Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice – Book Review

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.

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Christine’s book is a treasure trove. Let me highlight a few key points that particularly struck me as I read her wonderful book.

Slow Down

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.

Silent Worship

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.

Next Steps

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.

Go Further

I encourage you to check out Spirituality in Photography by Philip J. Richter. Here is my review of it.

Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude through Intimacy with Nature  by Christine Valters Paintner

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

The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred by Christine Valters Paintner

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening was the first book I read as I began my Centering Prayer practice. I have read it numerous times. Here is my review of it.

The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by Christine Valters Paintner: An Online Retreat that enables you to explore and engage with the insights of the desert mothers and fathers of fourth and fifth century Egypt. These men and women of God went to the desert to live out a simple but challenging spirituality that still resonates strongly for us today.


Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobookshttp://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=richswebsi-20&l=pf4&o=1 – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home.  I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work.  I’m a proud affiliate.

Contemplative Discernment by Fr. Carl Arico, Pamela Begeman, Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler: A contemplative practice of discernment is not about decision-making, although this may be an eventual outcome. Rather, contemplative discernment is receptive in nature, a process of opening to receive clues about who we are in God. We focus on ever-deepening levels of relationship and trust in God’s will for us. We learn how to listen deeply to our motivations and sort through and purify any mixed motivations. As this relationship deepens, we learn to allow the love of God to motivate our actions and manifest through us. We discover what it means to truly pray “not my will, but Thy will.”

Embracing Living: The Welcoming Prayer by Contemplative Outreach, Mary Dwyer, Therese Saulnier, Cherry Haisten, Jim McElroy: The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. If Centering Prayer (or another daily prayer) is practiced for one hour of the day, the Welcoming Prayer is for the other 23 hours. It is a “letting go” in the present moment, in the midst of the activity of ordinary life.

Practicing the Presence of God by Pamela Begeman, Mary Ann Brussat, Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, David Frenette: We live in a world of complexity, fragmentation, noise, and haste. We sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of tasks, appointments, and commitments facing us. How can we experience God in the midst of the busyness, responsibilities, and activities of our daily lives? By practice. By living more in the present moment. By practicing the presence of God in the present moment.

Sounds True has titles by teachers and authors such as Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr, David Frenette, Parker Palmer , Eckhart  Tolle , Michael Singer , Jon Kabat-Zinn , Marianne Williamson to name a few.

Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.

Prayer-Bracelet: Authentic Orthodox prayer ropes and bracelets are handmade by monks in the Orthodox monastaries reciting a prayer for every knot they tie. Peruse their prayer ropes and bracelets that are all handmade, provided by several orthodox churches around the globe.

How might your life change if you were steeped more deeply in the wisdom of the Christian Mystics? Drawing on the best available writing on the topic of Christian Mysticism both ancient and modern, Contemplative Light is offering a special course on the Christian Mystics Sacred Lives: An Introduction To The Christian Mystics.

The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism – Welcome to a comprehensive introductory through intermediate level course on both practice and perspectives of these timeless teachings from the Christian Mystical and Contemplative traditions! Whether you are a long-time practitioner looking to solidify your understanding and framework for practice or a beginner interested in immersing yourself in this teaching, this course can serve as a rich resource.

Contemplative Practices: 5 Ways of Consenting to the Divine – Learn methods practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within, including Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, Christian Meditation, and the Jesus Prayer.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice: This course helps you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within you. Words are powerful. The words that you write can be used to:

  • help you understand yourself better – and therefore divine God’s purpose in your life
  • facilitate healing of spiritual wounds
  • minister to others more effectively
  • share your testimonies of how God has worked in your life

How to Write a Devotional: Plus How to Get Them Published – If you read devotionals, you already know how they can be a true blessing. A devotional can uplift you when you’re feeling discouraged, sad or lonely. It can allow you to feel a keen sense of fellowship with another Christian, even if the two of you never actually meet. And, if you are feeling called to write devotionals, know that you have a unique opportunity to bless others and make a genuine difference in their lives. This course takes you step by step through the process, and then guides you towards publishing, if that is your goal.

Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.

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