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.
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
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.
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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.
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