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Posted April 28, 2011

Book: The Artistís Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom
Author: Christine Valters Paintner
Sorin Books. Notre Dame, IN. 2011. Pp.171

An Excerpt from the Foreword:

"And donít we all, with fierce hunger, crave a cave of solitude, a space of deep listening ó full of quiet darkness and stars, until finally we hear a syllable of God echoing in the cave of our hearts?" Macrina Wiederkehr

When Benedict of Nursia abandoned his studies in Rome, he found his way to a cave in the hills of Subiaco. This cave would become his sacro speco (sacred space), for it was there that Benedict devoted three years of his life to searching for God. Out of his deep listening in the cave of solitude was born one of the most loved rules of all ages ó the Rule of St. Benedict.

The Artistís Rule has the potential of becoming your own sacro speco. Just as Benedict spent three years of solitude in a cave, youíre invited by this inspiring work to spend twelve weeks in the cave of your heart, nurturing your creative soul, and sitting at the feet of your inner monk.

The monk, a universal archetype of the search for the divine, represents everything in you that leans toward the sacred, all that reaches for what is eternal. The monk represents everything within you that is drawn to seek with unwavering love; to wait for the Holy One with reverential awe, to praise, bow and adore.

The artist speaks to that part of you which yearns for beauty and creativity. Your inner artist invites you to participate in the great work of healing the world by lifting out of your senses creative images, words and actions that inspire others to live lives of wonder and surprise.

Christine Valters Paintnerís joyous spirit and love for the monastic way shines through her teaching as she describes the various ways the tools of the monk can become tools for the artist. The Benedictine vows of stability, conversion, an obedience can become a staff of support, leading you to a greater faithfulness to you creative soul.

Both the monk and the artist have fundamental voices that are needed for the transformation of our world.

Although many writers have tried to help us open the door to our creativity, The Artistís Rule seems unique in revealing to us a special kinship between the monk and the artist. The threads of monastic wisdom woven through these pages can serve as an "endowment fund." Dip into this sacred reservoir when you need the discipline to align your heartís desires with your actions.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Visual Art Exploration

Photographing Wabi-Sabi ó

Wisdom from Buddist Monastic Tradition

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional

Ė Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers

The wisdom of Japanese Buddhism offers insights into the grace of humility for our lives as artists. The term wabi-sabi essentially refers to the beauty found in humility and imperfection and is based on certain truths observed in nature: all things are impermanent, all things ar imperfect, and all things are incomplete. Everything in nature is in a state of becoming or dissolving. Wabi-sabi is rooted in the seasons and the sacred rhythms of the day and the year. Humility invites us to always remember that life is about both waxing and waning and to embrace the decline as much as we embrace the rise of things. It is to remember our earthiness.

Crispin Sartwell explores the meaning of wabi-sabi in his book, Six Names of Beauty, which is an exploration of aesthetic understanding in different cultures:

Wabi as beauty is humility, asymmetry, and imperfection, a beauty of disintegration, of soil, of autumn leaves, grass in drought, crow feathers. For such reasons, an appreciation of wabi is an appreciation of the world and a certain sort of refusal of its transformation for delectation. Wabi as an aesthetic is a connection to the world in its imperfection, a way of seeing imperfection as itself embodying beauty . . .Sabi is a quality of stillness and solitude, a melancholy that is one of the basic human responses to and sources of beauty . . .Thus wabi-sabi is an aesthetic of poverty and loneliness, imperfection and austerity, affirmation and melancholy. Wabi-sabi is the beauty of the withered, weathered, tarnished, scarred, intimate, coarse, earthly, evanescent, tentative, ephemeral.

Imagine what you consider beautiful and see if you include death and decay. Autumn is the ultimate witness to the beauty found in death. Leaves explode with vibrant color just before their great release back to the earth.

For this weekís art exploration, bring your camera with you on a walk. (A digital camera will be easiest, but a conventional one will also work.) Begin by closing your eyes for a few moments, centering yourself, and connecting to your breath. Consciously move your awareness from your head to your heart and breathe in the infinite source of compassion dwelling there. Then gently open your eyes, maintaining a soft gaze of receiving. Focus on your experience. As you move through the world, stay in this mode of receptivity and be present to the places of beauty in ugliness, decay, and death:

"Wabi-sabi is not found in nature at moments of bloom or lushness, but at moments of inception or subsiding. Wabi-sabi is not about gorgeous flowers, majestic trees, or bold landscapes. Wabi-sabi is about the minor and hidden, the tentative and ephemeral. . . .The beauty of wabi-sabi is, in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly." (Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi)

Use your camera to receive images that come to you as you walk. Remain mentally present. When you return, review the images and reflect on what you discovered in this time of making space for the beauty of broken things. Notice if certain images resound with your own places of tenderness and vulnerability. Where have you been allowing this experience to hold you back from creative expression? How might these images serve as an invitation to release perfection and find beauty in imperfection?

Blessed are you who meets me where I am,
in the quiet moments and hectic days.
Blessed are you who comes like a whisper in my breath
and spreads images of majesty before me.
Blessed are you who comes incarnate through the smile
of another, the touch of a hand or a kind word.
Blessed are you who shines in the light of the candle
and sings through the song of the sparrow.
Blessed are you who meets me where I am ó
wretched, unholy, empty and longing to be filled.
Blessed are you who greets me with a belly full
of laughter under s starlit sky.
Blessed are you who stands as sentinel in the night
throughout my slumbering dreams or restless tossing.
Blessed are you I could name for an eternity
and never be complete.

Blessed are you who simply say, I AM.

And this is enough.

Amen, Amen, Amen

Ė Kayce Stevens Hughlett

Table of Contents:


1. Establishing a creative, contemplative practice

2. Exploring your inner monk and inner artist

3. Sacred tools and sacred space

4. Sacred rhythms for creative renewal

5. Obedience, stability, conversion: commitment to the creative life

6. Humility: embracing your imperfections and limitations

7. Inner hospitality and welcoming the stranger

8. Creative community

9. Nature as source of revelation and inspiration

10. Simplicity: creative asceticism and learning when to let go

11. Creative work as vocation and holy service

12. Creating an artistís Rule of life