contemplative photography

Lectio Divina —A Contemplative Practice for Photographers

In her books The Artist’s Rule, Lectio Divina, Eyes of the Heart, and Soul of the Pilgrim, Christine Valters Paintner recommends using some key practices to put us in the state of mindfulness. One of these practices is  lectio divina, or “sacred reading.” Paintner outlines the process in Lectio Divina–The Sacred Art of  Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer with four “movements.”

The first movement is “Settling and Shimmering.” In other words, the reader settles and quiets the mind (and body) and reads through a selected passage while listening for a word, phrase, or sentence that “shimmers,” or stands out for some reason.

The second movement calls for the reader to re-read the same passage. Literacy experts often point out that current practice does not value re-reading enough. It is a powerful strategy, not only for comprehension, but for letting a text settle further into the mind. In this second phase, Paintner encourages the reader to allow that word, phrase, sentence, passage, to sink in and to work in and on the mind. She encourages the reader to allow the passage to help us recall memories and make connections with the physical senses and to savor this experience.

In the third movement, Paintner asks the reader to consider how the passage is affecting the reader or leading the reader to a “new awareness” or understanding.

And, finally, the fourth movement calls the reader to slow down and be still. At this point, the reader can move into prayer or a prayer-like state. This final stage calls for even more stillness and allowing ourselves “simply to be.” Allowing ourselves this kind of stillness is not always easy to do. Yet, stillness an awareness are key.

Of course, in the Benedictine practice, the texts used would be sacred texts. But I think you could use any inspiring text to practice lectio divina. For example, for the last couple of years, I have been fascinated with “day books” of readings from a variety of authors: Rilke, Rumi, and Thomas Merton. I especially like Rilke and Rumi because of their use of imagery.

I see using lectio divina in this way, which is also the way Edward Goode outlines in his article, “Imago Scriptura: Imaging the Scriptures.” Goode follows Paintner’s outline and takes it one step further. After reading and praying and meditating over the passage (Goode actually began praying the Psalms in this way), he went for photo walks and allowed himself to receive images that reflected the literal or figurative word he received from his daily reading.

This week, in my Thirty-One Days series, I’m going to (try to) use passages from A Year with Rilke to practice some variation of lectio divina. I begin today:

“The Moon” (from Uncollected Poems , a reading for October 25 in A Year with Rilke)

The way that body, the moon, sublime, purposeful,

suddenly steps over the peaks,

bringing the night to serene completion.

Just so my voice rises purely

over the mountains of No Moon.

And the astonished places you inhabited

and left ache more clearly for you.

Those last two lines speak so clearly to me, especially in my season of grieving for my father. I thought about how I could illustrate this poem and these lines, and I thought of an image I made last week. In my walk around the state park, I come to this chimney, or at least the remains of a chimney, a reminder of a house place or a homestead long abandoned. Sometimes, I feel an “ache” to know who lived there “once upon a time,” to know why those persons left, and why the chimney is all that remains. Thus, this is my image that comes from this poem:


Will you join me this week and share your images that you received after reading and pondering and meditating on some passage of inspiring literature?

By Olivia Fulmer

I am the OliviaIrene of OliviaIrene Photography. I am a photographer, a teacher, a story teller. I use this space to tell stories of life, family, and faith through words and images. I'd love to share your stories as well. Join me in this journey.

I love conversation, the close, intimate kind amongst friends. Won't you join me? I look forward to a good coze.

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