It's hard to believe that the end of the liturgical year approaches. This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, which means that Advent is just around the corner. I plan to do some sort of art project for each week in Advent, from something as simple as assembling a tropical Advent wreath, to making a creche out of wine corks, to making holiday breads. I'll post pictures and updates, so that you can feel inspired too.
If you're looking for a disciplined approach and a guide to walk you through each practice and to help you make the connections between spirituality and art, allow me to recommend Christine Valters Paintner's latest book, The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom. Much like Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, Paintner's book is set up as a 12 week intensive immersion into techniques and practices that will make us better artists and deepen our spiritual experiences.
You might be saying "Twelve weeks? Isn't Advent 4 weeks?"
Yes, it is. So this book could take you beyond the Advent season--or you could choose 4 chapters which sound most interesting and do those activities for the week.
Paintner's book finds inspiration from monastic practices. Paintner is not the first person who has noticed the similarity between artists and monks, but her insights bear repeating. Both groups work in fields that aren't always honored by the larger community. Both groups are largely misunderstood by the larger community. Both groups engage in practices that aren't always understood. Both groups have to practice some sort of contemplation to do what they do. Both groups have to establish boundaries. In many cases, both groups experience a sense of awe and wonder on a more regular basis than members of the regular world will experience.
Paintner's book is a wonderful introduction to monasticism. It's also a wonderful introduction to a variety of practices that can be used in a number of ways. She has her readers make wisdom cards and arts altars. She has her readers experiment with movement in a variety of ways. She offers guided meditations. She suggests that readers play with poetic forms and fairy tales. The book includes poems, Bible verses, and quotes, and Paintner encourages the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, close reading which allows readers to uncover wisdom.
Her writing style is accessible, even for those of us who have never given monasticism much thought. When she offers activities for readers to do, her tone encourages novices and experts alike. Each chapter gives a wide variety of possible approaches, and most of them sound intriguing. I was first introduced to Paintner's approach to life and her writing style at her comprehensive website, and this book doesn't disappoint.
So, buy this book--either for yourself or for the artist or monastic on your gift list. If we're close to Advent, we're close to the Christmas shopping season. Plan now, for a sane approach. Books are a gift that can keep on giving, especially books that are set up so that readers will be interacting with them for weeks to come.
And remember, you deserve these kind of books too!