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.
The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Painter
The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within by Christine Valters Paintner (2015-05-07) by Christine Valters Paintner
Lectio Divina―The Sacred Art: Transforming Words & Images into Heart-Centered Prayer (The Art of Spiritual Living) by Christine Valters Paintner
The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women by Christine Valters Paintner
Our friends at Contemplative Light are offering Contemplative Practices. This course examines in-depth traditional practices of the Christian mystics, including: The Examen, Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer and Christian Meditation. It is currently 75% off.
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Orthodox Crafts: Prayer ropes are used to help Eastern Orthodox Christians say the Jesus Prayer (more on Jesus Prayer, here). In Russian they are called “chotki”, while in Greek they are called “komboskini”. Our wool prayer ropes are hand made from Cashmira black pure wool, counting from 33, 100 to even 300 knots. We consider that it’s very important not to step aside from the traditional method of prayer rope tying, as well as keeping their look and feel as close as possible to the old, Orthodox monastic models. We tie these prayer ropes in the same manner our desert fathers used to tye them. Without a doubt, the true value of our handcrafts stands in the fact that we strive to create authentic, traditional products.
Enjoy my video: How I Use My Prayer Rope
Feel free to peruse my Resource Page, I frequently update it.
I am currently taking on clients for Centering Prayer One on One Coaching sessions. I am happy to setup weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sessions with you over the phone or skype to help you go deeper into your centering prayer practice and integrate it into your daily life. Contact me for more information. The rate is $50 – $75 per hour. The first session is 1/2 off.
I am currently reading Moving from Stress to Joy by Nicholas Amato.
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The Power of the Jesus Prayer: Learn a method practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within.
Contemplative Perspectives: Frameworks for the Divine: For anyone who craves to deepen their contemplative process and more fully embody and integrate the the higher stages of the mystical path, Contemplative Perspectives offers an opportunity to travel through the various states of awakening and understand the territory. With the historic practice of The Jesus Prayer as a jumping off point, we explore the experiential aspects of the Purgation/Illumination/Union path of Christian Mysticism.
The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism: This is a combined course of both Contemplative Practices and Contempative Perspectives.
Christian Prayer Methods: Prayer is a core Christian practice, but for many, this means “saying prayers” or asking God for various favors. In this course, we will review a variety of methods of prayer that have been used for centuries in Christianity. Whether you’re a beginner who is just learning how to pray, or a more mature Christian who has been at it awhile, this course will offer specific guidance, encouragement and support for practicing several time-tested methods of prayer.
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. It is based on his book Simply Jesus. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
This course is a short course based on Prof. N.T. Wright’s latest book, Simply Good News. Tom Wright will guide you through the chapters of his book through videos that suggest what some of the main points are. 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. You will be brought into their world in order to make more sense of what ‘good news’ means in our world.
Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)