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I am excited to share with you my review of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner. Christine is the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of 8 books on monastic spirituality and creativity, as well as a poet, photographer, spiritual director, pilgrim guide, and teacher. Learn more about Christine at Abbey of the Arts.
Christine’s book is a treasure trove. Let me highlight a few key points that particularly struck me as I read her wonderful book.
I am a centering prayer practitioner. One of the fruits of centering prayer that I have experienced is the ability to slow down and open to new things. I have always enjoyed photography. Christine’s book has allowed me to approach photography in a different manner. I no longer look for the pictures, I have learned to approach them in a contemplative manner. I let the picture come to me.
I enjoy to take pictures of people, small towns and nature. I no longer look for the picture. I “let go” and let the picture come to me. This is a big difference. Why is this a big difference? As Christine mentions, “I began to see photography as a way to slow down and gaze deeply, noticing things I missed in my rushed life.” That is what happens. You begin to see things you never noticed before.
“Photography can be an act of silent worship.” Photography is a wonderful complement to other forms prayer. It is resting in the beauty of God’s presence that is all around us. Each picture we take is a revelation that God wants us to notice.
“When we engage photography as a contemplative practice, we are creating art from a heart-centered place. The “eyes of the heart” are eyes that see differently than when we approach things from the mind.” This is the key. We learn how to drop our mind into our heart and see with new eyes. We look at the world differently. We look at it through God’s eyes.
“Practice is the key to developing any habit; it is the commitment of a lifetime to keep showing up.” My daily centering practice involves showing up. A contemplative photography practice is no different. We simply need to show up. Let God act. I don’t think we will be disappointed. I am always amazed by the pictures God has framed for me.
“My hope is that, in exploring the language of photography, you have developed new portals into your own experience and awareness of God. Shadow and light, framing, color, reflections, and mirrors all offer us metaphors for ways of understanding how we might move toward seeing ourselves and God with the eyes of the heart.” Each chapter takes us through the language of photography and turns it into an inner journey.
My advice is read this book slowly. Take it in one chapter at a time. Read each chapter’s reflections. Silently sit with each chapter’s meditations. Embark on the photographic explorations within each chapter.
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David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners.
Check out my review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain. It also works well in group studies too.
Listen to Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright. It is based upon his book Simply Good News. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. Also works well in group studies.
Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus. Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright.
Discover the Context, Content & Production of the New Testament in The Bible- An Introduction to the New Testament by Scott Metz.
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