), or simply someone who believes that there is a higher power and a divine motivation in the world which is accessible by humanity.
There are wisdom writings and poems from other traditions that strengthen and enrich the text, but the meditative techniques are based on the monastic 'lectio divinia' and on Biblical texts. Non-Christians/believers from other faiths are encouraged to use other wisdom literature from a tradition in which they are comfortable; mystics, authors, poets, and philosophers, such as Rumi, are quoted. The author's style is personal, affectionate, and supportive, exactly like a firm, kindly mother abbess sharing her thoughts and her collected sagacity.
The art challenges that go along with the book are so appropriate and spiritually-based, with a variety of techniques ranging from collage to poetry to construction. I've been doing a lot of prayer, 'inner work' and self-examination as a result of the class - very empowering, and getting me closer to God's desires for my life - but the book itself will also encourage and inspire you as you read and interact with it. Read slowly, reread, ponder, allow yourself to come to understanding, and savour the concepts, counsel, and wisdom contained.